Monday, December 28, 2020

TELC Deaconess Board (India) Christmas letter 2020

News from Sr Grace Padma, Deaconess Mother of the TELC Deaconess Sisters in India, Deaconess Homes in Thanjavur (Bethesda, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Lydia Deaconess Home and Bethania Deaconess Home).

Please pray for Sr Grace and the Deaconess Sisters, and the work they do with destitute women and orphan children

Greetings to you in the Holy Name of our Jesus Christ. 

Every month we experience your prayer blessings from the prayer letters we receive by email. 

‘I will be with you to protect you and keep you safe’. (Jeremiah 15.20)

God of Immanuel is with us, protected from all dangers and disasters, and provided the basic needs for our orphan children, destitute women physically, mentally handicapped, old age and all sick people, helpers, co-workers and sisters of our Deaconess Homes in these challenging and fearful and worried days. God cared for us in helpless situations. 

The fearful Corona virus pandemic affected casual lives of people and educational lives of children. God is with us, protects us and provides for our needs in all these difficult days. When we were unable to for Church programs for any income, no sale of products, God fed our people and more than enough for us. When we were unable to take our patients to hospitals and doctors, God gave health when sick, God strengthened when we became weak, God gave courage when we were fearful. God upheld us. 

As per the Government official instructions, all our residents from our Homes underwent Corona tests. We made face masks, and sold to all our churches and people in our area. 

Churches were closed. Our Witness Prayer House and Bethesda chapel were open for worship services and Friday fasting prayer. We interceded on many prayer points. Regular monthly communion services were held by our local pastor. 

We received very sad news that our former Administrative Mother of Deaconess Board, Sr Gunhild Stahle, went to God’s Kingdom on 6th October in Sweden. We conducted a thanksgiving prayer meeting in our TELC Holy Comforter Church Thanjavur, with a memorial stone and memorial souvenir. Our Home inmates, children, sisters, and her foster children and well known friends participated, and glorified God for her fruitful service. 

On 10th November, the Deaconess trainee Nagomi was consecrated as Deaconess Sister by our Bishop Rev Daniel Jeyaraj in the TELC Cathedral Church Trichy. 

The next day, on 11th November, the 123rd birthday of our founder Lydia Vedanayaham we offered prayers and reception thanks for our sister Nagomi. 

On 20th November, we arranged a marriage for Mercy Nazrin, who had been brought up at the Home since she was 6 months old. She studied graduate Nursing and served at Bethesda Home for two years with patients with mental and physical patients and those with old age. 

For all these program functions, our local Pastor, Pastorate Committee members, friends and donors, helped us and we thank them for it. 

We also provided food commodities for children who went to single parents and poor relations homes, as they have no income during this Corona pandemic. 

When the ‘Nivar’ and ‘Burevi’ cyclones were announced, we made candles and sold them in our area. It has been pouring with heavy rain, especially this month. All food crops and paddy fields have been ruined, and village huts were floating in water. We killed two snakes and caught a big snake which entered our compound through the drainage system. We sent it to the forest people. 

Medicine prices are high. We need to buy medicine for our sickly residents and elderly sisters.

God has sustained us when we were helpless during the pandemic, and also sustained for 82 years this faithful, prayerful, God concerned ministry through generous faithful supporters. 

With Jesus’ love, we thank our donor friends and convey our loving greetings with prayer for a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year 2021. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion awarded Doctor of Divinity

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia)

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion, an Adnyamathanha woman of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and an internationally respected theologian, author and speaker, has been awarded the Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa). The Degree of Doctor of Divinity is a senior degree that is awarded only for work of considerable distinction, where the nomineee has made an original and substantial contribution to the advancement of theological learning and services to theological education, the Church and the general community. She was honoured for her accomplishments as a scholar and leader, and her life’s work in reconciliation, rural and remote advocacy, education, and inter-cultural dialogue, and her extraordinary efforts towards the betterment of society. Aunty Denise is known for her generosity with her time, graciousness with her dialogue, and wisdom in her teachings. Her nomination for the award received unanimous support from the Adelaide College of Divinity Council.
October 2nd, 2020.
Aunty Denise's has published a book, Yarta Wandatha, and her second book is about to be published.
(Elders are highly respected Aboriginal people held in esteem by their communities for their wisdom, cultural knowledge and community service. They have gained recognition as a custodian of knowledge and lore. Aboriginal people refer to an Elder as 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'). 

DIAKAID COVID grant - Indonesia

The IKADIWA Deaconesses responded to the COVID pandemic in their local area in the following way: 

* Helping people in need to survive from economic impact of Covid19 by distributing staple foods to 200 children’s parents and teachers of pre school around Ikadiwa’s mother house in Siborongborong;

* Public awareness campaigns to sensitize the community about the danger of Covid19 and to prevent the spread of the virus. 

* Strengthening the people in faith and action

The Indonesian economy is now in a precarious position. Many factories are closed and many workers are laid off or at least on unpaid leave. The situation makes many of these individuals face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus. As Deaconesses, we are responding by helping people in need, particularly people from low economic income background. 

On November 11, 2020 the IKADIWA Deaconesses distributed the DIAKAID grant to the children's parents and teachers of Preschool/Kindergarten, in the form of staple foods packages to people in communities in Pematangsiantar. We took them to Siborongborong and Tarutung by cars, which took 5 hours. The journey, and the distribution at 7 places, went very well. The people came to assembly points and used face masks and hand washing. They were so happy to receive the packages. The DIAKAID packages have brought joy to the people.

We are so thankful to the Lord and to DWF Executive Committee and the DAP Executive Committee for placing trust in Ikadiwa to offer practical diaconal ministry to the people around our mother house.

May the Lord bless all of our ministries.

Blessings, Deac. Risma Sihombing


Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 3 - International Day of People with Disability

December 3 is the 'UN International Day of People with Disability'. There are many Deacons and Deaconesses who work with people with disabilities - physical and intellectual. (Would love to hear about your stories and experiences!)

Rev Andy Calder (Deacon) is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister, in the role of Disability Inclusion Advocate with the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. Andy has be​​en an ordain​ed Uniting Church minister for 22 years. Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities. His current role is to broadly encourage and promote inclusion of people with disabilities within the life of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

Andy has undertaken social action research as part of Ph.D. studies, exploring the spirituality of adults with intellectual disabilities. He has partnered with the Victorian advocacy body VALID (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability), and interviewed 14 people. His recently completed doctorate is titled: ‘Adults with intellectual disability and their spirituality: voices to be heard by faith communities and the disability services sector in Victoria, Australia’. 

Arising from Andy's research, he developed a ‘Statement of Spirituality’ which has been adopted by VALID. It reinforces the importance and value of people's expression of their particular spirituality, which includes participation in religious communities. This is the first known time a non-faith based disability organisation has proclaimed such a public statement. 

In 2019, Andy was honoured with the Henri Nouwen Award in recognition of his work with people with disabilities. The award is named after Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen, who served as a pastor at the Canadian L’Arche Daybreak community for people with intellectual disabilities and their carers and loved ones.

Andy is the first person outside of North America to accept the award, which is given by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Religion and Spirituality Division. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Honouring the work of Susanne Watson Epting

Bishop Alan Scarfe at the 168th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, paying tribute to Susanne Watson Epting:

...has been a leader within this diocese for decades, promoting baptismal ministry and the fullness and distinctiveness of the diaconal order. She was an original visionary on what the diocese could do with a place strategically placed like Old Brick [on the campus of the University of Iowa] and is now seeing the fruit of that vision as the Beloved Community Initiative [of which she is co-founder] develops in that very place. God's Spirit has been at work through Her servant in a profoundly prophetic and timely way. Susanne says that she is now officially retired. No one believes her. You will never stop serving in God's Name. And so we thank God for you, Susanne, at this time. 

(Susanne’s husband Bishop Chris Epting was a keynote speaker at the Chicago World Assembly in 2017)

Unexpected Consequences: The Diaconate Renewed by Susanne Watson Epting

"Times change, and the Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Church has not remained static. While the book seeks to update contemporary knowledge about deacons, it also shows how the diaconate may be well positioned to lead the church into change that cuts across governance, formation, and ministry. While the institutional church struggles with its structure and purpose, working to change its reality and perception, the book suggests that there are diaconal leaders who have been working all along for this kind of change. The book chronicles ways in which one church order has grown, matured, adapted, adjusted, and is as effective as it is because of its dynamic nature. It is hoped that other orders might learn from the importance of being adaptable, contextual, and baptismal, while highlighting the primary lens deacons look through as they seek to fulfill what the church has called them to do."

Thursday, November 19, 2020

World Toilet Day - November 19

November 19 is World Toilet Day. It’s a United Nations observance to highlight a serious problem that 4.2 billion people in the world living without safely managed sanitation options. More people in the world have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. More than 840,000 people die every year from diseases related to lack of access to water and sanitation. It's the reason why the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN’s Global Goals is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This year the World Toilet Day 2020 focuses on sustainable sanitation and climate change. Climate change is getting worse. Flood, drought and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Everyone must have sustainable sanitation, alongside clean water and handwashing facilities, to help protect and maintain our health security and stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as COVID-19, cholera and typhoid. Sustainable sanitation systems also reuse waste to safely boost agriculture, and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

So, what does a sustainable sanitation system look like? Sustainable sanitation begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework. The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

Learn more about this year’s theme and how to engage in the World Toilet Day 2020 campaign here.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats the King says to the sheep: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Perhaps today we could add ‘I was without a safe and private toilet and you helped to provide me with clean sanitation’.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The World Council of Churches asked Carolyn Winfrey Gillette to compose lyrics for a hymn for World Toilet Day. Great lyrics. 

More resources on the Pilgrim Uniting Church website

Prayer: Lord for people who have no access to clean sanitation today we pray. May we who have everything take one small step today to aid those who have nothing, Amen.

DOTAC Board meeting

DOTAC Board - representing the 12 communities/associations of DOTAC, met via Zoom in the week of November 16-20. They all agreed that it was not the same as meeting in person but as a second-best meeting via Zoom enabled them to connect, make some decisions and stay safe.

Some highlights:

The representatives from the region's 12 communities and associations shared updates about the effects of COVID for their groups.  Nine projects related to the region have been funded by special DIAKAID grants; everything from food security pressures to addictions recovery support, from educational technology to sick bay construction, from resilency training to mental health first aid, from an on-line women's community to aid for migrant workers.

In preparation for Advent worship and check in times focused on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  

A new Social Justice Committee is being initiated.  And for one of the sessions Board members attended the second Racial Justice learning and discussion group with almost 30 participants.

A task group to examine and imagine the future of DOTAC was commissioned.  The Board hopes to have a final report with ideas and concrete recommendations by July 2021.

DOTAC Monthly Prayer gathering has been happening on the first of every month since June.  Other ideas were shared and considered for supporting the spiritual practices of our communities.

The Board brainstormed in the area of the Theology and Scholarship of Diakonia, Diaconal Formation and Membership Connections

Gathering God, 

you call the DOTAC Board members 

from their individual lives and their separate communities

to be your people meeting online. 

May your Spirit presence refresh and renew them. 

Affirm in each one the good that you have created in them. 

Remove all those things that seek to distract from the tasks at hand. 

In all the tasks before them, 

enable them to listen to each other,

that they may discern your leading, 

and thus join in your transforming mission in the world. 

May all they do be in response to your challenge: 

to 'love God, and to love your neighbour as yourself'. 

This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.