FFL - February 2023

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the General Secretary

February 2023

Time seems to be running away from us, and we are forced to play catch-up. We are into the first week of February with many New Year’s resolutions either broken or yet to be implemented.

I was privileged to spend the Julian (1 January) and the lunar New Year (22 January) with family and friends. Both these occasions are times for taking stock of one’s life, putting the past behind and setting a new course for the future.

During our family celebrations which was also an occasion to intern my mother-in-law’s ashes, two Biblical words came to mind hitherto/thus far and henceforth/ from now. As we erected a memorial stone to honor the legacy of Freda Mostert, a registered nurse who delivered more than a thousand babies in the area, we were very aware of Samuel’s words at Ebenezer; “Hitherto, the Lord has helped us.” (I Sam 2:7) In gratitude for her work and witness, the family decided, henceforth, to grant an annual bursary to young women in the community to study nursing.

You may not be able to engage in such a bold initiative. Still, it is not too late to acknowledge that hitherto the Lord has brought you. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, and no doubt you have changed with it. Please seize the opportunity to make a fresh start and chart a new course into the future to serve God and your neighbor more faithfully.

Many churches in the Wesleyan tradition will renew their annual Covenant, first prayed in 1755. I am often awe-struck by the renewal of the Covenant Prayer in which we boldly commit to being part of God’s dream for the world. The concluding words of the prayer declare;

I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, Put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty, let have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

And now, God glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am yours. So be it. And let the Covenant which I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.


I trust that you will enjoy this edition of the First Friday Letter and that we can count on your support.

Blessings, Ivan

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A lonely plant growing on a dry desert land at sunrise. Rebirth, hope, new life beginnings. Photo 176091758 / New Beginnings © Sulit Photos | Dreamstime.com

A Christian Vision for Political Engagement

This four-week course by the Wesley House in Cambridge explores a vision of constructive and critical participation in British democracy. Cynicism about politics is at an all-time high, citizens are divided and angry, and democracy seems unable to promote the common good. Given rising global religious extremism, many fear the presence of religion in politics and argue for a wholly secular democracy. But Christians, not least Methodists, have long engaged in political action as an expression of love of neighbour and concern for the common good. There are rich resources in the Christian tradition to empower us to engage with politics faithfully, wisely and effectively today.

Information and Application

Faith in British Democracy: A Christian Vision for Political Engagement delves into these resources, equipping participants to become more articulate and confident Christian citizens working for the common good. The course is designed for anyone engaged in or interested in British politics, campaigning or church-based action. Through readings, conversation and reflection on participant’s practical experience, we will explore a broad Christian vision of democracy and consider its application in concrete areas of political life.

For further information and to register CLICK HERE

Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM)

Kindly find below the link to apply for the Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) for an Economy of Life. GEM School 2023 - documents | World Council of Churches (oikoumene.org)

In order to strengthen the voice of the churches with regards to global economics, a group of 20 current and future leaders representing the churches will have the opportunity to attend the Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) for an Economy of Life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 21 August - 01 September 2023.

Co-organized by the World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, and Council for World Mission, this initiative responds to recommendations outlined in the “Sao Paulo Statement: International Financial transformation for an Economy of Life” and in the document “Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Finan-

cial and Economic Architecture,” which identified as a priority the development of competencies in economics within churches.

Presently churches’ ethical, moral and theological perspectives on the workings of the global economy have minimal impact on financial and economic policies, business practices and ways of thinking. To address this gap, the GEM School aims to build economic literacy within churches by equipping participants with the tools and languages to effectively advocate for urgent transformations in the global financial and economic realm.

Among candidates who meet the nomination criteria, participants will be selected with a view to achieving regional, gender, and denominational balance.

The final date of submission of applications is on 24 February 2023. Selected participants will be informed by 15 March 2023.

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With democracy under pressure, can Christians recover a positive vision for political engagement?

Apply for Youth and Young Adult Scholarship

Scholarship opportunities for the 22nd World Methodist Council Conference are open now. Register by clicking on the link below.


1,000 US Dollars is available to young people 18-35 years old for Conference lodging at this 13-18 August 2024 event.

On The Move

Sweden ”On The Move” is an occasion that deepens faith, bonds together, creates energy for growth and discerns future contours of ministry, service and leadership among the world family of Methodist peoples, churches and conferences. Our main themes are migration, pilgrimage and illumination/guiding lights. The rich and exciting programme will revolve around these themes.

Moving Stories. Travelling and being received. Hospitality. Rising nationalism. The enrichment or degrading of host societies? Borders. And the role of Churches –and particularly WMC family churches and conferences.

The richness of journeying. Discovery. Time for reflection. transformation of self through walking with others – and alone. Identifying ‘waymarks’ that guide us and mark our progress, and the spiritual traditions and practices that help us on our way, all shared with each other.

In a region of the world associated with the Northern Lights what illumination can we learn from each other for such a time as this, what ‘lights our way’ in an often gloomy cultural climate? How are we best ‘salt and light’? What apt and contextually transferable ways of being, mission, service, witness, presence, evangelism are among us?

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Peace Award ceremony to honor Ebenezer Joseph

The World Methodist Council’s highest honor, the Peace Award, will be presented to the Rev. W. P. Ebenezer Joseph on Saturday, 18 February, at 4:30 in the afternoon. The presentation will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka at Wesley College for Boys. Rev. Joseph is receiving the 2022 Peace Award for his efforts as a fearless advocate for justice in Sri Lanka.

The ceremony will include specially invited guests, the WMC officers, and members of the public. It will be hosted by the Wesley College Hall. This Methodist boys’ school is located at Dr. Danister de Silva Mawatha, Colombo 9.

The March First Friday Letter will include further information on Rev. Joseph and photos from the ceremony.

Information re Rev. Joseph’s selection was in the September 2022 FFL and January 2023 FFL

Tent campers at Tukwila church occupy new tiny house villages

A once sprawling homeless camp in Tukwila is now the site of the newest tiny house village and people living there say the opportunity is changing their lives.

Riverton Park Village began operating Dec. 1 on the grounds of Riverton Park United Methodist Church. It offers 20 units and is currently housing 40 people, which includes seven children. Pastor Jan Bolerjack said it operates a little differently than other villages because there’s no perimeter fence or check-in system.

Oscar Fernandez lives in one of the tiny houses and said it’s given him the stability he hasn’t seen in years.

“Living in a tent is not safe for anybody,” Fernandez said. “Now I have the opportunity to plan for the future.”

Miracle Village has 28 tiny houses and is hosting 33 residents at a different site on Interurban Ave. Many of the people at Miracle also used to camp in Tukwila’s Riverton Park area.

“They are so excited to have a house,” said Pastor Henry Jenkins of Miracle Temple Church of God in Christ, where the village is located. “They’re not sleeping in the woods. They’re not sleeping in the rain.” “They’re just happy to have a house they can call their own.”

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) operates both villages using funding from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. Residents must follow a set of rules, which includes no drugs or alcohol on site.

“There’s a lot of people dealing with substance abuse barriers, so they want to come into the program to stay clean,” said Mark Robinson, LIHI’s village oper-

ations manager at Miracle. “There’s a lot of people, I would say about 1,000 in Tukwila who are homeless, and having something like this, having a community like this, it’s a starting point for people.”

Jerry Diaz and his family live across the street from Riverton Park Village. He said so far, the people living in tiny houses haven’t created any big concerns.

“They haven’t caused any problems for us. It’s been loud sometimes, but other than that, no issues from what I’ve seen,” Diaz said.

Read more and watch a video on this story here

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Riverton Park Village is the newest tiny house community to open in King County. It is located in Tukwila on property owned by Riverton Park United Methodist Church. (KOMO)

Triptych 2023

Daily Lenten Scripture, Reflection, and Prayer

WesleyMen joyfully announces the newest volume in the Advent and Lent daily devotionals, “Triptych for Lent 2023.” You may order your download (1.99 USD) or hard copy (6.99 USD) at fastpraygive.org/lent. Note: it’s for everyone!

This Lenten ‘triptych’ of interlocking scriptural portraits are connected by their proximity at the climax of Matthew’s gospel. One might think of Matthew 25 and Matthew 28 providing the ‘bookends’ to the narrative of the Passion through the Resurrection, Matthew 26-27. We are indebted to Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (Southeast Jurisdiction, United Methodist Church, retired) for positing “the church of two outstretched hands,” one ‘hand’ outstretched in passionate compassion of Matthew 25:31-46; the other ‘hand’ extended in passionate proclamation of the saving word. We add unto that the ‘passion’ narrative between those two ‘passions;’ one could also think of them as two ‘lungs’ of the one ‘heart’ of the gospel.

• Matthew 25:31-46, which falls as “pre-passion”

• Matthew 26-27 – the heart of the “passion to resurrection” narrative

• Matthew 28:16-20 – the post-passion call to action

The season begins with Ash Wednesday, where key readings from the Sermon on the Mount inform each year’s reflection. WesleyMen find powerful motivation in the Matthew 6 teachings to pray, fast and give. You are invited to see how you may deepen your spirit through those Wesleyan “means of grace,” or spiritual disciplines, at FastPrayGive.org.

Rev. Steve Hickle, President, WesleyMen

Andy Morris, Director of FastPrayGive.org a program of WesleyMen

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Do your part to stop human trafficking!

• Imposing of debt

• Fraudulent employment opportunities

• False promises of love or a better life

• Psychological coercion

• Violence or threats of violence

The crime of human trafficking hinges on the exploitation of another person. People often falsely believe “human trafficking” implies victims must be moved from one place to another to be a victim. Human trafficking does not require transportation to be considered a crime. It is a crime that can be committed against an individual who has never left their hometown.

You can play a role in ending human trafficking by learning critical indicators of the crime, raising awareness of human trafficking within your community or industry, and reporting suspected trafficking incidents.

“Trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” are umbrella terms – often used interchangeably – to refer to a crime whereby traffickers exploit and profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex. Forced labor and sex trafficking are the primary slavery areas in most places.

Sometimes we moan, sigh, and maybe even pray about the terrible situation of human trafficking. What would you do if it were your daughter, sister, or mother? Or your son, or brother, or friend?

Human trafficking was highlighted in the United States and some other countries in January. But each of us must continue to be diligent in stopping modern-day slavery! It was estimated that 49.6 million people were in “modern slavery” at any given time in 2021. This figure includes both the estimate for forced labor and an estimate for forced marriage. [The latest statistics available were for 2021.]

As you travel, shop and go about your daily life, remember what you would want others to do if you were being held against your will.

• Human traffickers use various forms of force, fraud, and coercion to control and exploit victims including:

More than 175 nations have ratified or acceded to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (the UN TIP Protocol), which defines trafficking in persons and contains obligations to prevent and combat the crime. Trafficking can be described using a three-element framework focused on the trafficker’s 1) acts; 2) means; and 3) purpose. All three elements are essential to form a human trafficking violation.

All year, everywhere you go, observe what is happening around you. Please love your neighbor as yourself, and repost any suspected abuse. It is not your job to be certain that a crime is being committed. You are reporting it for someone else to do the checking and make the determination.

Submitted by Jackie R. Bolden, WMC Headquarters

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The A21 movement, campaign against human trafficking and slavery. Photo 177209071 / Human Trafficking © John Gomez | Dreamstime.com

Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Interim National Chair Rev Mark Kickett and Uniting Church in Australia President Rev Sharon Hollis encourage UCA members to mark 26 January with respect in a shared Survival Day video message, urging Australians to listen to the wisdom and voices of First Peoples in their struggle for justice and healing.

“This day marks the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the First Peoples of this ancient land. We’ve been here for millennia. We are people with a long history, rich culture and deep spirituality. We have a wisdom and a story to share. And so today, we celebrate our resilience,” says Rev Kickett, a proud Noongar man.

Rev Hollis says that as Second Peoples in the Uniting Church, we affirm the sovereignty of First Peoples and honor their custodianship of the land. She encourages all Australians to commit to listening to the truth of this land, particularly as we move towards a referendum on a First Peoples Voice.

“We pray that this year might be a moment of reckoning in our nation, when we face the truth of the past and the present of our nation in ways that promote healing and justice.”

“We invite you not just to vote yes, but to be part of the campaign, to have conversations with others in ways that might open the possibility of a new story for our nation,” says Rev Hollis.

We encourage you to watch and share this message as we stand with First Peoples on this day.


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“In confronting truth, we may discover justice and healing”

CCA Organises National Women’s Leadership Training

Vientiane, Laos: “Sabaidee! Hallelujah!” was the collective voice of greetings by about fifty women leaders from eight provinces of the Lao Democratic People’s Republic (Laos) who gathered at the Nakham Church in the capital city, Vientiane. They greeted each other with joy and excitement after a long period of disconnection since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The women had gathered for a national-level training programme organised by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in conjunction with the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) at the Nakham Church, Vientiane, from 16–19 January 2023. The training was organised under the CCA’s Ecumenical Women’s Action against Violence (EWAAV) programme.

“We are again brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit and obliged to witness Jesus in all the corners of Laos,” stated Rev. Maneewan, President of the Women’s Association of the Lao Evangelical Church.

Rev. Jung Eun (Grace) Moon from the CCA led a session on the importance of women’s leadership in the church and society and their increased involvement in churches’ mission.

Read more at: https://www.cca.org.hk/

Providing A Safe Community Space In

The South Los Angeles neighborhood that is home to Saint Mark United Methodist Church is populated by a mix of people, with a majority of Black, Latino and Asian American families. It is primarily a lower-income neighborhood, and some households do not have wi-fi connection or computers beyond phones and tablets. This made the recent COVID-19 school shut-downs particularly challenging for students in this community.

While schools would open again, and students would get back to in-person learning, the technological challenges remain the same for these families. Staff and volunteers at Saint Mark had been working on that challenge before the pandemic, but as COVID-19 shut down most gatherings, their plans were put on hold until 2022.

In 2021, Saint Mark UMC became part of an Annual Conference Community Development Program Cohort with five other churches in the South Los Angeles area. This new community development model pioneered by Global Ministries brings a cohort of churches and church leaders together to consider needs throughout their whole community and opens new possibilities with more partners.

Read more at: https://umcmission.org/

South Los Angeles

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Participants of CCA’s Women’s Leadership Development Training in Laos–2022 Latanya Cunningham (right) works with Charles, a Saint Mark computer lab client, to help familiarize him with email and other applications. (Credit: COURTESY OF ST MARK UMC)

Please send press releases, articles and resources! Submissions should be a page or less (450-500 words), edited and ready to publish. Contact us by Monday, 20 February at communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org if you would like your story to be included in the February edition of the First Friday Letter.

On the Web

This and past First Friday Letters can be found online at FirstFridayLetter.worldmethodistcouncil.org.

The World Methodist Council’s website may be found at worldmethodistcouncil.org

The World Methodist Council’s Conference website is at worldmethodistconference.org

To subscribe to this newsletter, please email communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org.

About the First Friday Letter

The First Friday Newsletter is a monthly publication of the World Methodist Council.

Publisher: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary

Communications: Michaela Bryson

All stories and photos, unless otherwise stated, are protected by their respective copyrights. Please do not copy without expressed written permission from the Council.

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World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 9
Photo credits: Perkins School of Theology/ R. Hipps