First Friday Letter
The World Methodist Council January
Greetings from the Vice President
Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh – a Happy New Year to you all (in Irish!). This comes hoping that you have experienced blessing and joy over the Advent and Christmas time and may look forward with hope in 2023.
This first Friday in January falls on the Feast of Epiphany when the church celebrates the coming of the magi to Bethlehem to see the baby ‘born to be king.’ The High Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice, Ireland, shows them being led to the Child by Joseph. At this time too, our Orthodox sisters and brothers celebrate Christmas.
In Ireland, this twelfth day of Christmas, January 6th, is known as Nollaig na mBan – Women’s Christmas. This is the day when the traditional roles in the household are reversed and women get the day off, they visit with their friends, generally relax and enjoy the last of the Christmas cake! Other traditions associated with today include one that declares that the water in wells turns into wine at midnight and that, at that hour too, animals are given the gift of human speech. H’m!
However, on a more serious note, this is a time to reflect on what happened after the magi left Bethlehem, on the angel’s warning to Joseph and on the subsequent flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. At Nollaig na mBan, it is fitting to take time to think of and to pray for millions of women in today’s world who must care for their children in situations of danger and oppression; women whose giftings and talents have been curtailed by ideologies and policies; women whose lives have been plighted by discrimination and violence.
As a people for whom the world is our parish, we continue to be shocked by the ever-deepening plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, deprived of almost all freedoms and of opportunities for education and self-fulfilment; we are horrified by the circumstances which force women to choose between staying in places of danger and deprivation or braving the choppy waters of the Mediterranean Sea in small, overcrowded boats; our hearts break for women and girls in Nigeria subject to kidnap and abduction by militant Islamic groups; we weep for women in Ukraine who see their homes and their crops destroyed by war; we mourn with women whose children are dying of starvation in Yemen because food supplies are not being allowed through by wearing factions. And the list goes on…
The Incarnation points to Immanuel – God with us. The mother of the Child Jesus, in her time of unexpected pregnancy and of uncertainty as to her status in her community, is able to sing of a God who has performed mighty deeds with his arm; who has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts; who has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble; who has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.
Writing to the Christians in Corinth several decades later, the Apostle Paul observes that, when any part of the body is in pain, the rest suffers with it. Physically speaking, we all know that to be the case – spiritually, may we also know it to be true and may we do whatever is in our power, socially and economically, as individuals and as ‘the people called Methodists,’ to lessen pain wherever it is found.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by; Proud hearts and stubborn will are put to flight, The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word! Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord To children’s children and for evermore.
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 1
Photo of a carving from the Magi on High Cross of Muiredach by Finola Finlay
Wesley House -Public Lecture Monday 23 January
Join us for a FREE public lecture by Professor David Tombs, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand.
All four gospels record that Jesus was stripped of his clothes at the cross. Mark 15:15-20 and Matthew 27:26-31 attest to an additional series of strippings as part of the mockery in the praetorium.
Asking the right questions about the strippings can help churches to think more deeply about the prevalence of sexual violence both past and present. How are these forced strippings of Jesus to be understood? What was their purpose at the time? How might they help churches address the silences and stigmas around sexual violence in contemporary times?
This public lecture will examine the meaning that stripping a prisoner conveyed in the ancient world. It draws on the recently published The Crucifixion of Jesus: Torture, Sexual Abuse, and the Scandal of the Cross (Routledge, 2023) to show why this part of the crucifixion narrative deserves more attention
To register visit https://strippingsofjesus.eventbrite.co.uk
Venezuela church organized after humble beginnings
When Gloris Granado started holding a weekly children’s Bible study in her home in Punta de Mata, Venezuela, she had no idea that years later it would turn into an organized Church of the Nazarene.
Iglesia del Nazareno Luz de Vida (Light of
Life) was recently organized as a church with over 20 members. Granado is the pioneer, a pillar in the foundation of Luz de Vida.
“After receiving the Lord in 2017…God saved my daughter and me from a bus accident that we had,” Granado said. “God delivered us from death and restored our health.”
Granado was attending Iglesia del Nazareno Renacer, prior to the accident, and began holding children’s small groups to teach local children about Christ in their homes. When lockdowns came in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the church could no longer
meet, Granado got creative.
She began inviting people from the community to meet at her home for church services like she had been doing with the children. It started with five people and eventually grew to 20 to 30 people in five months.
The Renacer church recognized what was taking place and planted Luz de Vida in Granado’s home. In two years, the congregation has become an organized Church of the Nazarene.
“God has blessed us greatly so we can celebrate this great step of being a consolidated church,” Granado said. “A church family even offered a house (to meet in), which is where we gather today. I am still amazed at how God transformed a group of a few children into a new church. Glory to God for His wonderful works.”
Around 50 Nazarenes from both congregations recently came together to celebrate the church’s organization in a joint service of worship and teaching, experiencing the fidelity and sustenance of God toward His children.
Read more at https://nazarene.org/
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 2
Lack of birth certificate challenges children in rural areas
not present for one reason or the other, the supporting structures — traditional and political leaders — will assist in the process.”
Major challenges, he said, include “lack of finances, broken families, deaths of parents, and parents without birth certificates and identity cards themselves, creating a vicious cycle.”
Learners from Nyamacheni Secondary School shared their stories.
“I do not have a birth certificate because my parents separated when I was very young,” said Fortunate Mapinda, 16. “I am now staying with my grandparents, who are very old.”
says many of her students do not have birth certificates. United Methodists are helping orphans and other vulnerable children obtain the documents they need to continue their education.
Tanatswa Nguwaya, 16, said his father lacks transportation money to enable him to process the birth certificate, “despite it having a lot of advantages in my education.”
The Zimbabwe constitution declares that everyone has a right to citizenship documents. Many children, however, do not have birth certificates, and obtaining national identification cards is a challenge.
Representatives of five United Methodist-related primary and secondary schools reported an average 44% of students (1,448 of a total 3,274) lack birth certificates.
“The figures are worrying,” admitted the Rev. Munyaradzi Timire, education secretary, Zimbabwe East Conference. “In our system, the church’s approach is for the heads of schools to work with the registrar’s office and assist parents or guardians in acquiring the birth certificate.
“We encourage the church to write letters of reference, which guardians or parents can use as supporting documents for the registrar’s office to use. This will help process identification documents so that learners do not miss seating for examinations and enable them to attend sports competitions.”
The Rev. Oswell Kaseke, Harare Central District superintendent, said the church works closely with local leaders and government departments to facilitate the acquisition of the documents.
“Headmasters write letters to the registrar’s department confirming that the child is a learner enrolled at our school,” Kaseke said. “The headmaster also raises awareness and sensitizes parents or guardians on the importance of these documents. Where the parents are
Mollet Mujajati, 15, concurred. “I am staying with my parents,” Mujajati said, “but they do not have the money for me to travel to the registrar’s office.”
Fifteen-year-old Bright Chirasha said her parents are divorced. “I am staying with my mother, who does not have a birth certificate and identity card to enable me to process my birth certificate. This is beyond my control, but my wish is to have a birth certificate like other children.”
Thelma Munhori, 16, a Clare Secondary School student, said her situation is similar. Her father died and she is staying with her grandmother.
“She does not have money to take me to the registrar offices for my birth certificate.”
Bridget Chalosa, 16, a member of Gurure United Methodist Church in Mupambawashe Village, is a Form 4 student. After her parents divorced, her mother remarried and left her in the care of her grandparents.
“When my mother remarried, she never looked back on us. I did not manage to secure a birth certificate, which is a prerequisite for me to seat for the Ordinary Level examination.
“This issue is eating me day and night. What to do and where to go, I do not know. Whether I am going to write my Ordinary Level examination or not, only God knows.”
Read more at https://www.umnews.org/
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 3
Annie Padhuze, headmistress of The United Methodist Church’s Clare Secondary School near Mutare, Zimbabwe,
Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
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.
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. He continues to work relentlessly to bring people together for peace and to reach across religion, race and ethnic boundaries. His life has consistently been one of courage and creativity. For many years, in a highly complex and fragile political situation, he founded imaginative ways to build peace, using his skills as a peacemaker and diplomat. Often at great personal risk, he sought to be a voice for peace and a creative activist drawing fractured communities together.
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
Watson to Lead Wesleyan Studies
The Moore-West Center for Applied Theology is please to announce Wesleyan Studies author and professor, Dr. Kevin Watson, has been named the first Moore-West Scholar in the area of Wesleyan Studies effective December 2022. Dr Watson will lead and develop courses for the center’s JourneyWise Network’s Servant School programming with a planned launch in Summer 2023.
“On behalf of The Moore-West Board of Directors and Scholars Council, I am so pleased to welcome Dr.
Watson to the work of sharing God’s Word through a Wesleyan accent with the world. Dr. Watson is an exceptional scholar, author and lead-in the Wesleyan world and beyond” shared Shane Stanford, CEO of the Moore-West Center. “In less than a year, we have angels the amazing work of some of the finest thinkers, teachers and authors together and are so excited about the future of this program.”
For information contact the Moore-West Center at email@example.com or call 888-508-1957.
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 4
Photo 190551222 © Bogdan Zhorov | Dreamstime.com
Bishop Abrahams meets Zimbabwean Methodist Leaders
Apply now for GEM School
To strengthen the voice of churches in assisting with regards to global economics, a group of current and future church leaders will be chosen to attend the Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) School for an Economy of Life.
Organized by the World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, and Council for World Mission and will take place 21 August to 1 September in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Participants will be selected from the candidates with a view to achieving regional, gender, and denominational balance.
Application forms can be found at https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/gem-school-2023documents Bishop Rosemarie Wenner serves as the WMC representative for the GEM School.
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 5
Zimbabwean UMC Methodist Leaders
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting
Women Newly Elected President Sipiwe Chisvo from the Methodist Church, Zimbabwe
General Secretary Martin Mujinga, Presiding Bishop G.T Mawire of Methodist Church Zimbabwe with General Secretary Ivan Abrahams (Pictured: Left to Right)
Tent of Nations...walking in the light
This was written during the season of Advent, a time of hopeful waiting and preparation, as we light the third candle as a reminder of the light that will outshine the darkness of our world. We continue to walk with faith, love, and hope as we “pass through the valley of tears and make it a place of springs.”
We shall recognize God’s loving embrace and protection over us, which gives us the strength to persevere in His mission. Although we are burdened with a big weight, we shall be reminded to keep our hearts open for the good news, which is the true meaning of this season.
As we approach the end of the year 2022, we mark 32 years in an ongoing legal battle to protect the Tent of Nations farm from the danger of confiscation. In the recent 21st court session regarding the reregistration of our farm, we were informed that the next and hopefully final hearing has been scheduled for the 16th of January 2023. We covet your prayers for an outcome that recognizes our ownership to these ancestral lands. We will keep you updated and informed if any needed actions from your side by the beginning of January. We will keep knocking on the doors until justice prevails.
Despite all of the challenges that we are facing in our long struggle to justice, we have been blessed by the increased number of international guests who visited the farm in the previous months, who came to see, and
we hope they went back home motivated to tell the story of what they have experienced.
We are very grateful to have been able to host international volunteers at the Tent of Nations starting February of the year 2022 coming for a week-long stay or up to three months. We are blessed by the presence of volunteers at the Tent of Nations and express our sincere thanks and appreciation for all their help and support for the Tent of Nations. It brings us so much hope to see that the farm is becoming livelier. The highlight of this year were our harvests camps at the tent of Nations, in which volunteers helped with the almond, grape, fig, and most recently the olive harvest
At this time, we continue working to repair the damages brought to our infrastructure by vandals. It is still a long way to go. However, we are determined to keep moving forward by working on transforming our frustration and pain, to bring about constructive and positive changes.
We wish you a wonderful start to the new year 2023, a year full of faith, love, and hope. We pray that the coming light will renew our and your strength for the coming year to carry on and continue to work for justice as witnesses for this light to all people.
Story written by Daoud Nassar, Director, Tent of Nations
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 6
Photo taken from the Solomon’s theater at Tent of Nations
Ukraine continues to need love and light
“Our desire is that the war in Ukraine will end, but in this moment, they need an ambulance in Ukraine.” This is what Superintendent Ivana Procházková (Czechia) said when an ambulance, fully loaded with medical goods, was sent on its journey to Ukraine to become a blessing for many. And this is what describes the attitude of those who stand by the side Ukrainian people – by those who left their homeland to (temporarily) live in a directly or indirectly neighboring country or in other parts of Europe; and by those who currently live in the Western part of Ukraine as Internally Displaced Persons. Together with brothers and sisters in Ukraine, many helpers and their congregations are praying, hoping, longing for peace. But as there is no peace yet, they are continuing to faithfully respond to the needs of the people who have lost so much. Waiting takes a very active, faithful and often courageous shape.
Yulia Starodubets (Ukraine), during a meeting of the Coordinators of the Ministries with Refugees from Ukraine, confirmed what is shared through many news channels. The destruction of the energy supply impacts the situation in the whole country – in regard to water, heating, public transportation (e.g. subway in Kyiv), communication. “In some parts of the country, electricity is more episodic.” But she also underlined: “People don’t lose hope.” They “adjust to the situation and try to be very creative”. That’s why generators are very important items these days – and they have been part of more than one humanitarian aid transport, particularly from Romania to Ukraine.
The difficult situation regarding power and heating was among the main reasons why it was broadly expected that the number of people leaving Ukraine would increase with the beginning of the winter. Jana Křířova, Coordinator in Czechia, however said: “We expected more refugees to come, but so far this did not happen.” This statement was echoed by Sarah Putman, Coordinator in Romania.
However, the leaders of the various ministries continue to prepare for more refugees by renovating and adapting facilities that have already been used as accommodations and that need to be winterproofed and made larger.
But if one takes a closer look, two developments that are observed. Against the background of societies still open to welcoming refugees, “enthusiasm has lessened” as Sarah Putman from Romania put it. And, as Jana Křířova from Czechia stated that “there is a loud minority blaming the government for not doing enough for Czech people” who, also struggle with high energy costs.
This means that providing the leaders of the various ministries in Ukraine and neighboring countries with material resources is one thing. An important thing.
But taking into consideration that some of them served their neighbors for the last 10 months and now, in some cases, face a certain fatigue, it is equally important to pray for these people, for the renewal of their physical strength, for protection of their hearts and souls, for the dawning of a new hope that helps them to persevere and to not get used to the war.
The Nordic and Baltic Areas, assistant refugees and support of integration measures of wider groups living in the respective societies.
In many places throughout Ukraine there are no street lights and no lights on the houses, making it dangerous for pedestrians. That’s why Bishop Christian Alsted, on his most recent visit to Ukraine, brought reflective vests, batteries, lamps and powerbanks. The light vests have a very practical function, but they are also a symbol of the desire that people who live in the dark, figuratively speaking, not be overlooked. A symbol of the desire that the One who came to us as the light of this world wants to make visible those who are in the dark. That he wants to make them feel: I see you. You are important to me. And where people let themselves be illuminated by this light of peace, hope and love, they can pass it on, reflect it. May this miracle happen in many places!
Men crossing the streets without lighting during blackout in Ukraine.
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 7
December 22, 2022 / Urs Schweizer (based on reports from UA, CZ, HU, DK, and RO)
Street © Svitlana Piddubniak
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
About the First Friday Letter
World Methodist Council First Friday Letter page 8
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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.
Photo credits: Perkins School of Theology/ R. Hipps