I’m very privileged to have had a variety of different roles within the CMSI setup, and I’m presumptuous enough to feel that I’m part of the furniture now. Our mantra in CMSI is that our mission partnerships are exactly that – partnerships, based on real relationships. I know that to be true, I’ve never really doubted it. Yet, I understood it more completely after this trip than I think I had previously.
My two previous trips were ‘work’ trips. That is, we were building, painting and teaching. At the end of two or three weeks there was something physical to testify to the ‘success’ of our visit.
This trip had a different flavour. Its value was entirely in the ongoing development of relationships, and these took different forms. There was the ‘formal’ relationship between CMSI, the Diocese of Northern Zambia and the Seminary. There was the less formal nature of the links between Jenny and me as we renewed our friendship with the Scotts. There was the development of a friendship between the two archbishops, which began a few years ago at an Anglican Consultative Council meeting. And there was the plethora of new relationships, with students, clergy and others.
Perhaps the two personal highlights for me were in moments whose value is largely unquantifiable. The first was at the guesthouse where Archbishop Richard and I stayed for the first couple of days of the trip. The guesthouse, and attached café, are social enterprises which each support projects that work with at risk Zambian young people.
On our final morning in the guesthouse, at the invitation of our hosts, the archbishop was delighted to bless the work of the projects, and to ask for their blessing on his ministry in return. A little moment, but a personal highlight because it was about person-to-person contact between Christians of different denominations, different backgrounds but all part of the same kingdom work. Relationships that open doors – and now I have some new names on my prayer list.
The second little highlight came on a day I spent ministering with Father Stephen Chibubi, one of the seminary staff who also has responsibility for a couple of parishes. He showed me round some of the work his churches undertake. This included a really exciting early years project that is ready to mushroom once the next phase of building is completed – a great example of that moving forward in faith I mentioned in “my previous reflection”: . We then paid a couple of pastoral visits, including one we hadn’t expected to a home that had suffered a bereavement.
This Zambian wake involved prayers, hymn singing, painted faces, and all of this as we sat on the floor of the house’s main room. I stuck out like a sore thumb: the big white guy in the clerical collar (Father Stephen hadn’t expected to be making this visit and wasn’t in clericals). There was no chance of my slipping into the shadows. I got a few sideways glances, but the truth is that no one really batted an eyelid at my presence. I was with the parish priest, and because I had a relationship with him and he had a relationship with the people in that home, my presence there made sense.
Relationships that open doors – I will think of that day with Father Stephen often as I go about my day-to-day pastoral work.