Bishop Gavin shares reflections and highlights from his visit to diocesan world mission partners in Nandyal in the Church of South India in May.
With the Revd James Dwyer, Vicar of Christ Church, Flackwell Heath and the Revd Sarah Mortimer, Curate of Sunninghill and South Ascot, I had the privilege of visiting our partner Diocese in Nandyal, South India, earlier this month. The 10 days we spent there were inspiring, exhilarating, and, at times, overwhelming, as we saw at firsthand the life, witness, and worship of brothers and sisters in Christ living in such a very different context to our own.
During our trip, we visited over a dozen churches and 10 or so schools and development programmes, and at each one were invited to preach or to bring greetings from our churches back in the UK. Throughout, we saw a quality of hospitality and welcome that truly puts us in the UK church to shame, and that made us feel valued and welcomed as visitors from within the church family.
Highlights that will long stay with me include being invited to baptise a 5-month-old baby girl – and being told that the custom in India is for the priest to choose the baby’s name!
Also, the sheer joy of the main Sunday morning service in the Cathedral (which was a 7.00am service due to the extreme heat), with over 2,000 people gathered and sitting both inside and outside the building, and the line coming up to receive Communion seeming to go on for ever!
It was also humbling to visit community development projects in some of the slum areas of the city, where the church is providing daily meals for children and elderly citizens who otherwise would have no secure nutrition.
It was a joy and a privilege to be able to visit our partners in India, and it has given me a renewed sense of being part of God’s worldwide church, and of how much we have to learn from as well as to share with our fellow Christians across God’s international church family.
In the Diocese of Oxford, we share in God’s mission with partners from a huge range of countries. We have three link dioceses, six dioceses with which we are linked through the Mothers' Union Wave of Prayer, and a large number of connections between parishes in the our diocese and parishes and mission partners around the world.