By Michael N. Jagessar
It was an inspiring and “fired-up” weekend (June 8-9), attending the ‘Synod Day’ of the National Synod of Wales and then participating in a St. Columba’s day service in Birmingham (St. Columba’s United Reformed Church in Moseley). The presence of the ‘sun’ was a delight to our eyes as we enjoyed the beauty of Wales, travelling from the Friday and over-nighting not far from the Royal Welsh Showground. As the invitation noted, coaches brought people from North and South and South West Wales. We (Leonora and I) of course came all the way from Hertfordshire. Around 300 hundred of us shared in a very pleasant and inspiring day!
Working the theme ‘Celebration, Inspiration, Transformation’, it was a delight to share thoughts in the initial planning of the day with moderator Simon Walkling and his team as I was invited to be the “keynote” speaker. Mindful that I am best placed to give a “note” (with the wider perspective that I bring), we agreed that the “key” would be around unlocking the resources already in abundance within the Synod. We agreed to shape the whole day around the visible presence of a round communion table, with bread, wine and other gifts, visibly present and around which we would conclude in sharing bread and wine (Holy Communion). Mindful of words from “our sponsor” to keep us focused during the day we drew on words and images from Ephesians 4:4-16 and Isaiah 55:1-10.
Simon was brilliant in his leading of the opening worship as he worked the Ephesians text and themes (body-building, building up and growing to maturity) with songs, prayers, and group activities that involved all. I can still hear the “build up” song ringing in my ears! My presentation, which was entitled ‘the shape of our life together’, employed the familiar actions and words (Jesus took, thanked/blessed, broke, poured and gave) we use around the communion table to explore (in group conversations) implications for the shape of our life together. I am delighted by the conversation and interest that this focus and method generated and was pleased to hear of the interest of using the questions at Elders’ and Church meetings.
After our lunch break in glorious weather, we all moved to feast on the various workshops on offer. These included: Remembering the Bible in Wales, Engaging with the Community, Music, Seeking Gran Funding, Investment Seminar, Digital Filming, Developing a Local Church Mission Plan using the Vision2020 Statements, DIY Worship, Cafe Church, Sharing stories from the Synod, Using Social Media, Children and Young People’s Activities, and What your Church says about you. These workshops were timely, user friendly and brilliantly lead, with certainly much to take away. Also, there were a number of stalls and displays including, Caring for God’s Acre, Ebenezer Heritage Project, the IF Campaign, Fair Trade, CCLA, Church Insurance, Churches Tourism Network, Wales, Pembroke URC, Multicultural Church -Intercultural Habit, Christian Aid, Stow Park Church Printers, Snax in the Park, among others.
Our wonderful Synod day ended with another meal – this time around the communion table, where people of all ages and abilities both shared/distributed bread and wine and participated in the meal. Like many others, we left the Synod day rejoicing with a song in our hearts and heads – and inspired to take and become ‘bread and wine’ to be generously shared in our communities.
The meal theme continued as we journeyed to Birmingham where we shared our evening meal with Consolata, our Rwandan refugee friend (now a British resident) who became our friend and a regular visitor to our home as Leonora accompanied her through her arduous asylum-seeking journey in the UK. And on Sunday morning at St. Columba’s it was another table gathering as we joined the members and friends in a service of word and sacrament. It was a delight for Leonora and me to share the service with Fiona Elvins (Lay Leader) whom we were able to encourage and support as she discerned a calling to ministry some years ago. For this service we were joined by the Igbo (Nigerian) Anglican Church and the Korean Pentecostal Church, two Christian communities that meet and worship at St. Columba’s. At St. Columba’s they found a home and friends, as members of the local congregation, through their welcome, rediscovered the power of grace and the gift of friendship. Like many URC communities, at St Columba’s we find a community where people are constantly learning to stand with others, living out the implications of abundance and generosity.