Friday, January 25, 2019

Palestine and Israel - Veneable Dr Pamela Nesbit's visit

I am enjoying seeing Pamela Nesbit's photos on Facebook with her visit to Israel and Palestine as part of a peacemaking pilgrimage with the Lombard Mennonite Peace Fellowship. The Venerable Dr Pamela Nesbit is the Archdeacon Emerita of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and Vice-President of DOTAC.

I love this photo of Pamela celebrating communion wtih Fr Michael Fincher at the Ecce Home church in Jerusalem.

She writes about her experience in Jerusalem: "This is such a small city, with many people coming home here to be close to their God. Across the differences in face and feature and clothing and head covering you see people with so many expressions of faith and languages in which to express them. The one thing we all have in common is passion. All this religious and ethnic passion squeezed into one sacred place feels like a teapot on the boil. Here, more than any place I have ever been, it seems clear to me that humankind has a choice. We can either embrace our tribal differences and hate and destroy one another. Or we can see and love all these differences as expressions of our essential oneness and love one another. Here in this beautiful city there is no other way. I am inexpressibly grateful for having been able see Jerusalem. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem".

While it is a very long time since I have been to Israel and Palestine, I am deeply connected through the EAPPI program - Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, a program of the World Council of Churches. At the end of January 2019 I will spend a few days as part of the national training team for the next group of EAPPI volunteers in Australia.

Sabeel 'Wave of Prayer' for 24th January 2019
The Great March of Return continued on Friday, the 18th of January. Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) reported that 45 children have been killed in Gaza since March 30th.
Lord, we pray for a breakthrough in the peace talks and an end to this pitiless siege of Gaza. Comfort those families who have lost children and cast your protecting grace over all children in Gaza. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.
Riyad al-Malki, the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Palestinian Authority, stated that this year Palestine will assume the presidency of the Group of 77 and China, to negotiate development issues in the U.N. Palestine has been a non-member observer state in the U.N. since 2012. It intends to re-submit its application for full membership of the U.N. at the end of this year’s mandate.
Dear Lord, we pray for strength and steadfastness for those working in organisations like the U.N., who devote their lives to challenging injustice and oppression. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.
Students have been returning to school after their mid-year vacation. Many pupils in the occupied territories face obstacles to their access to education. Some students experience abuse from Israeli settlers on their way to and from school, others face delays at checkpoints, while others are subjected to frequent searches on their school bus journeys.
Lord, we pray for the students as they go back to school, that they would continue to value their education. For those who face further difficulties, may they find the determination to complete their studies and use their qualifications to help their local communities. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.
Human Rights Watch criticised the Palestinian Authority for restricting online freedom of speech and arresting dissidents.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that when you came into the world, we received your grace and truth, (John 1:17). Help us to stand firm and challenge the suppression of truth by those in authority. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayers.
On Sunday, the 13th of January, a group of Israeli settlers destroyed nearly a thousand tree saplings in Burqa, west of the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus. The saplings were being cultivated to transform the land around Burqa into a nature reserve.
Lord, we pray that these frequent acts of vandalism by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank would cease. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.
This week Kumi Now focuses on the work of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, (PASSIA) and Israel’s violations of international law in East Jerusalem. The Kumi Now action asks you to write to your local politicians, challenging them to hold the Israeli government to account for the human rights abuses it perpetrates on Palestinians.
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, you will establish your kingdom with justice and righteousness, (Isaiah 9:6-7). Help us to pray in faith for those who seek to address injustice and to speak truth to those who govern us. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.
We join with the World Council of Churches in their prayers for the countries of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Whole and Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World

Whole and Reconciled : Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World
By (author) Al Tizon
Foreward by Ruth Padilla deBorst, Afterword by Ronald J. Sider
Releaased October 2018

The ministry of reconciliation is the new whole in holistic ministry. It must be if the Christian mission is to remain relevant in our increasingly fractured world. This book offers a fresh treatment of holistic ministry that takes the role of reconciliation seriously, rethinking the meaning of the gospel, the nature of the church, and the practice of mission in light of globalization, post-Christendom, and postcolonialism. It also includes theological and practical resources for effectively engaging in evangelism, compassion and justice, and reconciliation ministries.

Chapters topics include:
Globalisation:Mission in a reconfigured world
Post-Christendom:De-centered church and multi-directional mission
Post-Colonialism: Post-colonial mission or bust
Gospel of the Kingdom: The Reconciliation of all Things
Church of the Trinity: Community, Diversity and Reconciliation
Spirituality of Mission: The Church in the Power of the Spirit
Reconciliation and the Great Commission: Peacemaking as Mission

In an interview with Christine Sine, on Godspace, the author Al Tizon says:
"The reality of the increasing fragmentation of the world via racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, tribalism, religiously-motivated violence, as well as senseless violence made me reflect much on the renewed need to see peace and reconciliation as central to the gospel. And the question that inspired the writing was, “Is the church at all in position to bear witness to the good news of peace and reconciliation in Christ in a fragmented and fragmenting world?” I know it is called to be peacemakers and reconcilers, but is it in a position to be so? If not, what must we do to realign ourselves in the Spirit to become what we have been called to be?"

"Peacemaking cannot be relegated to the periphery. It cannot just be the task of pacifist Christians. It cannot be seen as the domain of only those on the left, vegan, Birkenstock fringe. Kingdom peacemaking must be front and center for the whole church as it lives out the Great Commission in the world".

On the decentering of the church, he says:
"The church of the center, that is, a church that shares in the dominant power structure of society, is what is called Christendom. Part of what it means to be living in a post-Christendom world is that the church has been involuntarily pushed out of the center. As such, it has lost its privileged position and has found itself on the margins of society, bereft of the power to inform and shape as it once had. What I’m describing, however, is only the Euro- or white church; churches of color and churches that have emerged from traditionally missionary-receiving countries have never “enjoyed” the center. Black and brown churches have always been on the margins. In a post-Christendom age black, brown, and white churches are all on the margins together, giving us the opportunity to be truly the global mosaic of God’s people serving the poor, proclaiming good news to the lost, and speaking truth to power".

On peacemaking:
"Peacemaking is a non-negotiable of the gospel; it always has been. Our fragmented and fragmenting world simply helps us to see the truth of that. The first step in practicing or making peace in the world is to root out the prejudice, hatred, and violence in our own hearts. As I developed in the book, before reconciliation is a theology, a missiology, or a strategy, it is first and foremost a spirituality. People whose hearts are becoming whole and reconciled in Christ can alone be agents of Christ’s peace and reconciliation in the world. So, practically, let us be a people cultivating hearts of peace as an absolutely necessary step to becoming global peacemakers. Secondly, let us be a people who demonstrate that the peace of Christ works, that it can break down walls between women and men; rich and poor; this tribe and that tribe; and black, brown and white peoples. Let us strive in the Spirit to be the all-tribes-and-nations church today as a signpost of what Revelation 7 depicts in God’s future. Efforts toward a multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, multi-national church demonstrate to the world that peace and reconciliation are possible. Beyond these, I outline six principles in ch. 11 - a heart of peace; the power of relationship; vulnerable dialogue; healing through repentance, forgiveness, and lament; the work of justice; and a commitment to nonviolence - that I believe need to be operational for peace to have a chance in any given conflict. This is peacemaking as mission".

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year - welcome to 2019

God the eternal rock is with us,
From year’s beginning to its end,
In hard times and in good,
God is with us from year’s beginning to its end.
God almighty is faithful,
Present in each day and every moment,
Drawing close in every act and deed,
God is faithful through all eternity.
God is trustworthy,
Yesterday, today and forever,
Sustaining, enlivening, making all things new,
God the eternal rock is with us this day and evermore.
(Source: Ray Simpson, from ‘Celtic Blessings’)

Let us continue to uphold each other in the joys and sorrows, celebrations and disappointments. In all things, God is with us, sustaining and empowering us to share in God's ministry and mission in the world. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Community Gardens

Congratulations to Rev Christa Megaw (Bridgewater Uniting Church, South Australia) who has been part of a community project to establish a community garden, funded by the Government Fund My Neighbourhood program and launched on 24th November, 2018. Christa is a member of the DIAKONIA World Federation Executive Committee.
Interested also to read about Rev. Jessica Stonecypher (United Methodist Deacon) in an article entitled Growing Food, Growing Community, Growing in Faith. Jessica writes: I’m a farmer. Well, really, I’m more of a community organizer seeking to bring people together around the idea of farming. It’s an endeavor that I’ve been dreaming of for many years and I’m excited to be actively participating in a growing movement around local foods and urban agriculture in my community. When I discerned my call to environmental ministry, I knew it would be a struggle. There simply aren’t many who can wrap their brains around how or why an ordained minister would devote her life to such a vocation. But as I’ve grown into my role as a deacon, I’ve learned that I would be miserable without engaging in the work that drew me to set-apart ministry in the first place.

Would love to hear other stories about Deacons engaged in community gardens and eco-theology. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Ingrit Vogt - good and faithful servant

Dc Ingrit Vogt (left) with Dc Lisa Polito at opening service, DIAKONIA World Assembly
Those of you who were at the DIAKONIA World Assembly in Chicago in mid 2017 may remember Deacon Ingrit Vogt who led the communion liturgy in the opening service.

It is with deep sadness that I share the news that Ingrit has died after having lived with cancer for some time.

Ingrit was a Deacon in the IECLB (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil) in Brazil. For many years she served on the DOTAC Central Committee (DIAKONIA of the Americas and Caribbean). She also served on the DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. She served as the IECLB General Secretary for many years. She was a highly competent person, and also a gentle soul who led with a quiet, thoughtful determination and with wisdom. She also enjoyed a good laugh with friends and joyful fellowship.

She will be greatly missed by her diaconal community and the IECLB in Brazil, by the communities across DIAKONIA who knew her, and by her two sons and extended family.

May she rest in peace in God's loving care.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WCC shocked by news of kidnapping at school in Cameroon

06 November 2018

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed shock and dismay at the news on 6 November of the kidnapping of 79 students and three staff, including the principal, from the Presbyterian Secondary School, a boarding school in Bamenda, in the northwest region of Cameroon.

“We are lifting up in prayer and solidarity the kidnapped students and staff, their families, their churches and their communities,” said Tveit.

“We pray to God, and appeal to those responsible for this kidnapping, for the safe release of all those who have been taken.” The school has pupils ages 10-14.

“This incident underscores the gravity of the crisis afflicting especially the western regions of Cameroon, and we urgently appeal for increased international and ecumenical advocacy and action for a just peace in Cameroon, in which the equal dignity and rights of all people in the country are respected and protected, and for the immediate cessation of all armed violence,” said Tveit.

“We pray for the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and for all the churches of the country, that they may be empowered and strengthened in their witness and for their pilgrimage for justice and peace in Cameroon and the region.”

Communauté de l'Emmanuel is in the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and a member association in DIAKONIA World Federation. Please pray for their community and for ministry in challenging times. 
Photos: Left images shows photo taken on Nov. 14, 2013 of a ship anchored next to destroyed houses in Tacloban City (top) after it was swept ashore during Super Typhoon Yolanda and motorists along the street (lower) on Nov. 1, 2018. Right combo images shows a photo taken on Nov. 18, 2013 of survivors of Yolanda marching during a religious procession in Tolosa, Leyte (top) and women holding religious statues walking along a highway in the same municipality on Oct. 17, 2018. 

TACLOBAN, Philippines: 8th Nov 2018 is the fifth anniversary of the country’s deadliest typhoon on record when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated the Philippines in 2013. Monster storms strike more frequently than previously, packing destructive rainfall that experts say is supercharged by climate change. Yolanda struck in the predawn darkness as the then strongest typhoon to ever hit land, leaving more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines.
The wall of seawater the typhoon that was sent crashing into densely populated areas – known as storm surge – is one of the key reasons it was so deadly. Many people simply did not understand the term and did not evacuate despite official warnings.
In the Philippines, roughly 15,000 of the poorest families were ordered relocated from the worst-hit city of Tacloban, yet many have not moved and those who have are struggling. Many people have chosen to stay in the area because the government-proposed housing in a safer area doesn’t even have running water and electricity. Moustafa Osman, a Britain-based disaster management expert, said: “Everywhere the single most difficult thing to do is to move people from their own village or territory and put them in a strange place. Unless you have a proper plan and a better alternative they won’t go. Substandard housing, difficulties in earning a livelihood, no transportation and even conflict with the existing residents of a resettlement area are habitual barriers.
The peril that looms over communities in the Philippines and elsewhere is only expected to grow because of the influence of global warming on extreme weather. Oxford University climate expert Friederike Otto said there is a clear connection between climate change and heavier, devastating rainfall. The storms packing these intense rains are expected to get more harmful as the impact of climate change manifests itself, and because so many vulnerable communities live in threatened areas. “How destructive a storm is crucially depends on who and what is in harm’s way.”
(Philippines Star)

We remember our Deaconess sisters in the Philippines and pray for their safety and strength for their ministry.