Friday, November 22, 2013

Rev April Casperson - reflections on the ministry of deacon

Rev April Casperson speaks about what it means to be in deacon ministry (with the United Methodist Church, USA).

In discerning a vocational call to ministry, 'I realized that while I love the local church, I tended to teach and preach about some key themes over and over again:

Education - the need to learn in order to grow in one's faith
Vocation - what is it that God is calling you to be and to do?
Justice - what does it mean to seek God's justice and to transform the world?

I struggled for a while - I still felt called to ordination, but I no longer saw myself as a pastor. I was called to ministry, but it had a different flavour - one of justice and compassion, beyond the local church. And then I started learning about the order of deacon.

Ordaining deacons means that the UMC is affirming the work of the deacon in the church and the world, and making a commitment to support ministries of compassion and justice.

You can read a longer version of her presentation here.

And an excellent article by April here on 'deculturalization' - 'when persons from a minority group (this can refer to race, gender, sexuality, age, theological stance…lots of options) are welcomed into a group comprised of the majority. Their presence is welcomed…as long as they then conform to majority norms'.

Deacon C. Christian Klein retires

Congratulations to VEDD (Verband Evangelisher Diakonen - Diakoninnen und Diakonatsgemeinschaften in Deutschland e.V) on 100 years, celebrated this week.

And also to C.Christian Klein who retires this week as Chairman for the German Deacons. His contribution has been significant, and especially in a time of significant change for the church and the social reality in Europe. He played a major role in the success of the DIAKONIA World Assembly in Berlin this year. We all know how much work goes on behind the scenes to organize a conference of the size and scope of DIAKONIA World Assembly, and we are endebted to C.Christian Klein's leadership, and his encouragement of the planning team.
Best wishes to C.Christian Klein for the future!
VEDD leadership team - Diakon C. Christian Klein on right

Friday, November 15, 2013

Connections with the Methodist Church in Fiji

Rev Marion Gledhill (Deacon) and Rev Malcolm Gledhill (Minister of the Word) are retired Ministers in the Uniting Church in Australia. They are currently serving as volunteers through Uniting World with the Methodist Church in Fiji, based in Suva. They are assisting the church with practical and important tasks: developing a code of conduct and revising their constitution. Marion has had excellent contacts with the Deaconesses in Fiji during her stay, and with the students. The Methodist Church in Fiji is a partner church with the Uniting Church in Australia and it's great to see Marion and Malcolm contributing in as volunteers in furthering the mission and ministry of the Methodist Church in Fiji.

I was interested to read this article by Bruce Mullan (Uniting World), with a statement prepared by the Methodist Church in Fiji on the occasion of Fiji Day on October 10th, 2013. It gives a flavour of the church and the context in which Deaconesses serve.

Methodists call for justice on “Fiji Day”

In another signal of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma’s commitment to be part of the renewing of the nation of Fiji, the church has made a significant statement to the nation on “Fiji Day” which celebrates the forty-third anniversary of Fiji’s independence from Great Britain. Methodist Church President, Rev Dr Tuikilakila Waqairatu points out that liberation is a continuous action that requires people to recognise and respect differences in ethnicity, culture, ability and how faith is expressed.
This is the text of the statement:
The Methodist Church in Fiji wishes all Fijians a happy and blessed “Fiji Day”.
As we commemorate the forty-third anniversary of Fiji’s independence from Great Britain, it is important that we not only celebrate, but reflect on the life of our nation and pray for her future.
Methodist Church President Rev Dr Tuikilakila Wagairatu
“Fiji Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the meanings of nationhood and independence,” said Methodist Church President, Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu.
“On October 10, 1970 we became independent from the British Colonial administration. However liberation is a continuous action. We need to liberate ourselves from oppressive structures that hold us back from reaching our full potential as human beings and as a nation of love, peace and tolerance.”
“A peaceful and prosperous Fiji will emerge as a result of a just and compassionate Fiji,” he added. “We must not only be a self sufficient nation, we must be a people who care for each other, share with each other and empower each other.”
“This means recognising and respecting our differences in ethnicity, culture, ability and how we express our faith, and focusing on our commonality as human beings, each created in the image and likeness of God and in our common desire to live in peace and fellowship with each other.”
Methodist Church General Secretary, Rev. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua, said that along with Fiji Day, the church would this week also be commemorating the anniversary of the arrival of the first Wesleyan Missionaries in Fiji.
“This year we will celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Revs William Cross and David Cargil and their wives in Lakeba, Lau and the establishment of the Methodist Mission in Fiji on the 12th of October, 1835.”
“The arrival of the Good News in these islands 178 years ago ushered in a new age for the i-Taukei people and in the development of Fiji, through formal and vocational education, medical and social welfare missions. As a community of faith we know that the work begun back then still continues as we strive for personal and social holiness in Fiji.”
Rev. Banivanua added that the journey between this Fiji Day and the next would be an important one for our nation.
“As a faith community, we are guided by our theology and praxis. The people called Methodists in Fiji recognise that this nation needs leaders who empower the people rather than ruling them; who will maintain our unique identity in our unity in diversity and provide the platform for all Fijians to understand and engage with important issues for true independence which upholds dignity of all, human rights, freedom and peace.”
“As the national anthem is sung let us remember that it is essentially a prayer for God’s blessings on our islands and people. Let us sing it, pray it and live it out in our daily lives,” he said.
“May God continue to guide Fiji in the paths of righteousness, protect and bless Fiji and all her people with a just, compassionate and peaceful society.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A prayer of intercession for the Philippines

Almighty God, we come to you with our hearts full of thoughts that cannot be put into words. But you are our refuge and strength, the light in the darkness, and so with confidence we offer our prayers to you.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

At a time like this we stand in awe of the power of nature with its terrible forces above the earth, and we are reminded of our vulnerability as human creatures. We bring to you our humility, our questions, and our trust in this hour of need.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for those who grieve the loss of family, friends and neighbours, for those who are injured, separated, and traumatized. We ask for your healing presence in their lives and we commend to your love all those who have died.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We give to your care all those who have been involved in rescue operations, medical personnel in the field and the injured in hospitals. Be with church organizations and government forces as they support their people. Sustain them through this time of tremendous loss and stress.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We commend to your care those who are searching for life in the debris. We pray for those who are burdened by the unimaginable loss, and for those who have found themselves like refugees in their own locality. We ask that the generous aid and the emotional and spiritual support already offered by local communities and from around the world will encourage and lift their spirits.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for the homeless millions. May this disaster bring together people around the world to rebuild their lives. May we bring them peace and healing.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for Filipinos in this country who feel far away from loved ones and their land of birth at this time; those who are still trying to get in contact with family. Comfort families across the distance.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We give thanks to God for the blessing in our lives, especially the gifts we so often take for granted until they are in danger of being taken away from us - the gift of family, friends, a home, our possessions. Most of all we praise God for the gift of life itself.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

God of light over darkness, order over chaos, life beyond suffering, come into our hearts in the moment of now. Come to transform our sorrow over the dead into blessings to the living. Come to reassure us your eternal truthin the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Life is always stronger than death.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer. Amen.

(Adapted from prayer for 2004 Asian Tsunami by Homebush Uniting Church)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Philippines typhoon

Over the past couple of days, the island nation of The Philippines has suffered what many are calling the worst typhoon in the recorded history of mankind, Super Typhoon Haiyan.
The storm hit land in the upper northern half of the nation, made up of 7,107 islands two days ago, with heavy rains and winds in excess of 200 mph. Much of the region has already suffered calamity this year in the way of other typhoons, flooding, and even earthquakes. The region certainly was in no condition to be hit by another natural disaster. The number of casualties in Philippine storms are never truly known and are always much higher than estimates claim.
Much of the country is populated by squatters who live in over-populated shanty villages, in which accurate populations are hard to account for, as are accurate accounts of how many people go missing at times like these. Many of the squatter villages are built along the banks of streams for better access to water sources, and entire villages have often been swept away in the dead of night during flash floods. The nation sits barely above sea level, and when it rains hard, as is the case when typhoons roll in, there is simply no place for the water to go, and it often rises faster than people can send an alarm, or even be awakened.
“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, a UN disaster management team member said. “The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” he continued, recalling the 2004 disaster that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives in Indonesia. 

More than 2.1 million familes have been affected by typhoon Yolanda (Internationale codename: Haiyan), according to the Philippine government's latest estimates.
This equates to around 9.53 million individuals, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as of 12nn Sunday, November 10.
DSWD also estimates that some 96,039 displaced families with 449,416 individuals are staying in 1,790 evacuation centers. Some 36,600 other families composed of 182,379 individuals have sought shelter in homes of friends and relatives.It may be weeks before a more accurate number of casualties is known, if ever. Some initial reports circulating is that entire islands have vanished. With every island in the Philippines being heavily populated (total land mass of the entire country is only half the size of the U.S. state of Texas, yet there is a population of nearly 100 million), whatever number is finally determined, it is not going to be pleasant.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Philippines - another massive typhoon

One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda) slammed into the Philippines today (Friday 8th November), cutting communications and blocking roads in the centre of the country amid worries of serious damage and casualties. Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled.  Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kms (405 miles) southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan slammed into a rural area of the country. Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometers (147 miles) per hour, with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist. He said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of "catastrophic damage." Ten million people are estimated to be in the path of the typhoon and half a million people have already been evacuated.
Weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.
The typhoon is the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Enhanced satellite image of Super Typhoon Haiyan showing the telltale "donut" appearance of an intense tropical cyclone. Credit: U-Wisconsin-CIMSS via Twitter/@Ryan_Maue.

Climate scientists continue to search for insight into how humans contribute to global warming, which is increasing sea surface temperatures along with changing air temperatures and the amount of moisture in the air, and may be altering tropical storm systems like Haiyan. Sparse historical data of Pacific storms has made it more difficult for scientists to detect long-term changes to storms in that region, but in the Atlantic at least, global warming is expected to increase the prevalance of the strongest storms, while making storms produce more rainfall.

Please pray for the people, and consider ways you can offer support - prayerfully, pastorally and financially.

God of compassion,
We give thanks for those who care
Those who listen for the needs of others and decide to make a difference
We give thanks for those who give their time and energy to reach out and assist those in need
We give thanks for organisations and groups which gather people around the cause of making a positive difference in people’s lives.
We give thanks for the opportunities that they create for us to get involved
For the hope that they bring and the love that they help to share.

God of compassion,
We pray for those who struggle in life,
Those who struggle to find justice
Those who just can get a good break
Those who are lonely and left out
Those for whom there is not enough money to meet basic needs
We pray that they may be empowered
We that they might find hope and encouragement for now
But we prayer that the time will come when no one will need such prayers,
We pray that we might find ways to change our society to make it better,
To make it more just
More compassionate
And where no one need suffer poverty, injustice, discrimination loneliness or illness.

God of compassion,
May we shake off discouragement or apathy, so that we may we join with all who work for such things.
This we pray in the name of the Christ who lived to teach us these lessons.

(source: Jon Humphries)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Diakonia Korea sisterhood

On the weekend, when WCC delegates had the opportunity to visit Seoul and be hosted by the churches in Seoul, or to join in day trips around Busan, I headed west to Mok-po to visit a small community of sisters in Diakonia Korea. I am so glad the visit was able to be arranged with the kind support of the leading sister, Sr. Ree. The hospitality and the warmth of the welcome was wonderful, and I learnt a great deal about this remarkable community. I will upload information about the Diakonia Korea community on the DWF members website (a work in progress, just begun) with information about the work of the sisters. Inspiring! 

Pictures to come.....

Monday, November 4, 2013

DIAKONIA - a living community

Pieter van Rijssell, immediate past Treasurer of DIAKONIA wrote about the way he followed up on the DIAKONIA World Assembly, using worship resources and stories. He posted the following on the DIAKONIA Facebook site:

On the 20th of October there was a so called Anders-dan-Anders service in our church. I belong to an open ecumenical community. This year they experiment with 7 services that were different than normal. After the Assembly I was invited to prepare the service. I used texts and songs of Berlin. Few people new anything about the history of deaconess work. At the end, we listened to the song of South Africa Siyahamba (here's the words and a sung version) and sang 'We are marching in the light of God'. We finished with the photo on the steps of the Berliner Dom at the end.

And now, they all now DIAKONIA is a living community.

Friday, November 1, 2013

World Council of Churches 10th Assembly

I have set up a blog as a summary of my experiences at World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, so the President's DIAKONIA blog will be quiet for the next few days.