Friday, 12 February 2010

The Sweet Taste of India

India for a few days, with all its beauty, colour, warmth (31 degrees!), need and vibrancy. I’m travelling with friends and colleagues from Chalfont St Peter, Charles the local Vicar, John the Head of our School, and Chris the school secretary. Chalfont has responded in a really exciting way to the schools development and networking project we went to Andhra Pradesh to inaugurate in 2007.

This isn’t just a money thing — although when floods struck Kurnool last winter I was thrilled by the almost instantaneous way our network was able to get thousands of pounds of aid straight out and onto the streets where it was needed. It reminded me of the way I was told many in Milton Keynes were able to throw themselves into support for Haiti with the help of RC nuns at Thornton College, who have working sisters there.

That kind of direct two-way relationship is really important. Of course we need big NGO’s and government agencies, but the guts of giving isn’t money, but a giving attitude, a focussed will, the good samaritan thing. The local Church is the hope of the world, in various ways, including the fact we have people on the ground. It’s a real joy to be hands-on in this work with Chalfont St Peter taking the lead.

There are four purposes in this very brief visit
  1. to meet some of the people caught up in the floods, encourage them in the work of reconstructon and, if we can, to see if we can design a scheme for small school to school basic infrastructural support packages for which we hope to drum up support among our own 288 schools in the Thames Valley.

  2. to scope the future of our Oxford/ Nandyal relationship, and see how it can be developed in the fields of sharing technology, passion and vision together with Bishop Lawrence and his colleagues.

  3. to share an assembly, if we can manage it, between two schools, one in Nandyal and one in Chalfont — Chris has a bag of gubbins! It’s not only a dry run for the kinds of linkages we think could open up all sorts of possibilities for students in the UK and India, but it will bring the whole relationship to life,w e hope, on both ends.

  4. to spend a very short, but I hope quality time praying and studying with clergy in Nandyal.

  5. I hope we can really grow in ways that are mutually beneficial, and am much looking forward to renewing friendships and sharing visions with sisters and brothers in India.
As a colleague was asking me tentatively whether he could be excused from his parish to minster abroad as part of a parish link, I want to reiterate that I believe it’s a really good thing for clergy to commit a few days ministry regularly to the majority word Church. I know Bucks colleagues who are ministering in Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, India, China, the Middle East, Germany, Sudan, Uganda, Pakistan and South America. If 150 Bucks clergy want do this kind of thing, I’m delighted. The growth of such activity among my colleagues really excites me. There are various ways of wiring up this kind of service, and for any PCC’s wondering what they will lose if their vicar commits to a regular element of this kind of ministry, I want to say there is no down side. It refreshes and renews people as well as giving tangible expression to the Catholicity of the Church. It takes a whole world to know Christ!

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