Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Stories of making change
and putting faith into
action in mission with USPG

Morning dawns through the trees at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon … the venue of the USPG annual conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I heard some wonderful reports of the work of USPG last night [3 July 2018] when the report for 2017 was presented to the annual meeting of the Council of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The meeting came at the end of the second day of the USPG annual conference at the High Leigh Conference outside Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

The report from the International Programmes Team spoke of the privilege of working alongside partner churches. These were stories of change that demonstrate how USPG’s partners ‘are putting their faith into action and enabling congregations and communities to fulfil their potential.’

These included stories of working for better health in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India, stories of working better livelihoods in Malawi, Ghana, South Africa, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Jamaica. And stories too of championing justice in India, South Africa, Zambia and Brazil.

The report from the Global Relations Team emphasised work to facilitate deeper learning, reflection and exchange across communities, provinces and institutions in the Anglican Communion ‘so that local mission and contextual theologies might be strengthened.’ This includes facilitating the relational basis that underpins the work of USPG in advocacy, theology and missiology.

The team reported: ‘We continued to support a part-time Refugee Support facilitator within the Anglican Church in Greece. We also supported work among unaccompanied refugee minors in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Church. We also funded legal and psychiatric support for five shelters in partnership with Greek NGO Medical Intervention in Athens.’

There were reports too from the Fundraising and Communications Team and the Mission Engagement Team.

We are hearing stories of compassion and empowerment at the USPG conference in High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Canon Chris Chivers, Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, stepped down at the meeting as the chair of USPG trustees, handing over to the new chair, John Neilson, but later he was elected an honorary Vice-President of USPG.

We also marked the retirement of a number of trustees, including Rosemary Kempsall, vice-chair, Canon Joabe Cavalcanti, John Chilver and Dr Jane Watkeys, and we noted the retirement of a number of trustees during the year, including Bishop John McDowell, Leah Skouby, and the Revd Dr Olubunmbi Fagbemi.

I was elected to a second three-year term as a trustee, along with Martin Canning, and a number of new trustees and council members were elected.

Earlier in the afternoon, I chaired the conference session at which the speaker was the Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan, Principal of Saint Thomas’s Theological College in Karachi, who spoke about Peace’ in the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

‘Putting your money where your mouth is’ is important for a mission agency like USPG, according to Dr James Corah, who is Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment, CCLA Investment Management Ltd, and who is also involved with the Church Investors’ Group.

He was speaking on the second day of the conference in the High Leigh Conference Centre, which is focussing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and he spoke in this context about the ‘Planet.’

He described ethical investment as being about people issues, while responsible investment is about how we treat the planet, how companies are set up, and how we are responsible about the world.

Addressing questions about divesting from fossil fuels, he said coal accounts for the most intense use of fossil fuels, while the use of oil and gas use has not peaked yet.

He said climate change is an investment issue because it impacts on performances and on people. It is happening now, and we need to address it now. Pointing to hurricanes, rising sea levels, migration and rising temperatures, he told the conference that if we solve climate change problems we solved a lot of other issues too.

This morning, we begin the third and final day with our second Bible Study led by the Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills. Bishop Donald Jute of the Diocese of Kuching is to speak about ‘Partnership’ this morning, and there is a presentation by the USPG Mission Engagement Team.

The celebrant at the Closing Eucharist later today is the Very Revd Charley Thomas, Dean of Lusaka Cathedral, and preacher is Canon Chris Chivers.

The Barn Chapel in the grounds of the High Leigh Conference Centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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