During a service of remembrance and celebration in the Ecumenical Centre Chapel on 24 May, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee commemorated the lives, witness and ministry of Rev. Robina Winbush and Rev. Norman Tendis.
Winbush, a WCC Central and Executive Committee member, was known for her fierce advocacy for justice. Tendis developed a “Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice," an invitation to join a pilgrimage for an Economy of Life and climate justice, to commit to make changes in the way people live, to share successful ideas and to encourage one another.
Through prayer and reflection, the Executive Committee mourned the loss of the two members and their talents and their passion for justice and peace.
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, member of the WCC Central Committee and senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement, and was a classmate of Winbush in college.
Tribute to Robina Winbush delivered by Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, member of the WCC Central Committee.
“She honored and fully embraced her Pan African identity and embraced it as home for welcome to all she encountered who may have been like her or not. She was a trustworthy leader who, as my Baptist pastor says, loved the Lord, loved the call and loved God’s people despite the oppressions of systems and historical challenges and causes that pit peoples and groups against one another.”
At the time of her passing, Winbush was part of a Presbyterian Church (USA) delegation that had just completed a visit to Israel-Palestine.
Rev. Norman Tendis was on his way to the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi and was booked on an Ethiopian Airlines jet which crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa heading towards Nairobi.
WCC programme executive for the Economy of Life Athena Peralta said: “Norman was a friend, a dear colleague, and an activist. So if I were to distill some lessons from Norman´s life and legacy, it would be this: ‘Do what you can, where you can. No effort is too small – or too big.’ In his own words, ‘Let´s plant small gardens of Eden, wherever we can….So it is with faith – giving up is not an option – and also a lot of joy.’ ”
Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for the Economy of Life delivers tribute to Norman Tendis.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice moderator of the WCC Central Committee said, in her sermon, “We are today celebrating the lives of two champions, bringing hope to the world. Rev. Robina was serving in her entire life against racism and Rev. Norman for ecological justice.”
Tendis’s wife, Rev. Astrid Tendis-Knely, wrote a commemorative hymn for the service, with words, in part, “If I took wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me."