She was the first Black woman to be ordained as a vicar in the Church of England and she brought what was an illustrious, colourful career to an end as she said her last goodbye at the Holy Trinity Church of England venue in Birmingham. And, marking the effect Canon Rev. Eve Pitts had on the thousands of people whose lives she touched over the years, for those who managed to grab a spot where it was possible, her final service was testimony of what she meant to so many.
Known for being outspoken against discrimination and defending the oppressed, hundreds turned out to say; “thank you” and “goodbye” to the priest who they called ‘Queen’ and ‘General’. Believers and atheists stood side-by-side for a woman who is never afraid of speaking her mind, and for that, respect was due.
And as a strong supporter of Emancipation Day – the ending of slavery – and despite this being a day all about her, she still reminded all of their responsibilities to each other and the greater ‘mankind’. “Church is not a place for Sunday morning,” she bellowed, “it’s here for everyone. Working here was a chance to be with people who looked like me,” as she referred to the Book of Soloman.
A chance for her to give thanks to all those who supported her during her years in Birmingham, Jamaica-born Canon Rev. Pitts remained forthright to the end, as she turned on to her own Church of England and the fight against division within the church: “We too often play into the hands of the way people think we are”, she went on – emotions overfully with her every word – “I hope nobody treats us the way we have been treated for so long now.”
With the selected choice of scriptures red and hymns sung, there was nothing but love for the often called the ‘Maverik Priest’: “Without doubt,” one regular parishioner said, “you’re simply the best” then, of course, the late Tina Turner classic was the order of the day.
“Rev. Pitts is a pioneer, prophet, inspiration and a guiding light,” said one speaker. “Not afraid to shine a light on the church – in any way necessary.” She leaves a gaping hole in the Church of England. But, for her, The Holy Trinity Church and the Church of England, the future is interesting as she remains hoping that future Black priests “will not experience the kind of destructive, racist, silent abuse as I have,” as she said in her last goodbye.