On a private visit to Malta, the Vice President, Gillian Kingston, and her husband, Tom, visited St Andrew’s Methodist/Church of Scotland Church in the capital, Valetta…
It was a great pleasure to attend worship at St Andrew’s Church on Remembrance Sunday (November 12th, 2017) and then to take part in the walk to and time of reflection at the War Memorial in the city. Malta is a small island with a long and honourable history. It occupies a strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea and the saying goes that whoever would control the Mediterranean must first control Malta. Thus, over the centuries, it has been attacked many times, most recently during World War 2 when it was subject to heavy bombardment over a sustained period. Malta was awarded the George Cross for gallantry by King George V1.
Nowadays, the St Andrew’s congregation is involved with the battle against poverty and deprivation. The minister, the Revd Kim Hurst1 , took time out from a busy schedule to show us round the Food Bank and then the International Centre.
It had been expected that those coming to the Food Bank would be mainly from the refugee community; however, as a result of soaring house prices and rents in Malta, those coming are mainly Maltese people who are finding difficulty in making ends meet. We looked around at shelves packed with rice and pasta, tinned tomatoes and meat, oil and sugar, and, somewhat to our surprise, many cartons of Horlicks! Kim showed us the check-list of items given to applicant families on a weekly basis. ‘Ours is a crisis ministry’, she said, ‘we issue people with food packs for six weeks, during which time we help them to get into the social security system. If it takes longer, we issue food on a week-by-week basis until things become stable.’
We looked into the International Centre where people are assisted with language classes, form-filling and other skills they need to reach a more secure life-style. A Microfinance project lends people the sometimes quite small sums of money they need to get on their feet independently. We talked about this with Rittiane, the Malta Microfinance support worker; she is paid for by a grant from the South East District of the Methodist Church in Britain. The initial capital to set up Malta Microfinance came from the Church of Scotland Guild.
Later, over coffee, conversation was punctuated by ‘phone calls from people offering supplies for the Food Bank, all gratefully and graciously received. Meanwhile, back in the church office, Kim’s able assistant, Jacqui, was touching base with donors and printing letters and certificates of thanks.
We were impressed to learn of Kim’s work in establishing a second congregation on the small island of Gozo, to the north of Malta, but in the same archipelago. Folk on Gozo have a long journey to make in order to attend worship at St Andrew’s, so, at the moment, Kim is taking an afternoon service on the island on the third Sunday of each month, extending this to include the fifth Sunday as it occurs. Hospitality in terms of a church building and other facilities has been offered by a Roman Catholic priest whose warm inclusivity has made things much easier. This is the ecumenical spirit at its best!
1 The Revd Kim Hurst is a minister of the Methodist church of Great Britain; Malta is associated with the South District of that church. Some years ago, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian in polity and theology) and the Methodist Church of Great Britain amalgamated their two small congregations at St Andrew’s church. Ministers are sent from the Church of Scotland and from the Methodist Church on an alternate basis.