Friday, 24 August 2012

Kairos Summer Mission Households

Elinor  will be living in a Christian Community in West London next year, during her university studies. She attended  a special fortnight in Glasgow to prepare for the experience.

Over the past year of studying in London, I have been involved in a Christian community called Koinonia (“community” in Greek). Koinonia is one in a global network of University Christian Outreaches. Each outreach is associated with all-age Christian communities which make up the Sword of the Spirit movement. Kairos is the name given to all youth programmes (under 25’s) within this movement, and is therefore the umberella under which Koinonia comes. This specific programme – Summer Mission Households – was for a fortnight, hosted by the Community ofthe Risen Christ in Glasgow.

Kids club
The focus of Summer Mission Households (SMH) was service. We had sessions where we listened about being servant-hearted; about the importance of letting people serve you, as well as offering to serve yourself; about taking joy in serving, and realising how each little thing no matter how dull it may seem at the time, is working for God’s kingdom. In this spirit we threw ourselves into the service projects to which we were allocated. One (which I didn’t see first hand) was Clay Church. I believe this was set up by one man who basically gathers groups together and goes to more run down or abandoned areas of Glasgow to do ‘guerrilla gardening’ i.e. mass weeding and planting of pulbic spaces, but without the  permission of the authorities! 

The project I was most involved with was Missionaries of Charity – a kids’ club run for three weeks during the summer holidays by a group of nuns stemming from the movement of sisters established by Mother Teresa. We spent 3 hours a day with them playing games, singing songs, doing crafts and skits and one outing to the park. 
Housework in Belleisle St
Other projects were at the Preshal Centre and Bellisle Street. Bellisle Street is the location of our host community’s offices, where we did some painting, cleaning and re-arranging of rooms. The Preshal Centre is a homeless shelter providing a place for sharing experiences and building friendships. We were there primarily to serve and clear lunch, but also ended up leading a little sing-a-long, participating in a snooker tournament, and chatting and hearing their stories which really moved some of us.

Household training
 Another major focus of the fortnight was a series of training sessions, working through a ‘household manual’. Households are a common thing throughout the Sword of the Spirit communities. They’re single sex houses, teaching the importance of compromise and the beauty of common living. All expenses are shared including the buying of food, spending evenings doing house activities to get to know each other are encouraged, and it’s important to have the house available for events and visitors. It’s also a great way to give insight into Christian life to those who perhaps aren’t so familiar with it. Of course, each house varies depending on those living there. It is up to the residents how to organise the daily morning prayer, and who has which role within the house e.g. treasurer, events co-ordinator, shopper, etc.
Drawing on how  our experience of living during this fortnight, the training sessions looked at how recommendations in the ‘manual’  help us to explore our faith deeper and live with God as the centre. I am going into a household based on this model in London in September for the year.
Trip to Loch Lomond

Getting to know the community
Alongside all of this, we had split men’s and women’s sessions, ‘Lord’s Days’ and a few freer, more relaxed, retreat days. Lord’s Day is a weekly occurrence within Sword of the Spirit communities. As the communities are ecumenical, and people are encouraged to worship within their own Church traditions on a Sunday, this is celebrated on Saturday evenings and consists of communion and dinner.

We will forever be grateful to the hospitality of the Glasgow community! We were spread between 3 houses (2 houses of 5 girls, one of 11 guys). Two of these were houses that belonged to members of the community, given for our use over the fortnight. We were hosted by a few families for dinners. Many gave us lifts to and from sessions as one household was a bus ride away from the majority of the community residences. Some of the community’s youth were even helping out with the Missionaries of Charity kids’ club. We had some talking to us - as part of the retreat day, in a session on service, and most notably in the ‘Slice of Life’ sessions where different people were invited to each house to share their testimonies. It was incredibly inspiring to hear how people had retained their faith and trust in God throughout life’s trials!

Elinor Rhys

CWM Assembly 2012 in American Samoa

In June, Elinor  was elected,  the youngest ever trustee/company director (18 years of age at the time) of the Council for World Mission. Both the Presbyterian Church of Wales and the United Reformed Church are member denominations of CWM. Previous blogs (in August 2011) have described the CWM European Region family conference 'Window on the World' which latterly has been held in Llangrannog, Wales.

Elinor was invited to represent the PCW at this years World Assembly. This is her story...

The Journey
I flew on the 11th of June, meeting some fellow youth at Heathrow airport for the first time. Each of us were representing a different denomination – I was there with the Presbyterian Church of Wales. None of us knew what to expect, and were hoping that we’d remembered to pack everything. The journey itself was quite an adventure, flying first to Los Angeles for an overnight stay, then on to Hawaii, before landing in Pago Pago, American Samoa’s capital – a total of 22 hours in the air. It was great seeing welcome banners for the Council for WorldMission (CWM) General Assembly 2012 along with some local villagers and a camera crew! The assembly was hosted by the Congregational Christian Church ofAmerican Samoa (CCCAS) a Kanana Fou Theological Seminary

Watch the A'oloau Youth performance

American Samoan Facts
American Samoa (not to be confused with the independent state of Western Samoa) takes up only about 76 square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, small enough to have only one post code! The island is an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S. meaning that residents have free and unrestricted entry into the U.S. but are not citizens and therefore may not vote in U.S. presidential elections. There is a curious co-existence of cultures – the prominent American fast food industry, and the traditional Samoan rituals, craftsmanship and structures, especially on village levels where “matai” (chiefs) are elected by consensus. Fun fact: there are two McDonald’s on the island, one of which is the only McDonald’s in the world to ever run out of food!

 Youth Pre-Assembly
The Youth delegates

Samoan sizes!
Our programme started with a Youth Pre-Assembly, a new addition to the CWM General Assembly, consisting of 30 ‘youth’ representatives from the 31 member churches of CWM (unfortunately Malawi’s representatives could not make it). I was there on behalf of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. 
working on the statement
We spent most of this time reflecting on the theme of the assembly – “Hope: the language of life” – and were all pleasantly surprised at the similarities we found in our visions of “hope”, despite regional and denominational differences in other areas. The sharing of current hopes in our regions were also invaluable. From this, we drafted regional statements on what “hope” meant for us, and composed a statement as youth representatives, later to be presented to the whole Assembly. We worked incredibly hard on this, working till 12-4am most nights. This required ensuring that everyone understood and agreed with what we were writing, especially as it was a minority of us who regarded English as our first language. It enstilled a discipline in us to slow down our speech and keep checking that everyone was following.
[For a copy of the final statement, please contact me]

Experiencing The Island
An obvious highlight of our stay was the weekend of June 16th-17th,  which was set aside for ‘exposure trips’ around this beautiful island. All 150 or so staff and delegates (an average of 3-4 from each of the 31 denominations) were transported to 3 different villages on the Saturday. Each village laid on food and drink for us, and the local youth groups performed – a huge part of American Samoan life – many using contemporary pop music with Samoan lyrics written with a Christian meaning. One of these villages was Leone. This was the village worst hit by the tsunami of 2009, with 10 fatalities and many buildings demolished or damaged. In it’s beautiful bay, John Williams of the London Missionary Society landed and built the island’s first church in the late 1830s. The population is now estimated as 98% Christian. 
Church at Kanana Fou
On the Sunday, we travelled in groups of 3 or 4 to various CCCAS congregations around the island and contributed to their services in whatever way we were asked to. Here we truly experienced the extreme generosity of American Samoan people. Each of us were fed generously, were presented with gifts (which many of us boxed up and posted home,  as there was no room on our luggage!) and we were treated with the highest respect. It was quite strange being treated in such a manner, but incredibly humbling.

The Election Process
The assembly got into full swing, with the main agenda being the elections. But, we also enjoyed talks from the keynote speaker, Allan Boesak and our bible study leader, Chris Ferguson along with afternoon workshops. All  related to the assembly theme, and the idea of fighting against oppressive empires was prominent. Unfortunately we, as youth representatives, had to pull ourselves out of many of these sessions due to difficulties and restrictions arising regarding our duty to put forward two youth delegates for seats on the Executive Council. After much discussion, tears, frustration and prayer, we put forward the only names available to us, contrary to the new structure’s intention. However, we addressed the assembly with this issue, and we hope that raising it is the first of many steps towards a more equal and less constricting election system.
[If anyone would like a copy of this address, or  for more details, please contact me or watch the video]

Coconut Theology
An obviously integral component of American Samoan life is the coconut. Throughout the Pacific, in fact, the tree and fruit are used for building, cooking, drinking, craft-making and even as soap. In our closing worship, we experienced a Coconut Communion and coconut theology was explained to us:
The hard outer shell – the “providence of God”, protecting and cocooning us
The flesh of the coconut – the “body of Christ” broken for us
The coconut water/juice – the “blood of Christ” shed for us
The kernal/ o’o – the Holy Spirit
Finally, for new life to emerge from the coconut, the seed must first die to create life.
Twain's coconut impression
Cool coconut!

The Council at work
A new council has been elected, and  I  was elected as the representative for the Presbyterian Church of Wales for the next 4 years. My first meeting was 5 days after landing home from American Samoa (not including the meeting at the end of the General Assembly), and the next meetings are coming up in October – one in Cardiff and the other in Singapore. Prayers would be appreciated on balancing this committment with my studies and everything else.

Wearing our gifts from Lata
Elinor Rhys

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Farewell to Simon

Sunday was a fantastic day, filled with emotion and love. We said farewell to Simon and Sue in style. There were over 100 people present with visitors from St Catherine's. Castle Square URC and Christchurch, Llanedeyrn.
Our morning service included the attached surprise 'tribute' byfrom Pete Davies before he read the second lesson. 
Simon emptied a bag of items, (one by one) representing the responsibilities that he was laying down but emphasing that he would still remember us. They included, the church directory, copies of the denominational declarations which were presented at his induction, the church keys, the church mobile phone, the computer external hard drive containing files of meetings, services and so much more.
The junior church members rejoined the congregation before the final hymn when a formal presentation was made by Russell, of an original watercolour, by local artist Bill Wheeler, of the Old Bridge accompanied by a cheque for £1000 and a packet of Custard Creams! - Simon's favourites.
Claire Hughes also presented Sue with a floral arrangement.
About 70 people then shared lunch together, when Hadyn Goodfellow proposed the toast, and Simon and Sue cut a cake which had been expertly made by Kath Couchman, we then shared communion together as a family when copies of the fish from the Communion table fall were distributed for us to focus on.
It was a fitting end to a superb ministry!
Marcia Hurley

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Holiday Club over for another year.

The theme for the week was       READY STEADY GO!
Loosely connected to the Olympic Games.

There was a different theme each day but they were linked.
Each day we had a white Olympic Ring to decorate, a story to listen to, a song to sing, an activity to do and several games to play. 

Monday’s theme – Light of the World
The story was the healing of the Blind man.... 
The ring was decorated with different textures in Yellow,
A game - we threw bean bags through a hoop which had bells hanging from it and had to make the bells ring – but we were blind folded.

We also had a special visitor – one of the Olympic torch bearers. Philip Richards,
Everyone had their photograph taken holding the torch, and we learnt many interesting facts about it and about the people nominated to carry it.

The activity was making clay tea light holders – which we cut initials and shapes into to allow the light to shine through

Other activities included decorated fish shaped biscuits linking to the story of the ‘great catch of fish’.The ring that day was decorated with blue fish.

Another day we had the story of the 2 people walking to Emmaus and Jesus joining them, but not being recognised until he shared a meal with them and blessed the bread. This ring colour that day was black as they were sad.
The game was the ‘bubble wrap road’ – we had to walk over bubble wrap without popping the bubbles – representing walking slowly because they were sad, but after realising that Jesus was alive, they ran back to Jerusalem – so they were able to run over the bubble wrap and burst as many bubble as possible. All of the children said: ‘That was cool’ – can we do it again?

The day when Pentecost was the theme we had a red ring and sang ‘Go tell everyone’ –  The activity was pulling together as rowing teams when we designed and made canoes and oars to race against each other.  Very competitive and noisy when they were raced.

Another day edible Olympic torches were made using cones and sponge cakes decorated with yellow butter cream. Mmmmmm!

We have had a great time, learning and playing together. Looking forward to next year!

Marcia Hurley