By John Martin
The Archbishop of York celebrated the Eucharist at St. Michael’s, Markington, to commemorate abolitionist William Wilberforce. July 31 is the day the Church of England honors Wilberforce. The historic Wilberforce property, Markington Hall, is still in the family and is home to Wilberforce’s descendants, who commissioned the service.
“William Wilberforce was one of a team of companions who worked together to further the cause,” Archbishop Sentamu said. “It took Wilberforce and his companions 18 years of continuous parliamentary activity before they saw results. Wilberforce’s deep trust in Christ, persistence, courage, and determination to transform the lives of many is a wonderful example that should inspire us all today to make a difference.”
Wilberforce is best known for his fight to secure an Act of Parliament banning the international slave trade, something enforced because the British navy was master of the seas after the defeat of the French navy. But his program did not end there. Wilberforce wanted to see a “reformation of manners.” He and his colleagues formed the Clapham Sect, championing education for the poor and founding enduring Christian institutions such as the Church Missionary Society (now the Church Mission Society) and the British and Foreign Bible Society (now the Bible Society).
Worshipers joined in a picnic on the grounds of Markington Hall, which dates from the 14th century. The hall displayed rarely seen artifacts relating to and owned by Wilberforce’s time at Markington Primary School.