Grace and Peace from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Despite a punishing travel schedule, I’ve had a wonderful October that opened new vistas of opportunity and learning. I travelled to London for the meeting of Secretaries of World Christian Communions. This meeting is very special for General Secretaries to share their experience of giving leadership in major Christian Communions. From Baptists to Pentecostals we all face the same missional and structural challenges as we seek to give faithful witness to Jesus in a post-modern world.
The next stop was Cape Town to share in a week of mission celebration with a local church. I had the privilege of leading a mission event at the Goodwood Methodist Church a decade ago, and it was good to see how the church has grown to include a Korean congregation (next month we will carry a full article). I felt spiritually nurtured and reenergized by this event.
The meeting of the Global Christian Forum in Tirana, Albania will go down as the highlight of the year. It was the first time in modern history that representatives from major Christian Churches, “gathered to listen, to learn from, and stand with discriminated and persecuted Churches and Christians in the world today”. We listened to moving stories from sisters and brothers like Iran, Iraq, and Syria where Christianity once flourished. What was even more fascinating was meeting in Albania, a country of martyrs where in 1967 the Communist leader, Enver Hoxha banned all religious practices. Churches and mosques were either appropriated by the state and turned into theatres and other public amenities or demolished. Priest and religious leaders were imprisoned or killed. In 1991, the ban was lifted. On 11 November, the 25th Anniversary of the first Catholic mass will be celebrated in the Rrmaj Cemetery of Scutari. Today Albania is a thriving example of religious freedom where all religious faiths live in harmony. We celebrate the fact that we have small but thriving Methodist communities in this country.
The 1,703rd Anniversary of Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius on the evening of 27-28 of October 312 almost passed by unnoticed. According to Eusebius, Constantine went into battle with the symbol Chi-Rho, the first two letters of the Greek spelling of Christ. Persecution of Christianity ceased, and some will claim that it became coopted by the state.
This month’s First Friday Letter focuses on happenings from around our connexion. We celebrate with the Methodist Church Ghana as they commemorate their 180th year. The Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome Director took part in the General Synod of Bishops from the 5-25th of October at the Vatican. The Methodist Church in Upper Myanmar has welcomed a new President, and we mourned the passing of the Senior Bishop of the Methodist Church in India.
On Saturday, 31 October we celebrated Halloween or “Eve of all Hallows, the night before we remember the saints, those who have gone to glory before us. In many traditions, Christians gather to honor the souls of the dead and pray for blessing and protection from evil and blessing for the future. As we begin this new month, we note that 22 November is Women against Violence Sunday. On 27-29 November The Uniting Church in Australia will join with others around the nation and world to march for awareness of Climate change. And on 29 November, we begin the season of Advent, at which time the Christian liturgical year begins anew.
Let us work to build relationships of trust, respect and cooperation with people of all faiths as we grow in our own.