Queensland Synod Moderator Rev David Baker writes from India as part of what has become a regular trip to the Church of North India.
I’ve had the privilege of being back in the diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India, for the past week.
The church here has many challenges, but they are—mostly—the challenges that arise from being the church doing the work of the kingdom.
Around Amritsar lie many villages, mostly with limited energy supply, filled with farm labourers and their families. These families live a precarious existence. Contract day labour is their main source of income; a consumer market reaches into their lives and spreads its lies; the anaesthesia of drug abuse (alcohol, or more recently ice and synthetic drugs) is a constant siren song.
So the church is strongly present, supporting women’s empowerment through micro-financing, health and community services, supporting children in providing learning centres as an adjunct to the local school while also bringing hope and solidarity. These initiatives are making a profound difference in people’s lives and transforming the nature of these communities.
UnitingWorld is a significant founder of the education extension work. Much of the work is run on the same principles as the Queensland Community Alliance, that is, supporting people to address their issues and problems, not taking away the opportunity for empowerment by addressing issues for them. While in Amritsar, I have heard stories of how these projects are changing people’s lives. They are seeing their children succeed at school and seeing them beginning to dare to dream about a positive future.
Today I preached at a full church in the centre of Amritsar, being interpreted into Hindi by a female probationary presbyter. She is an experienced community services director but has heard the call to enter into pastoral ministry. So, she gives up a life to take up the life of ordained ministry. Like any theological graduate, she’s got great ideas for the church, and a passion to see it fulfilling it purpose in the world.
Rev Catherine Solomon, who’s husband, Andrew, is our tour manager, preached at Christ Church Cathedral. This was a three hour service, because people wanted to give testimony to how God was at work in their lives while others were looking for prayer. Women who’d given up black magic and found Christ were seeking prayer for the journey out of darkness into light. Others were seeking prayer for work and for reconciliation. Jesus Christ is at work through his church here. The diocese is committed to respectful and supportive ecumenical and interfaith relationships, because that is what it means to be a community of Christ’s followers.
We head up into the mountains of Himachal Pradesh this week.
Please pray for the Church of North India, that it may be strengthened and protected in its ministry.