From the Moderator
For a number of reasons, a visit to Africa has never been on my wish list and so I felt rather apprehensive when it was suggested that our World Church Partners in Mozambique would welcome a visit from the Moderator! Not only was I nervous about ‘Africa’ itself, but also about my role and the part I could play in the friendship that has been flourishing for over 12 years.
I am aware how easy it is for many of us in this country to feel we have the most to offer in these partnerships: we are richer, so we collect money to help develop projects, we are able to visit more often than we are visited and perhaps we also think we have more sophisticated systems and organisations. Maybe all of this is true to some extent, but I am aware too, of how much more there is to share and learn once we move away from some of our prejudices and preconceptions. I hoped I could be equal to what seemed like my biggest challenge yet! My apprehension was proved groundless.
We have so much to learn from our Mozambique partners. Firstly: the freedom of uninhibited prayer. Open, spoken prayer was a large, natural and shared part of daily life and family life – everything was bathed and wrapped in it. Perhaps we could learn to be less inhibited and shy and try sharing more prayer with each other?
Secondly: welcome and hospitality. We visited churches that were materially very poor, but who welcomed us with singing, smiles, conversation, prayers and kapulanas (long pieces of cloth which are worn as skirts and used for many other things too). As visitors, we were made to feel important. I know we are learning to offer a more ‘generous hospitality’ in Northern Synod and we usually shake hands with folk as they come into church and offer them coffee afterwards, but I have noticed that there is sometimes a reticence in offering a warm welcome and a friendly chat to visitors. Perhaps we could learn that sitting and chatting with strangers and visitors is as important as being busy with ‘jobs’?
Thirdly: joy in worship. Singing and dancing are integral to African culture and all four of us who went to Mozambique said that the joyful singing and dancing in worship were one of the biggest highlights of the trip. It helped me to feel that my whole body was involved in worshipping God; it wasn’t just a ‘head thing’ and it wasn’t just about an emotional ‘high’, it was entering fully into praising God and sharing more fully with the people of God as we worshipped together. I felt fully engaged. Perhaps you could look around you next time you are singing a hymn in church and notice if anyone – including yourself – is even smiling or appearing to be singing with the joy that comes from praising God together?
Fourthly: commitment to discipleship. We were invited to talk to a group of students about anything we wanted and really didn’t know much more than that! We discovered a class of almost 20 people of all ages who come from some distance to learn more of their faith for two hours every week night. They want to grow in knowledge of the gospel and in their faith and are committed to growing as disciples. We enjoyed sharing some of our knowledge with them, but they also ministered to us in so many ways. Perhaps we could commit to more regular Bible study and discussions about our faith?
Fifthly: generosity. We saw people and places that were extremely poor and church buildings that were inadequate, too small and very basic. However, during one of the services they had 3 collections! The first was as we would take an offering – the baskets were passed around. Then a little later in the service it was time for the monthly tithes offering. That’s when the singing and dancing really started! It took ages for everyone to get to the front to put their tithe money in the baskets which was counted in ‘zones’ and the amounts given out later. Then to our surprise, the baskets were passed around yet again and this time it was because there was to be a wedding and the family were being given some financial help. And still the churches can’t always raise enough to pay the minister. It is a well-known fact that the more we have, the harder it is to give it up, but perhaps we could learn from our partners in Mozambique and think in terms of the biblical imperative to give 10%?
We have many rich resources and experiences we can share and have a list of things to send over to our friends by email. We are materially rich in comparison and so need to continue to raise funds, both to continue the sharing of visits and to enable them to do things they couldn’t do without our help. However, it is salutary to remember that our partners in Africa have so many more riches to share with us than we ever thought we needed. It is in accepting these that will help God’s kingdom to come.
More information and reflections from the visit will be found on the Mozambique Blog section of this website. And remember – the re-launched website is interactive: your views and comments are invited!
Refresh your pastoral skills…
Whether or not you managed the first session, you will be welcome at either or both remaining mornings at St James’s, Newcastle – led by Lis Mullen and Meg Robb.
May 30: to reflect upon and to practise ways of listening and responding and keeping confidentiality; and to understand how feelings and emotions affect both the cared for and the carer.
June 13: to consider issues surrounding death, dying and bereavement.
NEWS OF PEOPLE
Revd Professor Charles Cranfield died on 27 February, at the age of 99 – a leading New Testament scholar of his generation, and a member of our Waddington Street church in Durham. We offer our sympathy to his widow Ruth, and to their daughters Mary and Elizabeth, who are both Church of Scotland ministers.
Our good wishes go to Colin and Patti Offor as Colin’s ministry in Stockton, Billingham and Thornaby comes to an end and they move into retirement.
A new Children’s Work Advisor has been appointed in the person of Mrs Hannah Middleton. Hannah has worked for the Synod before in the role of Children’s Officer and we look forward to welcoming her back. She will be mainly working from home and will begin work on Monday 25 May.
And it is farewell to Danny Pigeon after six years service as Synod Treasurer. Gratitude on behalf of the Trust was expressed by James Breslin at our March synod meeting, and Lis Mullen has added “I would also like to thank him for always being willing to support my ideas with the financial wisdom and understanding needed to steer this Synod in the direction of mission opportunities without floundering on the rocks of overspend!” We wish Danny every happiness to enjoy his time free of Synod demands.
Travel with Northern Synod…..
This summer’s synod pilgrimage will again be following the St Cuthbert’s Way, all 62 miles from Melrose to Holy Island. For information and booking contact Linda Gowland (01434 605837).
Next April synod moderator Lis Mullen hopes to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, together with the Revd Brian Jolly – cost in the region of £1500. If you are interested please contact Lis by the end of May, so that they have some idea of whether to proceed with planning.
NEWS OF CHURCHES
Trinity LEP, Bedlington livened up the General Election campaign by running an online hustings. Questions were invited from the public, and were then put to the candidates for Wansbeck – and their responses were then published (with permission).
Two of our smaller churches at opposite ends of the synod have recently closed. The last service at Lingdale took place on Easter Sunday, April 5; and the last service at Chatton was held on May 3. And the Local Ecumenical Partnership at Front Street, Winlaton is due to close on July 21.
The small congregation at Kielder is to move from the chapel on the road north of the village, to the Castle, which is more convenient.
The LEP at Oxclose, Washington is marking its 40th anniversary this summer, with a special service of celebration to be held on July 19. And there’s a further anniversary coming up at Widdrington – 250 this year, and still going strong.
St Paul’s, Jarrow to St Peter’s, Monkwearmouth: Saturday June 20.
Choose to walk the whole 12 miles (or the family-friendly 4 mile alternative) in congenial company and be sponsored for Christian Aid. Register by email at email@example.com or tel 0191 2280115.
Pics@Keld URC with minister and award-winning photographer Stephen Collinson is running again on June 24, August 5 and September 16. Book with Stephen on firstname.lastname@example.org: details on the Keld URC website.
Keep the news coming in! –
Contact Wendy Watson at Synod Office – Tel 0191 2321168
A printed version of this news is sent to each church with the monthly mailing