When Alex Haley’s epic story ‘Roots’ was first produced as a mini-series in 1977, few expected it to generate such worldwide interest and acclaim.  Based on Haley’s family history, ‘Roots’ was watched by 19 million viewers in the UK alone, and 160 million worldwide which made it one of the most watched programmes in the history of broadcasting.  According to the BBC website, only the final episode of ‘M*A*S*H’ and the legendary ‘Dallas’ episode “Who shot J.R?” eclipsed ‘Roots’ in the ratings war!

Haley’s story stretches back seven generations to a young tribesman in the Gambia called Kunta Kinte. From these African roots the family history unveils a story of human dignity which dared to battle with enslavement and pernicious cruelty.  On an accompanying BBC blog-site many people voice their gratitude to this epoch-making series.  For those who felt ostracized or even enslaved, connections were made and a common heritage explored.  Various people claim that Haley’s exploration into his family’s past produced a sense of liberation and, to others, redemption.

Alex Haley’s, Roots, promoting a quest for knowledge, to examine our unexamined past.

Nearly 40 years later and the BBC are televising a re-make of the original. Sue Deeks, Head of BBC Programme Acquisitions, explains: “Roots is a tremendous historical saga with great emotional impact… Viewers that remember the original series will be fascinated by the new material that has been uncovered over the intervening years, and new viewers will become engrossed by this compelling television event for their own generation.”

“Roots” is more than television theatre. It prompts us to examine our past, a past that by definition has its roots in a longing and belonging in God. When we give ourselves permission to venture into our past, known and unknown, we somehow touch upon the essence of our humanity, even if this is experienced through the lives of those who have gone before us.

The story of God’s people, first through the Old and New Testaments and then through the lives of the Church Fathers, is characterized by the signs of the covenant relationship, sacrifice and trust.  This relationship is the responsibility of the whole community of faith.  The march to holiness is a calling from our birth to our death.  Today the Church recognizes these formative stages of spiritual development through the ceremonies of baptism, confirmation and ordination, which define the pattern of vocation.  The anointing and initiation rites are sacraments which formalize and legitimize passages of growth and development in a sacred soul.  The sacraments are not permanent relics of an encounter in time, but are vehicles of growth past, present and future, into the love of God. So, this is an invitation to all of you who are searching. Take this as a prompt to examine your past, present and future in faith, to grow roots. If you would like to continue the examination join me and others in exploring the Christian faith. Click here to find out more.

(Much of the material for this Blog has been replicated from, Called by Mind & Spirit, Crossing the Borderland of Childhood by Gavin & Jo Knight, 2010)

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.