Monday, 17 October 2011

Teaching in Zimbabwe

In August, as part of my sabbatical, I was able to spend three weeks in Zimbabwe.  My main task while I was there was to teach Bible to a group at the training centre linked to Kuwadazana Presbyterian Church.  That was particularly interesting for me as Kuwadzana has long had a link with a United Reformed Church, though not in Eastern Synod.  The link is with Westborough URC in Guildford where my father was, at one time, the minister.  The training centre was dreamed up by Jonnah Masaka, then and still now, the minister there together with my Dad, so it was just a little disconcerting to be teaching with his photograph beaming down at me every day.  A class, that was supposed to be capped at 15, but actually varied between 18 and 23 (or thereabouts) explored with me the books of Jonah and Revelation.  We spent three mornings on Jonah and nine on Revelation and had a fascinating time, exploring a wide range of questions which emerged from the themes of those books.  The lectures were translated from English into Shona and the questions in the other direction.  Language was a barrier, but not nearly as big a barrier as I thought it might be.  The training centre was a great context for me.  It includes classrooms, accommodation, a kitchen and dining facility as well being a pre-school and a school.  There is a computer room and a library.  Kuwadazana is a high density township, some distance from the centre of Harare, not somewhere to go off wandering around, which gave me a great excuse to spend chunks of the afternoons reading and relaxing – and, of course, enjoying the hot sun.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The London Olympics

One of the big mission opportunities in 2012 will be the London Olympics. There can be little doubt that these will impact, in some way, on most people.

The main source of resources for doing Olympic stuff is the ‘More Than Gold’ organisation.  The Olympics in your own country, it is said, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if that and, indeed, the last time the games were in the UK was in 1948. My Olympics started in September of last year when, along with representatives from each of the other Synods of the United Reformed Church, I went on a tour of the Olympic park and attended an afternoon’s consultation when we heard lots of things about the Olympics and how the church might engage. I followed that by going to a ‘More than Gold’ meeting – and we then, as a family, applied for our Olympic tickets – and, unlike many, we got some. We only applied for two lots of tickets and had a 50% success rate but, based on what I have heard, that seems pretty good – so don’t try and book me for anything on Saturday 4th August next year. I shall be watching the opening day of the show-jumping at Greenwich Park.

But the Olympics, whatever you think of them – and, as it happens, I am not a great sports fan – but the Olympics will provide lots of opportunities for engaging with all sorts of people. It is worth thinking about that – and it is also worth knowing a bit about it. For instance, it is worth knowing that it is illegal to use the Olympic symbol. That’s why ‘More than Gold’ has developed its own symbol which churches are free to use without checking it out with anyone and without any payment. The ‘More Than Gold’ website – – is the best place for information and ideas but, if you don’t have and can’t get internet access, do contact us in the office and we will find a way of helping out. And it is not just the Games themselves. The seventy days leading up to the opening of the Olympics will see the torch relay running the length and breadth of the UK. In my area Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich are all places where it has already been announced that the torch relay will go. Then there is the Paralympics. All sorts of resources and ideas are and will be available. Here is an opportunity to find ways of offering something that is indeed more than gold.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Saying Yes

How we approach things is important, and part of our call.  On the way back from Zimbabwe at the end of August, on the plane, I watched the film ‘Yes Man’, based on Danny Wallace’s book of the same name.  The central character in the film is a banker who routinely turns down loan applications, and that pretty well sets the tone for the kind of person he is – until he is challenged to open up his life by saying ‘yes’ to everything.  Needless to say, keeping up the challenge up takes him into some situations he would rather avoid and some comic moments and, in the end, he learns that some balance is needed – but the message is clearly that it should be more of ‘yes’ and less of ‘no’.  As we consider God’s call and the challenge of a refreshed commitment, may we be ready with our yeses!