During this last week, I had the chance to spend a morning (and most of the afternoon!) with Rev Richard Gowana, my colleague based in Shakaville. Before Rev Gowana leaves our circuit (he's heading to the Durban Metro circuit next year) I asked him to take me around to see some of the small churches in the rural parts of our circuit.
What an eye-opener! Just minutes out of Stanger we were driving into deep valleys, surrounded at times by cane, timber and bush, mostly on dirt roads into the heart of rural KZN. It's an area like much of our country where life slows down and simplifies. Life is hard too - many of the modern conveniences we take for granted are missing and people struggle to put food on the table.
But I didn't miss the busyness of the city. We visited the Dabangu society and had to chase the cows away from the front door (at the Gledhow society there were goats sheltering from the rain at the front of the church...) The people of Dabangu are few and elderly, but faithfully every week they walk down to the church building that they themselves built.
At Mthandeni we found three local leaders hard at work inside their church, busy building a raised altar platform for their communion area and pulpit. And at Mvozana a small group gathered as they showed us a cleared site where they intend to build a church for their congregation (at the moment 40 people are meeting in a nearby home). It was a privilege to be part of a special moment for them as Rev Gowana led us in a service of blessing on the land (there are pictures on UMC's Facebook page).
Over the last number of years at our national Conference, our Presiding Bishop has chosen as his theme for Conference “Together, a transforming discipleship movement”. That word 'together' is significant because Jesus brings together people who might otherwise have had very little in common – that is the picture in heaven: nations of every language worshipping shoulder to shoulder. Our circuit is very diverse and yet in many ways we still reflect the old apartheid divisions. I wonder what it would take for us to be 'together' as Jesus envisions – what would it look like for our church to be 'one and undivided' - a foretaste of heaven?
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