It was a delight to return to Heston Asian United Reformed Church, but on this occasion as a moderator of General Assembly (2012-2014). It was good to see familiar, as well as, new faces. It is not often that a moderator will be received at the entrance of the church by all the elders and the minister of the congregation. But such is the tradition and practice of our Pakistani and Indian churches, among others!
This growing and vibrant Urdu and English speaking congregation was received at General Assembly 2012 as one of our newly received congregations of the Thames North Synod. This thriving ministry, under the leadership of the Revd Noble Samuel and his elders is very active, with a wide-ranging involvement in the Asian community in Heston and beyond. It also has significant links with the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan.
The service, held in both English and Urdu was well attended, with a strong presence of young adults. Using a combination of cultural musical instruments, including the Organ, members literally “sang out their souls”. Participation of members and elders in the whole of the service was very evident and I was particularly impressed by the spontaneous participation of members in prayers of intercession.
As this Sunday was recognised as the Baptism of Jesus, I reflected on the affirming words that Matthew records: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” I noted that a message here for us is the need for the habit of affirmation to be made real in our lives. It will certainly be a counter-cultural move in a context where there is a shortage of affirmation in relationships. While some of our actions may not be pleasing, God is still delighting in us as God’s embodied image and likeness! In our baptism, as in the baptism of Jesus, we celebrate God’s welcoming love – a love that comes prior to anything we may have done and prior to anything we may yet do. The question that I posed for our continuing conversations over the meal that followed was this: Having heard these words of affirmation, how then do we pass them on to others? And, can we imagine how different a world ours would be if we can live out and practice our baptismal life of affirmation?
My experience of worshipping at Heston Asian United Reformed Church is that of sharing in a baptized community fully aware that they are loved, that God delights in them and that they are called to be a blessing to others.
May the ‘water of our baptism’ continue to overflow, especially in all the dry and stagnant places of our life together.