A Mission Opportunity Whose Time Has Come …
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SOUTH AFRICAN TO NORTH ALABAMA
A PRESBYTERY TO PRESBYTERY INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIP
Offered to Friends and Supporters of NAP South African Missions
WE BEGIN WITH OUR WORKING "PARTNERSHIP COVENANT"
Most of what is in the partnership covenant document was approved in principle by representatives from both the North Alabama of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Egoli Presbytery of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of South Africa in 2000. As a working document, it has become the primary basis for conversations between the Presbyteries, being revised and expanded as Task Forces in each Presbytery dialogue and develop plans.
WE REAFFIRM OUR HISTORY
Gauteng (now Egoli) Presbytery has as part of its history a partnership with Middle Tennessee Presbytery in the 1980's. They bring with them both an appreciation of the value of experience and "lessons learned" from the struggle realized in the last few years of the partnership. Though they are experiencing "growing pains" with their recent denominational merger with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa, "the new united church" brings a growing interest and revitalized energy in cultivating a new partnership with an overseas partner.
North Alabama Presbytery began exploring partnership through the initiative of one of its member congregations which began interdenominational mission partnerships in 1991. That congregation challenged the Presbytery to name South Africa a global mission priority and focus in 1997 as a part of the PCUSA "Year With Africa" emphasis. Subsequently, the Presbytery sponsored two mission trips and initiated regular communication and exploration with representatives from Gauteng. North Alabama welcomed a contingent from Gauteng in the Fall of 1999 at which time the process of developing this covenant of understanding entered the active stage.
In February of 2000, a third mission team from North Alabama visited South Africa to finalize the essential structure of this agreement.
WE RE-AFFIRM OUR THEOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING OF PARTNERSHIP
We come together with a common understanding that by God's grace, we are ambassadors for reconciliation. As such, we are called to ministries of reconciliation. (1 Corinthians 5:16-21)
We understand reconciliation to be more than a general theological notion. We believe it needs not only practical expression but also manifestations in relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ. These relationships, if founded in Christ and built upon His reconciling love, can be established and cultivated and can move beyond any barriers or walls that may have existed or still exist.
We affirm our interest to establish and cultivate relationships and ministries of reconciliation as global partners. Our fundamental goal - to develop partnerships of shared ministries - will be reached only as we cultivate a network of relationships founded upon His reconciling love that embraces the world. We believe there can no longer be isolated witnessing in which one particular church intervenes in other parts of the world without taking cognizance of Christ's presence in that context.
Although mission occurs "each in its place," the growing awareness of globalization dictates we need a networking process which helps actualize a new paradigm shift in mission. There is the need to create space, which helps transcend the sociological and economic divide and release both partners to be mutually engaged in the transformation process of the whole people of God for mission.
WE RE-AFFIRM THE GIFTS AND NEEDS OF EACH PARTNER
NORTH ALABAMA PRESBYTERY
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SHARING (Gifts/interests/experiences NAP brings to this partnership)
- Technology and faith
- Presbytery revitalization
- Experiences with ecumenism and racial reconciliation and interfaith work
- Readings and programs in servant leadership
- Congregational core interest/support with committed leadership
- Worship renewal - cultural shifts
- Shared intergenerational education programs
- Library resources/resource center
- Renewal programs
- Women's ministries
NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED (This partnership could help NAP grow to meet these needs)
- Mainline adaptation of Spirit-filled worship
- Help with true interracial fellowship
- Knowledge/experience of TRC
- Help with bridging the chasm between mainline and evangelical churches
- How to embody and live out cultural diversity
- Direct and personal relationships overseas
- Growth in mutual/partnership ministries - collaborative models
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SHARING (Gifts/interests/experiences EP brings to this partnership)
1. As a result of being part of the African continent, our Denomination/Presbytery has the experience of the rich African spirituality which it can share to enrich the worship of other denominations which are not part of this continent. Therefore, African spirituality is what our Presbytery can offer to the Alabama Presbytery.
2. As South Africans emerging from a history of oppression, divisions, discrimination based upon race, color, culture, religion and having witnessed miracles in the early stages of our democracy, we can share with our brethren from Alabama Presbytery our experiences of a rainbow nation.
3. We can also share with our overseas brethren our experience of grace experiences during truth and reconciliation hearings which in some situations led to reconciliation and healing. Our willingness to dialogue critically about our past led to radical honesty which in turn led to forgiveness and reconciliation.
4. South Africa is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society and because of this rich diversity, we can share with our overseas counterparts the richness of different cultures which is reflected in liturgical variations of worship.
5. Due to our multi-racial and multi-cultural society, we have the opportunity to explore cross-cultural ministry and share the experience with our brethren.
NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED (This partnership could help EP grow to help meet these needs)
1. Due to unemployment which causes poverty, we will need projects that will lead to self-empowerment and self-sufficiency, i.e., Job Creation; economic empowerment through self-sustaining opportunities inside and outside the church. We will also need educational and developmental programs for both the clergy and the laity.
2. Twinning of congregations within our Presbytery is very important and this should be the first step to be taken by all congregations seeking partnership with congregations in the Alabama Presbytery. It's no use to establish a relationship with overseas congregations when we remain divided at home. We need to start in "Jerusalem" (at home) and move out in unity. It is very important how we present ourselves to the outside world. Our appearance will send a powerful message to the world. Twinning of congregations within our Presbytery will contribute positively to the partnership between congregations of the two Presbyteries. This approach will insure that no congregation is left behind and that the partnership benefit all congregations equally.
3. Partnership between our congregations and congregations in the North Alabama Presbytery should be transparent. Projects of funding between the two congregations should be incarnational with the emphasis on the practical aspect and with two-way interaction. This kind of partnership will automatically lead to the exchange of ministries between congregations or Presbyteries.
WE RE-AFFIRM OUR EFFORTS TO FIND COMMON ACTIVITIES AND PROJECTS
The following have been in process this past year:
- Mission Exchange Programs both ways
- Each Presbytery adopting one primary project/thrust in the other Presbytery
- Regular and varied communication on as many levels as possible
The following have been explored in the last year:
- Youth and Women's Ministry exchange programs
- Mutual funding and volunteer support of Habitat for Humanity in SA
- Cultural and racial reconciliation information and program exchange
- Encouragement of extended pulpit supply both ways
- Congregation-to-congregation and project-to-project partnership activities
NAP'S GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP MISSION CONTINUES TO FLOURISH
Mission Trip 2002
The South African/North Alabama Presbytery-to-Presbytery partnership story continues to have a ripple effect. North Alabama Presbytery recently sent a team to the Egoli Presbytery to see that ripple at work - and to "make some new waves" in the ever-growing friendhip that has evolved over the last five years.
The most significant partnership success story is the NAP funding of a pre-school that is becoming a part of a Presbyterian multi-purpose building in the struggling Alexandra township. This center was dedicated and is being completed to serve thousands with education, worship, training, after-school programs, evangelism - and possibly health care.
Team member Bunny Hovater shares from her experience. "The building is a beautiful golden-rose brick structure and quite large ... At the Dedication, as we entered the facility, the Egoli Presbytery Moderator, the pastors, and our North Alabama group and others processed into the church singing 'the Church is One Foundation' and were seated in the chancel area. The worship service lasted about two and a half hours.
During the worship service at 5:15 pm South African time the Reverend Frank Broyles, the chair of the North Alabama Presbytery South African Partnership
Task Force, phoned the convened North Alabama Presbytery. It was 9:15 am in Decatur, Alabama. The phone was put to the microphone so our brothers and sisters in Alabama could support the dedication. Mr. Broyles read the Alexandra Presbyterian Church Dedication Declaration. Included in that were
the words "What we dedicate now is more than bricks and mortar. It is tribute to love made tangible through relationships, cemented in commitment,
glued with hope. This is truly a shared ministry." Shan Davidson from Huntsville delivered a Dedication Prayer. Dr. Maake Masango, Egoli Partnership Chair, interpreted for the congregation sentence by sentence. The "Mothers of the church" sang. There were few dry eyes either in Alabama or Alexandra during this time. Our own Stella Moore from Huntsville preached the dedication sermon ... It was a grand and glorious day and evening. Certainly it was one I will never forget. It was such a blessing having been present at the ground breaking two years before, and now to see the dream of so many devoted people having come true ... Furnishings and educational materials are needed to complete this house of worship. There is every confidence that God will supply."
While there the team also lead a regional training session on the gift and power of spirituality in the new South Africa. They also launched some new partnerships, including health care ministries, new Habitat efforts, homeless job development programs, helping a new Church development "raise the roof," and considered supporting numerous township outreach projects through congregational partnerships. Both Faith and First Presbyterian in North Alabama have linked with congregations in the Egoli Presbytery - other church-to-church partnerships are "in the works."
- We are gathering congregational life profiles of individual churches in each Presbytery, hoping for the matching/partnership linkage of at least three by the early 2001. We offer the following PCUSA guidelines for those moving in this direction:
DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN A PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION IN THE U.S. AND ABROAD
Many PC(USA) congregations are developing significant relationships with congregations in other countries. Some of these "sister church" relationships are occurring within negotiated Presbytery International Partnerships, and others are being developed by initiatives and actions of local church sessions. The linking of congregations is sometimes referred to as the "twinning" of congregations. The Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) recognizes the potential benefits of these relationships and endeavors to give some guidance and direction in keeping with the overall objectives and strategies of PC(USA) mission in the world.
Consultation with a presbytery mission committee, presbytery staff having responsibility for mission, and/or a WMD staff person who has responsibility for a given region of the world, can be of help in determining the appropriateness of such a venture in a particular time and place.
Before getting into a "twinning" relationship, it helps to consider these questions:
- Why do we want to have a relationship with a church in another country?
- What need(s) in our congregation might be met by having such a relationship?
- What do we hope to learn by having a relationship with a church in another country?
- How might a church in another country benefit by being in relationship with our church? How might they minister to us?
- What do we have to offer? What human resources? Prayer support? Christian education ideas? Bible studies? Music? Liturgies? Creative outreach programs? Common work projects?
- In what ways might this relationship help or hinder our witness to our own community?
- Are there one or more persons in our congregation who speak the language of the other country?
- Do we want to plan for exchange visits?
- Who will be responsible for maintaining correspondence or handling other communication with the partner church?
- How long do we want this congregational or sister church relationship to last?
When a sister-church, or a "twinning" relationship in entered into, it is also helpful to keep the following things in mind:
- The relationship should be reciprocal and mutual, with activities in which each partner can and will participate, receiving as well as giving, always respecting the autonomy and the best interest of the partner church.
- The relationship may involve a variety of activities such as the sharing of information about one’s country and church, regular intercessory prayer, the sharing of worship materials including music, possible exchange visits, the study of issues of common interest, and advocacy with reference to international economic and political decisions that my effect the quality of life of people in the overseas partner country.
- "Twinning congregations" means just that. It is not a pastor-to-pastor relationship, but a congregation-to-congregation relationship. The members of both churches should be involved in the twinning experience. Enter into the relationship with joy, expectation and prayer that each church will be changed.
Some suggested activities that might be done for the benefit of congregations in partnership:
- Exchange letters--can involve pastors, sessions, educators, group representatives, youth and children.
- Exchange pictures--of church buildings, individuals & groups within the congregation, the neighborhood and area where the congregation is located.
- Exchange maps--showing the location of your church, and perhaps some other places of interest in your community
- Pray--make prayers for your partner congregation a regular part of your worship, Sunday School classes, Women’s Circle meetings, and in personal devotions
- Bible study--decide with your partner to have some people/groups reading and studying the same passages or Scripture; later exchanging notes or audio cassettes of discussions about the passages for comparison and contrasts.
- Worship--plan materials to be used jointly with the partner congregation to celebrate major church observances such as World Communion Sunday.
- Banners--have a group design a special banner and send it to your partner congregation
- Choir music--record the choir, children’s choirs, or hymn singing on an audiocassette to send to your partner congregation
- Arts and Crafts--exchange children’s art work and members craft projects
- Educational programs--conduct a series of programs on the geography, history, politics, religions, & other aspects of the culture of the other country
- Meals--plan and serve a meal like the people in you partner congregation would have.
- News articles--display news of your partner congregation and events in that country on a church bulletin board.
- Exchange visits--arrange for one of two members of your church to travel to visit your partner church, and upon their return to report in detail to your church
PLEASE CALL THE PRESBYTERY (883-0855) ABOUT OTHER WAYS TO CONNECT TO THE PARTNERSHIP.