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Church Mission Society
I am so grateful to be in mission partnership with St Paul’s. Thank you for your warm welcome and the recent opportunity to share with you in a morning service.
For those who don’t yet know the Church Mission Society is placing me in the Diocese of Northern Uganda at Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College in Gulu. The College trains Ordinands, Catechists, Evangelists, Readers and Mothers Union leaders. The Bishop has also expressed a wish for me to help him in the training of clergy already in post. I can’t wait to get started.
But right now my head is spinning! I have been deeply rooted in a parish in Luton for a long time and uprooting ain’t easy. I am required to do some training and although that will be of short duration it sounds like it will be intense. And then the whole atmosphere of cross -cultural mission is in a state of flux and I don’t want to be a complete fool in negotiating a path to a place of effective work.
I use the example of the spaghetti westerns I watched in my youth, often starring ‘the man with no name’ played by cheroot chewing Clint Eastwood. The subliminal message I absorbed uncritically at the time was that the American in the cowboy hat goes into the native population of some Central American nation and saves the day (with a gun of course). The baddies are dispatched and the goodies liberated.
And maybe (unfairly perhaps) there has been a perception that too much mission has been cowboy condescension. I sense that help is welcomed, even appealed for. But there is no place for condescending saviour illusions. There is always only one Saviour and He delights to share His mission as we collaborate and obey. Easy to say!
So I have much to think about both practically and theologically. Many churches have a map of the world with ribbons leading to photos of their mission partners. That’s OK just as long as we remember that the ribbon is a two way street if mission partnership is to mean anything. I will share in the helping to train church leaders but I will need help too as I learn and grow. Similarly I will find the help of St Paul’s invaluable. I seriously covet your prayers! And I am most grateful for any financial support that releases me for this placement. But I hope too our relationship can be a two way street.
I hear much talk of African Christianity being a great gift to the Church. Clearly the Gospels tell us Africans were at the centre of the early church. The centre of gravity of Christianity is now in the global South (to use a simplistic description). The global migration North brings many African Christians to the UK. At the parish I have served we have from time to time let our building to African churches on a Sunday afternoon. As I reflect on that I think we have missed out. We have to work together for the sake of the Kingdom. There is a gift available but it is up to us whether we receive it or not.
At the same time I don’t want to idolise African culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is above every culture. And I am excited by the vision of the Church Mission Society Africa to promote a 24/7 Christianity as opposed to one that occupies a couple of hours on a Sunday. As we come across some of the familiar tales of sorrow on that continent I have no doubt there is only one hope.
Immediately please may I ask you to pray for: