by Michael N. Jagessar
The floods had receded and trains were running back on schedule, so it was an uneventful journey to St. Andrew’s URC in Reading (Sunday February 23rd). I was warmly greeted and welcomed by Colin McBean in his Scottish Kilt! As I said to Colin, it was good signposting as I could not have missed him in that newly refurbished rail station! The “warm” welcome continued at church where everyone took time to greet and converse with me as Colin gave me a whirlwind tour of the church that included some good insights into the history of the church, and the various objects hanging on the walls and collected over the years. I learnt a lot.
I was impressed by the effective team-work of the elders, the many events and the ministry engagement in and beyond the church, as well as some of the hopes and aspirations of the members of the church. It happened that my visit was on the Sunday when a monthly “ecumenically” cooked meal was served for members and friends from the churches in the area. It was delicious and while I and my 93 years old table companion delighted in the dessert, I would refrain from noting which church tradition supplied the dessert, lest I cause an ecumenical incident! One of the surprising things I discovered was that during World War II, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands worshipped regularly at the then St. Andrew Presbyterian Church!
I must congratulate St. Andrew’s on the care elders and members invest in welcoming each person arriving at their entrance, and on spending time with visitors and new members before, during and after the service. No wonder, St Andrew’s is a very diverse and multicultural congregation where people from a number of nationalities find a home. On this Sunday, I met people with connections in Scotland, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Hungary, India and Germany. One member of the Nepalese family even asked me, in the midst of our table fellowship afterwards, to bless and pray over him. Also sharing the worship space at St. Andrew’s are a German-Speaking Lutheran congregation and a Swahili speaking Lutheran congregation. And if you need to see a ‘fair-trade stall’ at its best, then visit St. Andrew’s!
I drew my theme, “generous and radical”, for the Sunday from Matthew 5:38-48 reflecting around the question: Are we God’s dwelling place? And if so, how would anyone know? The service also marked a transition from one Joint Church Secretary to another which was recognised and celebrated. What would our congregations be without the commitment, faith and faithfulness of the many elders and members of the laity who walk more than their “expected mile” for the sake of Christ!
Readers may be amused to learn that a photo image of your moderator has now been indelibly registered in the minds of every staff, student and taxi driver who have recently journeyed across Leicester University Campus. I was overwhelmed by the numerous posters announcing that I would be delivering the 2014 Leicester University Lecture sponsored by the Chaplaincy! In accepting this lecture I followed in the noble footsteps of the likes such as former Bishop Jana (Lutheran), John Millbank and Timothy Radcliffe. To a good size gathering I spoke on “Drinking from many wells: excerpts from an interfaith/intercultural journey” which provoked some good discussions and got many thinking again about ‘Jesus as the only way’. I suspect the 2015 speaker, no other than former Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams, will bring a more “sober” style to my “performative” delivery and transgressive content!