In a world where ‘Zoom fatigue’ is now a real thing, last week stood out as an exception in the long Zoom-filled lockdown weeks so far. On Tuesday we enjoyed our Annual General Meeting with folks from all over Ireland, and on Thursday came the highlight for me – a Voices Of Hope Zoom gathering.
In spite of unreliable internet connections, 25 people participated from eight of our Global Partner countries. As faces started to appear on screen there was great excitement; Bishops who had not seen their Archbishop since the beginning of lockdown sent greetings across the screen. Some started to recognise friends from other dioceses and countries, and a second set of greetings commenced across nations. Any anxiety that we had, about whether this Zoom call would really work, disappeared in the clamour of joyful virtual reunions.
“It was so good to be part of the meeting and see you all face to face.”
Bishop Jered Kalimba
“It was a real time of blessings to see everyone there whom I have not seen for a long time.”
Ven. Naftaly Lemooke
Jenny Smyth started by explaining our purpose for Voices of Hope:
“We long for ‘mutual flourishing’ through equivalence of opportunity and voice, working in convivial partnership.
"It is my hope that ‘Voices of Hope’ will give voice to you all, will be a forum where we can listen to one another and learn from one another both as global partners through CMS Ireland, but also provide a platform for your voices to be heard in the wider family of the Church of Ireland. We need to hear from you, we need to learn from you and we need to work with you in God’s mission in this world.”
For the next hour we listened to the voices of our Global Partners.
They shared how Covid-19 was impacting them, but they also shared the local issues which they are dealing with. We heard that in Kenya, lockdown is driving up the numbers of teenage pregnancies, and in South Sudan a resurgence of violent attacks seems to be linked with lockdown shortages.
All our partners asked for prayer for clergy and teachers whose incomes have been wiped out by lockdown. Our partners in Nepal described the risk that their frontline workers face and the extra concern over locust plagues destroying crops, an issue shared by partners in East Africa.
In the deluge of these serious concerns, you might wonder if we misnamed the event: where was the hope?
Louise Githire told the group about the food packages UDP, Nairobi had distributed with support from Parish Links in Ireland and the CMSI Covid-19 appeal, she said:
"The partnership with CMSI gives people hope, it gives people encouragement, knowing that there are people who can pray and share their experiences."
There was hope from South Sudan in the good news shared by Bishop Moses that the MU mask-making project, supported by CMSI link parishes, has been contracted by the local government to make masks for hospitals and clinics. There was hope in the images shared by SD Church, Nepal, of food packages shared with meticulous social distancing and protective measures. There was hope in the congratulations echoed around the screen for the new Province of Alexandria and the election of Bishop Samy Shehata as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt. And there was an unshakable hope expressed in the prayers said for each other, and founded in the One to whom we prayed, from our far flung places, united not only by Zoom but by faith.
"This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary."
"It was a great joy just to pray together as partners in mission from different parts of the world, and to share and listen to other people’s stories in their contexts where they doing God’s work. We need such meetings so that we can be encouraging each other especially at this time of Covid-19, and even in post Covid-19 we shall need each other.”
Archbishop Albert Chama