I (Alan) have been writing these blog posts to keep people in Scotland updated and to reassure people that we are all well. Others have been keeping personal journals and taking photos. We will seek ways of sharing our experiences when we get more reliable internet access on our return.
It was only when we shared at the end of the day today that I acknowledged some strong personal emotions. Although this is the start of a journey, for me it is also an end of a journey. This is possibly a bit self-indulgent, but it is maybe appropriate to tell a little of the story which started six years ago. The story which has led us here is really much more complicated and had many other threads, but this is part of my involvement in it.
When I was training for ministry, I had the privilege of spending 10 weeks in Malawi working with several ministers and several village churches. As has happened to many people, Africa got under my skin in ways that I still don’t really understand.
On my last day here, Joseph, then Session Clerk at Chuluchosema, asked if Chuluchosema could have a partnership with the church where I became the minister. I explained that that I could not promise anything, because any partnership would need to be right for the two congregations, not just for the ministers.
After I was called to St Columba’s, I shared this story and we agreed to wait to see whether a partnership would be right.
Last year, Margaret and I had the chance to return to Malawi and we visited Chuluchosema again. It was clear that a partnership would still be a possibility. At that time, it also became clear to me that our ongoing relationship with our friends in Malawi was different from the possibility of a church partnership and was not dependent on a relationship between the churches. However, for reasons that I don’t fully understand I bought a Malawi wristband and I have been wearing it continuously since then. It has come to represent my prayer that the two churches would explore the possibility of partnership.
Since then, both Kirk Sessions have agreed to explore a partnership, committees have been formed, many people have been involved in fundraising for travel and shared projects, we have drafted, redrafted and agreed a partnership agreement, both churches have agreed to form a partnership, seven of us have given time to this visit and many people have put a huge amount of effort into hosting us here in Malawi.
Today we signed the partnership agreement and we have stepped out on a five year journey together (with options to renew). Since my prayer has been answered in ways that have been more special than I could imagine, I cut off my wristband today. I am not intending to cut off my involvement in the partnership and I look forward to the journey ahead. However, that action will be a reminder to me that it is not my journey. It is our journey.
It has been a very special and somewhat emotional day. Self indulgence over!