Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Encounters (Part 2)

And, following on from yesterday, my fourth and fifth encounters .....

Read John 3:1-9 – Nicodemus goes (by night) to see Jesus – and finds himself faced with some rather puzzling questions.

My fourth encounter story is about meeting Bishop Lesslie Newbigin.  Lesslie Newbigin spent many years as a missionary in India and was very much committed to the vision of the united Church that was the Church of South India.  He was one of its founding bishops, serving the Diocese of Madurai Ramnad.  Later he returned to India to serve as the Bishop of Madras.  (What is now the Diocese of Vellore was then part of the Diocese of Madras.)  In retirement he became minister of the tiny Winson Green United Reformed Church in Birmingham – commenting that evangelism in Birmingham was far more difficult that it had ever been in India.  Bishop Lesslie’s vision for Winson Green was of the Church of England and the United Reformed Church working together.  I was the next but one minister of Winson Green URC and, during my time as minister, Bishop Lesslie’s dream became a reality as the two churches formally united (just, as it happened, days before his death in January 1998.)  Exactly a year earlier Bishop Lesslie had been our guest preacher at the service where we signed the commitment to unite.

Read Luke 19:5-10 – Zacchaeus unexpectedly finds himself hosting Jesus and, perhaps even more unexpectedly, finds his life totally transformed.

My fifth encounter story is about meeting Ephraim Alphonse.  Ephraim Alphonse was one of my retired colleagues when I served in the Methodist Church in Panama.  He was very much the elder statesman of the Methodist Church at that point, and rightly so.  He had responded in early life to the challenge to take the Gospel to the remote western regions of the country which were inhabited by the indigenous Guyami people.  In an area where, even in the early 1990s when we spent a few weeks there, the only transport was boat or foot, Ephraim had introduced the Good News of Jesus – which led to the forming of the Valiente Circuit of the Methodist Church.  One of my great memories of my time in Panama is being part of a group accompanying Revd. Ephraim Alphonse back to his beloved Cusapin (where the main church of the Valiente Circuit is located) for a special celebration.

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