Tag Archives: Mission
This reflection is from Sri Lanka; it challenges us at the most basic level. Do we know that the tea (or coffee) we drink is produced by slave labour or free? The reflection and prayers based on it can be found at the Anglican USPG website on their Pray with the World Church page. Reflection by Fr Lakshman Daniel, of the Church
In the mid-nineteenth century, poor Indian Tamil plantation
workers were brought to Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, to
sustain the tea industry, mainly in the central hills of Sri Lanka.
Today, this community is held in a modern form of slavery,
facing many socio-cultural and political concerns. The Church
of Ceylon is doing what it can to help children, who are the most
vulnerable group within the tea estate communities.
Our Estate Community Development Mission runs nursery
schools and after-school centres for some of the most vulnerable
children. The children are given a meal and teachers provide
activities which help the children educationally and socially.
This work is helping to change a culture of dependence:
rather than depending on the employment of tea estate owners,
children are being prepared for a formal education. And we
are pleased to report that children from many tea estates
have been supported through A Levels and even provided with
scholarships so they can attend university.
It is not the will of God that anyone should live as slaves. Therefore, we are taking every possible step to support
sustainable development to ensure peace and prosperity in this
community, with both material and spiritual growth.
Afterword from Pope Francis:
Modern forms of slavery … are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame – within the most prosperous of our societies …God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – ‘Where is your brother?’ – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade and the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children.
Behind this garage door is a garage, as you might expect, but this is London, where you can expect the unexpected.
In this case, the archives of the Archdiocese of Westminster. There’s a postern within the door that a researcher can be let through, then past the car and into a warm welcome from the archivists.
Public Domain, via Wikipedia
The archives hold material from well before the Archdiocese came into being in 1850, including works of Bishop Richard Challoner, 1691-1781, who was Bishop in London when Catholics still were not supposed to exist, so he lived and worked in secret, ever in danger of arrest or attack. He wrote extensively for his flock, including a catechism, a revision of the Douay Bible translation, and the Garden of the Soul, a prayer book designed for people who had to live for long periods without the Sacraments or a priest visiting.
In this week of prayer for Christian Unity, let us thank God for the freedom to worship enjoyed in Britain today, and pray for those Christians elsewhere who may not worship as their conscience and loyalty lead them to.
Here is a page from the Garden, describing how to start the day. Not bad advice at all, though parents may feel it’s not entirely practical! It’s the coffee after they’ve left the house that allows a moment of morning offering for some of us; but read on!
We invite you to share with us and all the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland the forthcoming week of Prayer for Unity. A Word from the General Secretary today; an introduction to this year’s theme tomorrow, then reflections, readings, prayers for each day of the Octave, or eight day week.
Praying for the unity of the Church involves a recognition not only of the brokenness of Christian relationships but also how injustice in the world at large rends asunder Christian communities and impedes our participation in God’s mission. History too plays a part, casting a shadow over how we live our lives together in community. All of these issues emerge from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials for 2018.
The churches of the Caribbean region describe to us their own context, how the hand of God was active in ending slavery, and how God’s mission in the world is a call to us all to unite together in ending injustice, that which casts a shadow from the past and current forms of injustice such as poverty, trafficking and discrimination. This particular Caribbean experience is a challenge to us in our context to reflect more deeply on the injustices in our own nations in Britain and Ireland which create the divisions that impede our participation in God’s mission, with the call to actively work to end all division.
Within these resources you will find not only the worship service derived from the International material that is resourced by the Caribbean churches, but also additional material written by the CTBI Writers Group. I hope and pray that you will find these materials inspiring as you seek to participate in the life that sets us free to be one in God.
General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Throughout history spirituality has been linked to specific convictions and values, calling for a particular life-style, with regular devotion and ritual worship. Christian spirituality cherishes highly the values and virtues of the Gospel: love, compassion, peace with justice … the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.1-12. How these values are appropriated into everyday living is the mission of the Church; to this end the Church provides a repertoire of prayers and devotions along with a sacramental system, to help us engage meaningfully with personal and cosmic living.
Over time competition arose between the different religions, each with its own priorities. In recent years, however, there has been a noticeable commitment all round for coming closer together. As we have seen, there was the presumption that religion and spirituality are essentially the same. In every age the meaning of spirituality and its influence has evolved in cosmic proportions. It is crucial that engagement with spirituality calls for engagement of current cosmic awareness – resulting from multi-disciplinary exploration.
This is showing us that spirituality belongs to the earth and its people and not to some far-away god, or to a state of Nirvana. Above all, it transcends what individual religions claim to represent and as such becomes all-embracing. It is a challenge to break away from human centred systems – religious and political – and claim all creation as home.
Scientists such as Eliade and Jung… among others claim that value is based on an innate and universal desire everyone experiences; values such as: unconditional love, truth, honesty integrity and peace with justice. The Christian ethic quotes the Canticle of Mary to see Jesus as epitomising this: He came to his people to set them free – Luke 1.68. All world religions seek to embrace these values within their own cultural expressions. For the Christian faith this is what is meant by the Kingdom – seen stunningly in Jesus as king riding a donkey – on which, in those days, anyone could ride.
Spirituality is concerned with such values as foundational. Religion, however, is the name we give to the enculturation of such values. Christianity as religion is very much the product of a patriarchal culture, with familiar oppressive results: market competition with the poor side-lined, female suppression… which have no place in the Kingdom Jesus brings. If this is so, it would seem that religion is a temporary reality. Involvement with spirituality is to be enabled to reclaim who we really are through engagement with living the basic values which alone can satisfy every human hunger – this is why Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life – satisfying every hunger. We cannot avoid being people of value.
Not all value is necessarily good, the influence of light and dark is always at work. Value is geared towards life being experienced as whole – as promised by all religions. But our attempts to embody value is influenced by the temptation to selfishness, greed and power-seeking. The person who robs and steals is doing an evil act – not for the sake of evil, but for a perceived good! In a world of so much suffering and evil such an example can seem trivial. Our human desire for fullness of life can be distorted, while the ultimate goal is always good. Which is why Paul cries out: who will rescue me from this wretched state – Romans 7.24?
Putting Jesus on a divine pedestal leaves no room for a radically new way of being human.
Why are we preoccupied with the divinity of Jesus? Presumably we believe this enhances our faith. But is this what Jesus wanted to bring? Was the salvation of the immortal soul his prime concern? The Synoptics, Matthew Mark and Luke, interpret Jesus as a divine figure – corresponding to their contemporary expectation of a divine liberator from Roman oppression. But what was in Jesus’ mind? He certainly promised liberation and new life; was this freedom the expected liberation, or was it a great deal more than that?
I was asked on numerous occasions do I believe in the divinity of Jesus – but never once: do I believe in his humanity. Jesus was offering a radically new way of being human – one totally disconnected from a way dominated by the thirst for power. We know from the Gospels that the disciples had problems with this – preoccupation with messiah-ship became a series of obstacles to seeing what Jesus was really about. Ignorance of the great human story meant they were unable to see the human face of God revealed in that story, reaching its apex in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Relishing and appreciating the full story, and appreciating God’s creativity at its core gives us a more credible and authentic appreciation of Jesus’ divinity – insisting that we attend much more to the new way of being human that this inaugurated, of which Jesus is the first disciple. We condemn Jesus to divine captivity – so divinely holy and remote – that his new way of being human is seriously compromised. Our preoccupation with his divinity is a distraction from knowing the real Jesus.
We picture Jesus as a loyal and faithful Jew, whereas the sources suggest something different; and the following of Christ was seen as fidelity to divine rules and laws. The Jesus story came to be known as a set of facts around which his life was written. Yet this shape doesn’t figure strongly in his life and mission – his stories testify to this: he defied convention, social and religious – and flaunted the hopes of the establishment by calling for equality based on inclusiveness.
Reading the Book of Acts we see clearly how different was the Apostles’ sense of mission to that of today’s Church. We have Creeds, Codes and doctrines – systems to follow to preach the Word – they had none of this. They went out and shared their experiences of living with Jesus, especially after the Resurrection; what it was like to be with him. This mission hasn’t changed, though how we go about it has. We no longer have people to listen to who lived with him – nor even do we know of people who were with him.
We are weighed down with centuries of doctrine and speculation. The theologian speaks a language strangers do not know. So much of what is said and written seems far removed from everyday life. Can we do anything to recapture the powerful simplicity of those early days? The answer is the same – it is Jesus whom we share. The first Christian profession of faith was not I believe in God… but Jesus is Lord! Is this my experience, or is it what I am told to say? The Jesus they shared was a man they had known and lived with – they had experienced his enthusiasm, witnessed his frustrations. He enjoyed his life, along with him they knew excitement and disappointment – he wept on hearing of a friend’s death; and died violently while still a young man – with hope seemingly shattered and promises gone.
But here was not just a young man, full of promising potential – here was the reality of what being human means. Made in the image of God, the perfection of the human consists in the degree to which it truly reflects its origin. He claimed to be one with the Father, indeed he said to see him was to see the Father – he didn’t simply reflect divine perfection, he is this perfection. His disciples – even on Good Friday – knew they had seen the premature death of a man in whom they saw no trace whatsoever of evil. They saw the question all of us ask – even the best of lives must end, even the most special people must die, is life meant to be so absurd? Are our ideas, hopes and visions a promise of something wonderful to come or is it all a delusion?
These questions were answered by the Resurrection. This man, who had lived an exemplary human life, trusting himself entirely in the providence of Abba, was not deluded; and the chasm of death was no longer impassable. His friends remembered how they first met him, when he invited them when they asked him where he lived – come and see, he said. We may not know what they actually saw, but we know what they discovered from his passing from this life into a new world was not for him alone, but a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth – Ephesians 1.10.
Just as his death asked the vital question about the meaning of life; so the Resurrection provided the answer. God’s saving plan has finally earned the response in the most perfect way possible. The human Jesus has shown the fidelity which is the only reply God was waiting to receive. Now the human race began to be glorified through one of its members entering in to the new heaven and new earth. The way was clear for the disciples, our destiny and how to achieve it is wide open to anyone sharing the same humanity. Hopes and longings were always present for some kind of happiness beyond death – but God’s plan was recognised only in vague ways. Like a group of weary and hungry people lost in a forest; hopes were occasionally raised by some who set-out to find it, but there was no news of how they got on.
Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.
Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.
I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.
Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.
I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.
There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.
Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.
Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!