Epiphany: Revelation with foreigners

Talk on St Jude and St Paul’s @ Home on Sunday 2nd January 2022

Today is the Feast of Epiphany when we celebrate the revelation of the Baby Jesus to Magi, wise people from the East. They had seen a star appear and had discerned that the King of the Jews had just been born. This star had led them on a journey to find the baby king. It had led them on the journey of their lives.

Here is another story. One day a young boy was out with his mother and they met a priest, who very politely raised his hat and greeted the boy’s mother. They were living in Sophiatown in Johannesburg in Apartheid South Africa. The boy and his mother were black South Africans; the priest was white and white men did not normally greet black women in this way. It was  extraordinary.

A little later the boy developed TB and was seriously ill in hospital during which the priest visited him several times. The boy was completely bowled over by the kindness of the priest. It was a revelation of God for the young boy, in which he experienced compassion and radical inclusion across the differences of colour, age, and education. As they talked together the boy learned of the priest’s heart for justice. This was the boy’s Epiphany, which shaped his future and his life’s work. Jesus was alive in the priest and became alive in the young boy. I wonder if you know this story and who the people were.

The priest was Trevor Huddleston who became Bishop of Stepney and subsequently Archbishop of the Indian Ocean. The boy was Desmond Tutu, who was mentored by Trevor Huddleston and ordained, and was the first black South African to be Archbishop of Cape Town. He died on Boxing Day aged 90.

A revelation of God is given for a purpose, and that purpose is that the love of God may be made known. I think we can assume that the Magi had been summoned by God. They followed a star from where they lived to Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold for a king, frankincense for the worship of God, and myrrh used in embalming someone when they have died. We know what King, and God, and Sacrifice looked like in the life of Jesus, but what can this look like now in the life of the Church? Let’s take a look at the three gifts of Epiphany through the life of Archbishop Tutu.

Gift for a King

On the Sunday before Christmas we reflected on Mary’s Song which promised that God would pull down the mighty from their thrones. It was a song of revolution and it was this song that Desmond Tutu preached. I think this is what a gift of gold looks like for Christ the King.

One time St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town was surrounded by troops who came inside and lined the walls. Archbishop Tutu stood up and proclaimed that apartheid would not endure, pointed his finger at the enforcers standing along the walls of his sanctuary and said, “You are powerful. You are very powerful, but I serve a God who can not be mocked.” Then he flashed his wonderful smile, and said, “Since you’ve already lost – I invite you today to come and join the winning side”. The congregation erupted and began dancing. Dancing in the cathedral, then pouring outside and dancing in the streets. The troops just moved back because they had no idea what to do with dancing worshippers.

In due course the mighty were pulled down from their thrones. The Arch offers two principles on justice for those of us wanting to serve Christ the King:

Gifts of Gold

If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu

For Desmond Tutu, his calling was to work patiently to make a real difference with the injustice of apartheid. Nobody can work on everything, so each of us needs to identify what issue of justice we are passionate about and work on it.

Whatever the issue is, Desmond Tutu offers more wisdom about how to go about it:

We need to stop just pulling people out of the river.

We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.

Desmond Tutu

This is a good principle for St Jude’s as we consider what issues in our community we should work on – whatever the issue there will be an immediate need, and a reason why that need exists at all. God’s justice addresses both. This is gold, real gold in the Kingdom of Christ the King.

Gift for God

I once preached on the spiritual gift of joy and afterwards a confused church member came up to me and asked, “so what does joy look like?” “Desmond Tutu” I replied, “Joy looks like Desmond Tutu. He personifies joy; joy just bubbles out of him”. As the church member still look confused, I recommended they read The Book of Joy which had just been written by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

Gifts of Frankincense – joy

It seems to me James Walters is right that the gift of joy is at the heart of God in the Holy Trinity, but I think there was also something else going on in the interaction between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, between this Christian spiritual leader and a Buddhist spiritual leader – just as there had been between Trevor Huddleston and Desmond Tutu.

The African philosophy called Ubuntu was taught to the world by Desmond Tutu: that a person is a person through other people. It is this philosophy which underpinned his work on reconciliation and peace in South Africa.

Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. We say “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. A person is a person through other people.”

Desmond Tutu

Gifts of Frankincense – ubuntu

It seems to me that this philosophy of life in community is divine. We believe in One God, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is a community of Three in One. How we live both as individuals and in community are gifts to God. Our lives are worship, real frankincense for the Worship of God.

Gifts of Sacrifice

Gifts of Myrrh – Table Mountain

The City of Cape Town bathed Table Mountain in purple light in honour of Desmond Tutu – picking up the colour of his episcopal cassock. Memorial services in cathedrals and parish churches erupted across the countries of Southern Africa. Desmond Tutu has died as he lived, at the heart of the Church which is Christ’s Body on Earth.

What then about us? I was fortunate to hear Archbishop Tutu speak in St Paul’s Cathedral some years ago. At the end of his talk, he called everyone to reveal God to others themselves:

God says help me to make the world more compassionate, more loving.

Desmond Tutu

At the first Epiphany God invited foreigners to come and see his new born son. Christians traditionally understand Epiphany as the revelation of God to the Gentiles. This revelation was not just one way. The Magi brought gifts: gold for a King, frankincense to worship God, and myrrh recognising his sacrifice. These strangers revealed to Jews what the life of Jesus was about, and what they revealed is also how God calls us to be a revelation through our lives. Amen.

Short Devotion by Luís Samacumbi at the “UCC Morning Staff Chapel on ‘Following Jesus in Challenging Times’”

Samacumbi's Blog

January 20, 2021

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Following Jesus in challenging times

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:14 -20 NIV

Dear friends,

Good Morning and…

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Book Review: Ghost Ship

A.D.A. France-Williams, Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England, (London: SCM Press, 2020).

The boat named the Church of England has sunk. She was a slave ship, and the people of colour on the edge of the church, her enslaved women, men and children, are the ghosts. Those in high office are the ship’s captain and boat owners, with her crew being the staff of national institutions. Ghost Ship is also written for the interested public. Fr Azariah hopes it will spark a sense of solidarity across global majority Anglicans, with partners who see, hear and speak up for the full human flourishing of black and brown people within better ships where all can find safety and safe passage.

Written from personal experience of ordained ministry in one of the largest dioceses of the Church of England, Fr Azariah’s vivid and gripping story-telling presents a major critique of the Church and the systems of power on which it operates.

He observes that the Church of England has merged two rulers, The Queen and Christ. Which path will it take? The path of power, privilege and prestige – the way of the Crown – or the path of pain, people and paying the price – the way of the Cross. The crown that people of colour have known within the Church of England is the crown of thorns.

Interestingly, the wearer of the Crown is an evangelist for the Cross; the Queen is consecrated for this ministry. Yet the Crown also represents the State and Government, and the Church. Each have systems – have they taken advantage of the Queen’s trust in their use of the Crown?

“It takes the whole world to know the whole gospel”, said Max Warren, former CMS General Secretary. Fr Azariah is a mission focused poet priest theologian from Nevis and connects his stories with insights on power from the story of God.

One ethnic group had power over another in the community of the Early Church (Acts 6.1). The disciples gather the whole community and there is a clear transfer of power and positive affirmative action takes place. Can the Church of England transfer power?

Prophetic and challenging, Ghost Ship gives a voice to those whose voices have not been heard as the ship sailed on. Spiritual and missional, Ghost Ship requires boat owners, captain and crew to stop, reflect and take action together to build better ships. This is really essential reading for the whole crew.

Ghost Ship is available from Aslan Christian Books for £14.41 with free delivery in the UK.

Moses and The Glory of God

Talk on St Jude and St Paul’s @ Home on Sunday 12th July, 2020

Two weeks ago at St Jude and St Paul’s @ Home we introduced our new morning service series on The Story of God: Big and Small, and then last week James spoke about the big story of creation and the fall. His message was that being made in God’s image, relationships and community are central for us, but relationships within the community of creation break when we make choices different to what God intended. This means that the world is still essentially good but is broken.

Today we have a small story about one person and their relationship with God. Just as we did two weeks ago on the Road to Emmaus with Cleopas and Mary, I’d like us to look into this story of Moses and the Glory of God, and see what we can find out about the bigger story of God.

It’s not worth going anywhere without God

Moses said, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. Moses knew that it wasn’t worth going anywhere without the presence of God going too.

At many points in their history, the people of God had been rescued. Miraculously God had intervened to save them from slavery in Egypt, and from pursuit by the Egyptian army. God had provided water in the desert when they were thirsty, by telling Moses which rock to strike on Mount Horeb.

Moses knew he wasn’t God. He couldn’t provide water out of a rock by himself. He could strike a rock with his staff as much as he liked, but no water would come out unless God was with him. Moses knew from experience that if the presence of God was not with the people then it wasn’t worth going anywhere, because they wouldn’t get anywhere.

God’s presence with his people is distinctive 

When God met with Moses on Mount Sinai, it was covered in smoke because God came in fire, and now, whenever Moses went out of the camp to talk to God, a pillar of cloud would come down and stay while God spoke with Moses.

Moses knew that the power of God could be seen through what God did, and by how God appeared to him. This meant that the people of God could be identified from all the other peoples because God’s presence with his people is distinctive.

Which brings us to Moses second request:

Now show me your glory.

Exodus 33.18
Moses in the Rock, 2011 (Jack Baumgartner)

This image of Moses in the Rock was painted in 2011 by an American called Jack Baumgartner, who is a farmer, painter and woodworker.

Brilliant lights of red, yellow and white fill the mountain valley and cover the peaks. Near to us, Moses shelters in the rocks, tucked into a gap in the rocks as far back as he can go. His hands are raised as if one is trying to hold back the wind, and the other to shade his eyes from the dazzling bright light. The fine detail of the rocks looks like the woodworker artist has chiselled them out of the mountain that is bathed in beautiful orange light.

Like us Moses has not been able to have a haircut for some time; his long hair and beard are lifted up as if there’s a huge wind, which also blows up his blue cloak as if it were another fold chiselled out of the rocks. Just beyond, lies his staff. “You will see my back” said God. Moses could only see where God had been. He couldn’t FaceTime God! Some years later, St. Ireaneus of Lyon would say:

The glory of God is a human being fully alive, and the glory of a human is to see a vision of God.

Ireaneus, Against Heresies IV

Moses knew that it wasn’t worth trying to go anywhere without God because God’s presence with his people is distinctive. Being the leader of God’s people meant being in relationship with both the all powerful God of creation, and the broken community of people who struggled to follow where God led them.

Next week, we will move on to the next part of The Story of God: the agreements or covenants that God makes with people, and we’ll look at that big story through the call of Abram.

In the far right corner of Moses in the Rock, away from the dazzling light, out of the dark rock flows a stream of water. It could easily be overlooked or forgotten if we were to feel overwhelmed by the glory of God. The Church is called to reach

into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible

Common Worship: Ordination of Deacons

I wonder how the presence of God with us can distinguish us from other people.

Introduction to The Story of God

Talk on St Jude and St Paul’s @ Home on Sunday 28th June, 2020

Today we are launching a new morning service series called The Story of God: Big and Small. To encourage us in these extraordinary times, we will be exploring some of the big stories of the Bible, and some of the little stories. To introduce the series is this story of the Road to Emmaus. Let’s look at the story and then reflect on what it can tell us about stories, both big and small.

Emmaus, 2002 by Maximino Cerezo Barredo

The artist shows the two disciples as a man and a woman. Luke’s Gospel tells us that one was called Cleopas but doesn’t name the other. John’s Gospel tells us that Mary, wife of Clopas, was one of the women standing at the foot of the cross. It is often assumed that the unnamed disciple on the road with Cleopas is another man, but several bible commentators think it’s likely that Cleopas would have been married and together with his wife for the Passover festival in Jerusalem, and that Clopas is just a different spelling of Cleopas. So here are Cleopas and Mary.

Two separate scenes are captured in this one image.

Nearest to us are the two disciples sitting at a table with Jesus, who has just broken the bread. Jesus looks straight at us, as though inviting us to accept some of the broken bread he holds in his hands. His wrists show the holes from having been nailed to the cross. Mary and Cleopas each hold a hand up, perhaps in astonishment, perhaps in praise, or perhaps in blessing as they look intently out of the picture, as though having shared broken bread with Jesus, their attention is now somewhere else so they can share this with others. Cleopas has one arm around Mary. They are together.

In the background, as though in the doorway to the dining room, are Mary and Cleopas with blindfolds covering their eyes. In between them stands Jesus, with a hand on each of their shoulders. Cleopas and Mary both wear backpacks, they are carrying baggage. This is how they got here.

The two disciples couldn’t see that they were walking with Jesus. They were blind to that fact. It was as though their eyes were covered. A blindfold on the table in front of Mary shows that once the bread had been broken in front of them, they saw it was Jesus who had been walking with them. Their packs sit on the floor. They are no longer burdened but have been set free by this wonderful news that Jesus is alive.

The Road to Emmaus is a wonderful story. Mary and Cleopas were caught up in the loss of Jesus. This was a huge burden that they carried – the loss of their hopes for the salvation of Israel followed by confusion over the disappearance of the body of Jesus from his tomb.

They were brave enough to share their story with the stranger who came up to them on the journey home. And they were then patient enough to listen to the stranger telling them a story. Jesus shared with them all that the Jewish scriptures said about him. That would have taken several miles. The story of God’s plan of salvation was a much bigger story, much bigger than their personal stories of having lost their hope of salvation.

We too can be so caught up in our own stuff that we are blind to the bigger story of what God is doing. Bigger stories can make sense of smaller stories. Just like the Road to Emmaus, our lives are a journey. In this pandemic, we have all experienced loss and been caught up in that. Unless Mary and Cleopas had shared their story with Jesus, he wouldn’t have had an opportunity to share his story. The Story of God is both big and small. Their own personal stories were needed for them to receive the revelation that Jesus is alive.

Pentecost 2020

Talk given at Islington Pastors Prayer Meeting, 28th May 2020.

On Sunday the Church worldwide celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It’s our birthday we celebrate, but a birthday like none other in our lifetimes. And the church – what are we to look like? Or as the disciples of Jesus put it, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

The Ascension – The Life of Jesus Mafa

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Acts 1.6-9

Jesus said to his friends that this is what it would look like. They were to receive power, and then be witnesses to him. As we prepare for Pentecost this year, these words of Jesus remain the mandate he gives to all his disciples. How are we to apply them in our current context?

At Pentecost the city was to be full. God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven were to be in Jerusalem for the festival. Here in London, the city is full of people from many nations. We speak more first languages than any other city in the world.

The first thing the Spirit did was to give the disciples the languages to communicate with the people from all the nations around the Mediterranean. If we look around us in London, we see many signs of God communicating his love across language barriers. Each of us will have examples from our own ministries, but here are a couple of examples:

  • During several Islington Life Festivals, one church has offered free English language lessons – this is one of their ministries. As I stood watching a session last year, I was struck by how beautiful it was that a young pastor from Brazil, whose first language is Portuguese, was teaching English to people from so many other nations.  
  • As we know, most diaspora congregations worship in their first languages. Many are Pentecostal or Holiness Churches, but here in London the Church of England has diaspora congregations worshipping in: Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, African French, European French, Gujarati, Hindi, Iranian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Brazilian Portuguese, Multicultural Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian and Urdu.

    NB These are all Anglican congregations of Christians living in London. Given that the Church of England has not always been well known for embracing other cultures, this too strikes me as being such a beautiful sign of God’s love being communicated.

So, the city is full, the Spirit is given, and the Church has languages to communicate the love of God in Christ Jesus. We have all that we need because God has equipped us with the Spirit. God has equipped us for a purpose, “You will be my witnesses” said Jesus to his friends. That’s why the Holy Spirit is given – to witness to the presence of Jesus in the world, whether we teach English or welcome people to worship in their own language, when we pray for healing, when we provide food to those who are hungry, when we advocate for those without power, we witness to the love of Jesus in our city.

Anyone can catch the virus, and sadly many people have passed away from it. I have been particularly shocked by the Office of National Statistics reporting on unequal impact with much higher proportions of people of black and other ethnicities being killed by the virus than white people. Is it that underlying health conditions are poorer due to higher levels of deprivation caused by an income gap between races? Is it that black and minority ethnic people are overrepresented in public facing roles in the NHS, care homes, public transport and shops, and they have been the most exposed?

Whilst the answers to these and similar questions are not yet known, I think there is a more direct question for us on what is the role of church leaders in this situation? How are Christians to witness to the love of God in our multicultural communities when our communities are being disproportionately impacted by the virus according to different racial backgrounds?

Next Tuesday evening there will be a discussion hosted by Ben Lindsay, author of We Need To Talk About Race, with a multicultural panel of Christian leaders to explore how should white majority / white-led churches respond to the disproportionate impact Covid-19 has had on ethnic minorities. This will be live streamed on YouTube so anyone can join.

As we celebrate on Sunday, and are refreshed by God’s gifts of power, we will be re-commissioned as witnesses of Jesus in Islington, and in all of London, both north and south, and to the ends of the earth.

We will devote ourselves to teaching and to the fellowship of our church communities. We will connect with our sisters and brothers, perhaps by WhatsApp or online or with appropriate social distance, including those speaking many other native languages. We will break bread, or struggle with how we do that, and we will pray. As we pray, can we find space to pray into these issues of racial inequality within our society and seek to be witnesses to the love of God who is One and invites us to be one. For in one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body, whether black or white, slave or free, male or female, and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 

Ben Lindsay and We Need to Talk About Race

Ben Lindsay, We Need to Talk About Race: Understanding the black experience in white majority churches, (London: SPCK, 2019, £9.99).

Ben Lindsay aims to start a conversation: to create opportunities for prayerful self-reflection, enquiry, understanding and actions, large and small, from black and white people, to help dismantle racist structures in the Church and beyond. How well he succeeds is indicated by some of the credits:

“A must read for the UK Church”

Justin Welby

“It is about God’s mission” – “it is geared for action”

Rose Hudson-Wilkin

 “a game-changer for so many churches engaged in the complex world of building a “church for all nations”

Wale Hudson Roberts

In We Need to Talk About Race Ben Lindsay has proclaimed the gospel afresh for his – and our – generation. This is a refreshing and up to date challenge to the UK Church to work on becoming intercultural. He writes as a British Caribbean pastor born in London, raised in white-majority churches and now leading a white-majority church in a racially-diverse area of south-east London. For Lindsay, integration is not about assimilation where people leave their cultures behind  to be accepted into another, but means being included in, and creating and contributing to, church culture so that the culture they worship God in is their own. For me, this book moves beyond black theology to be much more of an intercultural theology.

Starting from his personal experiences, Is it because I’m black? Being Black in the UK (Chapter 1) and Family Feud: Racism in the Church (Chapter 2), Lindsay engages with Why black man dey suffer: The Church and Slavery (Chapter 3) and You don’t see us: Disentangling Christianity from White Supremacy (Chapter 4).

Stories of black women Christians in an Interlude: Don’t touch my hair, lead on to a challenge to Love like this: Racial Solidarity in the Church (Chapter 5) and Kick in the door: Church Leadership (Chapter 6) which presents a deliberate strategy to achieve a racially-diverse leadership through developing black people and relinquishing (white) power. This is illustrated by an interview with Kate Coleman which occupies a second Interlude: Black (wo)man in a white world.

Jesus walks: Social Action (Chapter 7) addresses issues of concern to black communities. and Let’s push things forward: What Next? (Chapter 8) responds to the world around us being in desperate need of displays of racial unity and a multi-coloured picture of hope.

We Need to Talk About Race is all about the UK Church learning to encompass the gifts of all her multicultural members and be better equipped for the Mission of God. It is vibrant intercultural theology with big ideas, and Ben Lindsay invites readers into reflective practice with questions framed for different cultural backgrounds: persons of colour, white church leaders, white church members, and those looking in.

Different reactions are likely from different people coming from different cultures, but for me, as a white church leader in a black-majority church in Inner London, there were three big ideas in We Need to Talk About Race:

  1. Agency – Learning from biblical figures such as Joseph and Esther who had the ear of the majority culture, and worked on behalf of the oppressed and fought against injustice. If we are committed to seeing a diverse Church in which everyone is able to flourish, we will need to exercise responsibility for each other.
  2. White allies – Discipleship and leadership development of persons of different ethnicity was brought to life by Kate Coleman’s experience of men calling her to leadership in a church that did not believe in women in leadership, and of a key white church member validating her ministry by saying he recognized authority, grace and gift in her.
  3. Unmute – Engaging with issues that disproportionately impact black people locally or nationally. Alan Everett showed what this looks like by “opening the doors and turning the lights on” at St Clements, Notting Hill for those impacted by the Grenfell Tower disaster. Is the UK Church willing to do this for racially diverse communities?

London is a multicultural city with many churches that are multicultural in membership and monocultural in leadership and culture. Ben Lindsay has crossed the racial divide himself, and in this book has given the UK Church a gift so we can do likewise, and in so doing demonstrate the good news that the love of God is from all and is for all.

At the time of writing, the first edition of We Need to Talk About Race is available from The Book Depository at £7.59 [accessed 26 August 2019].

Ben Lindsay will be speaking at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 29th October 2019 at 6.30 – 8pm with Guvna B,  Rosemarie Mallett, and Chine McDonald. Tickets are available free here

You lovely people did it again – and again!

A great example of partnership in the gospel inspiring Christians to join in with God’s mission through their partners.

Views from the flats...

Well, folks, you’ve surpassed all expectations. I’m gobsmacked.

Back in 2017, we were given the challenge of raising enough money to buy a motorbike to enable our Kenyan colleagues to serve remote communities in the vast, arid region of Marsabit, in the north of that country. You responded brilliantly, and in February 2018 I had the privilege of presenting that bike – a Yamaha 125 – to its new owner outside Marsabit Cathedral while the congregation clapped and cheered. It is now in daily use around Sololo, near the border with Ethiopia.

Your generosity didn’t stop there. By March of this year, we were able to send a second bike to Marsabit, again enabling its user to reach far-flung villages quickly and easily.

Since then, people have continued to give, and more than once I have been surprised with cheques at the end of services. A collection at the service…

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Preparing for Peace in the Midst of Conflict

This is the gospel: “when ethnic conflict makes it impossible to meet together, we’ll make the most of the opportunity by running a new course called Ethnic Conflict and Theological Reflection. Amidst the sound of gunfire, we will gather together in little groups …”

Shade like night at the height of noon

This week, we’ll be celebrating three years in Ethiopia. It seems like good time to reflect on why we are here.

Prospective students from the Anuak, Maban and JumJum communities with their English teacher, Joanna Cox. July 2019.

For three years, we’ve been working to provide excellent theological education to current and prospective church leaders. And we’ve been trying to do this in a multi-ethnic community: each day, we bring students from five different ethnic groups (Nuer, Anuak, Dinka, Maban and JumJum) together to worship, study and have fun together.

Although there are many dimensions to this work, bringing students from these different communities together each day has been the most worthwhile aspect of our time here. We’ve seen some great friendships develop that transcend hostile divisions. During periods of intense hostility and complete segregation, our students often call each other to exchange greetings and chat. We’ve seen Anuak students…

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The Changing Landscape of the Church in Scotland

Missio Africanus held it’s first event in Scotland last Saturday, 11th May. We aimed to discover what the research into new churches in Glasgow by Dr Sheila Akomiah-Conteh might mean for being Church in Scotland.

Glasgow Worship Choir

As we gathered, the conference was opened by ministers from Nigeria, England, Ghana, Malawi, and Rwanda and was led in worship by the inter-denominational / inter-church Glasgow Worship Choir. The inter-cultural nature of this opening foreshadowed what was to follow!

Dr Sheila Akomiah-Conteh

We met in a building that had been Church of Scotland and is now the home of the Church of Pentecost. This was a tangible reminder that the backdrop was secularisation and decline within Western Churches, and yet church growth is happening through Fresh Expressions and New Churches which are generally not known and therefore not counted.

110 new churches were started in the City of Glasgow between 2000 and 2016; on average seven new churches were being planted each year. They are the second largest group of churches in the city, alongside 126 Church of Scotland parishes and 65 Roman Catholic churches. There has been a significant seismic shift in the Christian landscape of the City of Glasgow.

Culturally these churches are diverse: African 51%, Scottish 35%, Asian 9%, and Other 5%. Yet in all cases, most members of the new churches are from the same culture – the new churches are not multicultural.

For many pastors, the Great Commission is the reason for starting a new church. Yet, as Matthew recorded, the mandate is to make disciples of all nations. The Holy Spirit came to all nations on the Day of Pentecost, with no differentiation between African, Middle-Eastern, Asian and European.

One of the key characteristics of the followers of the way that contributed to their being recognised in Antioch as distinctively different was being a multi-cultural team. This is part of what being Christian is all about, and it was very encouraging in Glasgow to hear pastors from different churches recognise their need to learn from each other.

Alongside the growth of new churches which Sheila’s research had found, this response by pastors to God’s call to be multicultural was another sign of hope in The Changing Landscape of the Church in Scotland.