Steve's Blog

Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham, Lee and Beckenham. The church has seen continued growth since the mid-1990s, both in terms of size and diversity.


10 Nov 2022

Interview with Tariq Fernandes

We are fortunate at King’s to have a team of staff who serve this community brilliantly with their hard work and talents. As the church has become larger and more racially diverse, so has our staff team. Some of you may recall that at the beginning of the year I ran a series of interviews with some of our key leaders from the black community. Over the next few weeks, as part of our Undivided series, I would like to introduce you to some of our more recent staff appointments. Today we hear from Tariq Fernandes, who has actually been on the team since he left university, but has recently taken on a more senior role as our Communications Co-ordinator.

Tariq, to start us off, can you tell us a bit about your background, your family and where you grew up?
I was born in Lewisham hospital so have been very local for most of my life, but my mum is from Pakistan and my dad is from Goa in India (although he was born in Uganda, which is a whole story in itself). We moved to Goa as a family when I was three years old and lived there for around seven years until moving back to London just in time for secondary school. I have been a South-East Londoner ever since.

The exception to this would be the three years I spent in Portsmouth at University studying Music and Sound Technology, during which I was offered a placement year at King’s. I have been a part of the staff team ever since.

How long have you been at King’s and in what capacity do you serve?
The first time I visited the church must have been around 1997, just before the Catford site building project began. I remember walking down the aisle with some orange squash in one hand and a custard cream in the other. When we came back from India, I soon started coming along to the Friday night youth group and getting involved in the youth band. I eventually became a part of the worship team and also learned how to run the sound and lighting desks.

After finishing my A Levels, I spent a year volunteering at the church doing what at the time was called ‘FP Impact’ along with a few friends, helping with youth, kids’ work, worship and production. That’s when my involvement in worship and production began, and I continue to serve as one of the worship leaders at the Catford site (as a volunteer). I now work full time at King’s, helping to manage the Communications Team.

What do you like about King’s?
This might sound a bit cliché given the series we are currently in, but I honestly really like the diversity we have as a church. One of the biggest difficulties I had in moving back to the UK was the culture shock and not feeling like I could fit in, particularly at school. But coming to King’s and meeting other young people from different backgrounds and cultures helped me to connect with a range of people. It’s easier being the odd one out if everyone else is too.

I also enjoy the worship at King’s and being part of the worship team. Music is a big part of my life, and as the church has grown and changed over the years, I have had to grow and change as a musician and worship leader. We’ve had a lot of West African and Caribbean brothers and sisters join King’s in recent years, and as a result, I’ve been learning to play and lead songs that I might not have otherwise. It has been very interesting working with others to incorporate new songs and styles of worship that better serve the church, and I would say I am a better worshipper for it.

This hasn't been without its challenges, as having a diverse team and church means there are a lot of different preferences, but I have been extremely encouraged by the team, and the culture we have developed, that means we are able to learn from each other and improve in this area together. I hope we can continue to find ways to lead everyone into God’s presence through worship, and not just those who like the same songs and genres as I do.

What are your hopes for our current series around diversity?
For me, growing up in India where you only really saw one race of people meant I didn’t really think about or understand the concept of racism. Then when I came here, I experienced racial prejudice and stereotypical jokes from both white and black people, which made me feel othered and 'less than'. I’m aware for some this would be considered racism and for others this may not be (which I actually believe to be a source of a lot of the confusion and division on this topic). However, I definitely remember thinking to myself, “I wish I was any race other than Asian.” That way I would be able to at least ‘fit in’ to the white or black friendship groups that formed at school. A very simplistic view, but please bear in mind I was not even a teenager yet!

My father often tells me that when he was growing up there was a clear racial hierarchy in Uganda with 'Whites' at the top, then 'Indians' and then 'Blacks' at the bottom. As I’ve been reflecting through this series, I’ve realised that I have experienced (to a lesser extent) that same racial hierarchy in the UK, and even in India. I remember there being this sense of awe and reverence of white people when I lived in India and, despite almost never seeing a black person there, sometimes hearing racist comments about black people from other Indians. I know even some of my own extended family, who also lived in Uganda, have racist views about black people even to this day. Even as a child, wishing I could have been another race given the choice, I knew I would have preferred to be white.

My hope is that this series will encourage people of all different races, ethnicities and backgrounds to not only acknowledge the racialised world we now live in but to actively have open, honest, vulnerable and grace-filled conversations with others to better understand each other’s experiences and views so that we can find ways to continue to undo the work that was done to create this racial hierarchy in the first place. I also hope that in doing so real, close relationships will be built across ethnicities throughout the church, and the division that the enemy wants to build up would be broken down.

10 Nov 2022

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