Thursday, 26 August 2010

Isles of Scilly

After driving down from Newcastle to Land's End we took the Sky Bus 15 minute flight to St Mary's to begin our visit to the beautiful Isles of Scilly. Five of the islands are inhabited. St Mary's is the largest with a population of 1600. There is a Methodist Church on St Martin's and St Mary's. The Main businesses are tourism and cultivating flowers.

St Martin's Methodist Church

Cast of the Roger Jones musical, 'The Rock'

St Martin's Methodist Church - some of the very welcoming and cheerful congregation with the Superintendent Minister Rev Charles Gibb.

St Mary's Methodist Church.

On Tuesday, 13th September 1743 John Wesley arrived for the first time on the Isles of Scilly in a boat borrowed from the Mayor of St.Ives.

The following day in his journal he wrote, 'I had for some time a great desire to go and publish the love of God our Saviour, if it were but for one day, in the Isles of Scilly.

It was not until 45 years later however when Rev Joseph Sutcliffe (minister of St.Ives) visited the Islands with a desire, 'to preach for the souls of poor smugglers that Methodism began to take root.

Meeting the congregation of St Mary's church in the always open public space of the Superintendent's Manse
. What you cannot tell from the photo is that these good people had gathered despite the fact it was pouring with rain, several came in absolutely soaked.

The flight to The Isles of Scilly take off and landing

St Martin's trip with the Rock musical

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Church of North India(CNI) -Kolkata (Calcutta) Diocese

Our visit to the Church of North India has been a unique and incredible experience for which John and I are extremely grateful. The generosity and welcome received from Rev Enos Das Pradhan in Delhi, Bishop Probal Dutta in Durgapur and Bishop Ashoke Biswas in Kolkata was overwhelming. We thank God for the outstanding work that is being done and our partnership with the CNI as the British Methodist Connexion.

The Church of North India articulated on several occasions how much they valued the contribution of the many men and women who faithfully served in India through the Methodist Missionary Society.

They are also grateful for the excellent partnership and support received from our World Church team Christine Elliot, Mike King and Steve Pearce. We promised to pray for them as they also faithfully pray for us here in Britain.

Mother Teresa's Tomb at her former home in Kolkata

Our first visit in Kolkata was to Mother Teresa's former home. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India in 1950. For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity's expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries.

Now there are over 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programs, orphanages, and schools.

Arunima HIV/AIDS Hospice in Kolkata

This is the first Kolkata based centre that offers holistic care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Alongside caring for children who are orphans or have been rejected by their families and communities because they are HIV positive the centre also cares for those dying of AIDS. An out-patient centre and counselling service are also provided in addition to advocacy and lobbying against discrimination.

The plaque I was asked to unveil is dedicating a new building for the children of the centre infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

St Paul's Cathedral Relief Service in the slums of Kolkata

St Paul's Cathedral Relief Service work with over 200 young women in the slums of Calcutta teaching sewing and embroidery to enable them to have a means of income to support their families independently without working as a domestic help/maid in a private home which can be very dangerous in terms of physical and verbal abuse and even trafficking.

Women from the slums are employed to support the local children. Over 40 children were present here in a tiny room donated by the community for the children's education.

St Paul's Cathedral - Indian Independence Day
We joined the congregation of St Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata on Indian Independence Day, where I was kindly invited to preach which did feel a bit of a challenge! However CNI follow their own lectionary and the readings were wonderful, Deut 6,Luke 22 v22-26 Galatians 5 I took the theme 'What does it mean for a christian to be free in Christ?
Free to obey God
Free to Serve one another
Free to love

Free to remain free

Independence Day Celebrations with St John's School

After worship at St Paul's cathedral John and I joined Bishop Ashoke as guests of honour at St John's school to celebrate Independence day with the raising of the Indian flag and a presentation with words, songs and music through India's history.

Ordination Service at Bishop's College

Bishop Ashoke Biswas leading worship at the Ordination service of two Presbyters at Bishops College using a liturgy very similar to our Methodist Ordination liturgy.
All ministers since CNI formed are ordained into the Church of North India.

Our final day was spent meeting the staff at the residence of Bishop Ashoke Biswas. We began the morning inaugurating the new canteen and then I addressed some of the staff at the request of Bishop Ashoke sharing a PowerPoint of the work I'm involved with as a Deacon at Brunswick in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Inaugurating the new Aids hospice

Kolkata Slum Project

Kolkata Flag raising on Independence Day 2010 at Cathedral

Kolkata St John's Parade for Independence Day

Church of North India(CNI)-Durgapur Diocese

We received a wonderful welcome to the Diocese of Durgapur from Bishop Probal Dutta.

Here are some of the highlights of our visit to an area that has been transformed by vibrant leadership and people working together to transform lives and bring about change.

Sarenga Hospital
The Banyan Tree in Sarenga under which the first clinic was run by Methodist Missionaries. The hospital building began to be constructed in 1916 through which many people were treated by Doctors and Nurses from the Methodist Missionary Society. A Nursing Training School was established and continues to train local women.

Visiting Sarenga Hospital in the District of Bankura was wonderful. As an ex Intensive Care Nurse I was fascinated to see the equipment and hear of the work being done by the dedicated team of people who work here especially given the political unrest in the area.

Dr Shubhro and his wife Elizabeth Mullick are two Doctors based at Sarenga hospital whose commitment and dedication is incredible.

Dr Shubhro is financially supported by the Methodist Scheme of 'Nationals in Mission Appointments -NMA.'

Tribal Festival at Durgapur
An amazing morning watching (and eventually joining in) with a celebration of Tribal Culture, a vibrant, energetic and joyful event.

A Special Service of Thanksgiving for the Partnership of the British Methodist Church in Durgapur.

Bishop Probal Dutta very kindly organised a special service of thanksgiving to celebrate the partnership of the Durgapur Diocese with the British Methodist Church, which is highly regarded both for the present and past relationships particularly the contribution of Methodist missionaries who gave such outstanding commitment and began much of the work that continues in the Diocese to this day.

I was invited to preach at a Thanksgiving service celebrating the partnership of CNI with the British Methodist Church which was a wonderful experience. The Rev Subrata Sarkar interpreted the sermon into Bengali. Over 1,100 people attended the service which included several choirs and lunch for all afterwards.

Distributing Holy Communion is always a privilege and this felt like a very special moment in being part of God's world-wide family. I have always found the communion liturgy deeply subversive in it's proclaimation that all are welcome in a world where many are excluded and that all will be fed in a world where many starve. The liturgy boldly offers the hope and vision of a world where God's Kingdom, God's rule is known and experienced.

Inter-Project Presentation evening (by children from the slum areas)

The Diocese of Durgapur are doing some outstanding work amongst the children from the slums and poorest families in the area many of whom cannot afford to provide food for their children.
The children from several Projects came together to present a show for us. It was
brilliant all we wanted to do was cry, it was just so wonderful to see them look so happy as they performed.

A copy of the programme presented by the children of the Projects of the Diocescan Women's Fellowship which include the :-
Durgapur Child Study and Development Centre - catering for 80 children offering a supplementary diet (milk and eggs), regular medical check-ups, special classes including sewing to enable the girls particularly to have an independent income in the future.
Inter Faith Community Study Centre in Bankura - which provides tuition, arts, crafts, singing and dancing lessons. The older girls are trained in martial arts to provide them with the ability to defend themselves. The centre has a vision to equip the children to be religiously tolerant able and skilled young people.
Community Centre, Purulia - Caters for children of former Leprosy patients and Rickshaw pullers who still live in the shadow of disgrace and discrimination.
Prochesta Asanol - developed to help the children of the slum areas of Asanol, particularly children who drop out of school.

St Peter's School-Durgapur
St Peter's School where John and I had the pleasure of participating in the investiture of over twenty prefects and the head boy and head girl. We had great fun discussing the differences between our countries and the challenges of being good leaders.

St Michael's School-Durgapur

After visiting St Michael's School we were taken for a lovely meal out by the Principal (on my right) Mrs Madhumita Singh. St Michael's caters for 3,000 children from Nursery up to Secondary.

Durgapur Hostel
Here are some of the 25 gorgeous children of the Durgapur Hostel. We spent many a happy evening in their company as we were staying in the same building. All of these children come from very poor families living in the local slums.
One of the girls had been rescued from being trafficked. Many of the children would not be at school if it were not for this Project. They were delightful company, so obviously happy and secure in the centre where they are looked after with love and kindness. We laughed so much together, we sang, danced, played games, told stories and they taught us some songs including 'Father Abraham' and 'Jesus love is very wonderful', we taught them 'If your happy and you know it' which they sang with enthusiasm and laughter.

Bodo Tribe dancers from East Himalyas

Durgapur Thanksgiving Service

The children we stayed with in Durgapur

The children from the Durgapur Hostel's very moving dance

Durgapur: St Michael's School Assembly