Thursday, 14 January 2010

January in Ghana

From 4th to 10th January, Stuart Jordan (co-Chair of the London District) and I visited Ghana at the invitation of the Ghanaian Methodist Fellowship, and accompanied by its chaplain, the Revd William Davis. It meant leaving behind the snow and the cold and enjoying for a few wonderful days the warmth of Ghana - a warmth that is even more about the quality of the welcome than it is about the climate.

During what was a relatively short visit, we visited quite a number of churches, projects and people. On our first full day we met with staff of the Methodist University College (see above) and started to explore possible new ways of co-operation and collaboration with similar groups and organisations in Britain.

On our second full day we travelled north to Kumasi. On the way, we dropped in to the 'annual all ministers retreat', which is what it says it is, a residential retreat for all the ministers of The Methodist Church Ghana, where around 1,000 ministers meet for worship, fellowship and learning. (We have nothing quite like this in Britain.) W
e listened in to two fine sessions led by the Presiding Bishop.

It was only when I joined the Presiding Bishop on the stage to bring greetings from Methodists in Britain that I realised just what a lot of people were there!

In the evening I had been invited to preach in the Wesley Methodist Cathedral in Kumasi. There was a very large congregation, with representatives from various Methodist organisations, Boys' and Girls' Brigade members on parade, and music from a number of choirs and music groups along with a brass band. The worship was conducted by the Presiding Bishop and other Bishops.
Stuart and I were presented with beautiful stoles which will certainly be seen in action around the connexion in the months to come!

On the Friday we travelled to Cape Coast by way of the Methodist Rafiki satellite village at Gyahadze, Winneba. Here, the Methodist Church has set up a village for abandoned children, on land donated by the local village chief. We met the children and staff of the village, and also the village chief and one of the elders. The story of this village was much like the story of how the National Children's Home was founded.

From Winneba we travelled to Cape Coast, where Methodism started in Ghana in the 1830s. Here there is the oldest Methodist church in Ghana, now the Wesley Cathedral. The remains of the earliest Wesleyan missionaries are buried under the cathedral's pulpit. It is profoundly moving to realise how many young men trained and responded to the call to serve in other parts of the world, knowing that the likelihood was that they would die within a few months, probably from malaria. Yet still they went. The name boards from Richmond College, now on the walls of Room 100 in Methodist Church House, bear testimony to this.

Just a few minutes walk from the cathedral is the castle, which was the base for the slave trade. Visiting the dungeons and hearing the story of the building and its use over many years was very hard. But it is a story of which we need to be reminded, and one which must commit the human race to ensuring there is no repeat of such inhumanity towards fellow human beings.

On the final day of our brief stay we visited our third and final Methodist cathedral. This was in Accra - a stone built church (made from local stone) that looked very similar to many Methodist Churches in the UK.

For Stuart and me this was a week to remember. Methodists from Ghana make a very significant contribution to the life of British Methodism, particularly in London. Hopefully, we shall find new ways of building on relationships that are already strong.

Being driven around in an air conditioned car made it easy to forget just how hot it was outside. On our last afternoon the temperature reached 35 degrees C - while back in the UK it was a similar figure, but in fahrenheit.

1 comment:

Godfried said...

It is great to read about the President and London District Co-chair's recent visit to Ghana. I am sure they will share their experience of the Ghanaian hospility and the vibrant Methodist Church with members of the Methodist Church here in Britain.