Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

Thank God Almighty We Are Free at Last!

Monday 2nd April 2007

The Archbishop of York writes an Easter Message for the Diocese of York

This year we celebrate Easter in the midst of events commemorating the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain.

The work of the abolitionists, previously unknown to some, has been re-told to all during Lent through services, walks, meditations and many other commemorations.

Each event has reminded us anew of the searing faith that drove Wilberforce, Clarkson, Equiano, Newton, Sharp, Ramsay and others to bring to campaign so tirelessly to bring an end to the inhumanity of slavery.

In the breaking of those chains that kept their brothers and sisters in bondage, the abolitionists proudly declared their Christian belief in the equal value of all humanity. This was not a case – as so often touted today – of faith versus human rights. For the Abolitionists their belief in the right treatment of all peoples was founded, grounded and expounded in their belief in Jesus Christ.

During the Primates meeting in Tanzania earlier this year, I attended a service in Zanzibar where the Cathedral Church now stands proudly on the site that was once the market place for the trading of slaves. The manacles and shackles which remain in the slave pit bear testament to the true inhumanity experienced by our brothers and sisters made in the image of God. At that place I was overcome with a deep and profound sadness of the suffering endured by those enslaved.

thank God

Freedom from physical slavery was an achievement of the abolitionists, but their inspiration was that Great teacher who bought a greater freedom with his own life: freedom for us all from the bonds of sin. It is at Easter that we remember once more that freedom won at such a high and terrible price. A remembrance that helps us to hear once again God's invitation to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says to us "do not be afraid."

For it is in the stone rolled away from the tomb, in Mary Magdalene's recognition of Christ, in Peter and John's race to the Garden, in the linen cloths folded on the cold, empty slab of stone; it is in each and all of these that the words of a twentieth century Christian fighter for justice ring out to each of us as: "free at last ! free at last ! Thank God almighty we are free at last."

Singing praises

In his mighty and glorious resurrection, the living Christ declares that we are no longer slaves to sin, no longer bound by those failures and mistakes which remain nailed to the Cross of Golgotha, but we have a freedom in Him to stand before the throne of God and join with the angels in singing the praises of His triumph.

This Easter article was published in 'A Word in Our Ear' for the Diocese of York.

Back · Back to top