By Bishop Linda Nicholls
Sometimes we need to hear the stories of others in order to see ourselves more clearly!
That was brought home to me in September as we hosted our guests from the Diocese of Amazonia. During their time in Huron they shared stories of ministry in a diocese so different from ours.
Theirs is a fledgling diocese with millions of square kilometres of jungle; where rivers are the roads; with only six priests and congregations that in some cases do not even have a building. I can only imagine what we must look like through their eyes with our many buildings; more than 140 clergy, mostly stipendiary; a theological college in our midst and resources to share through grants like the Jubilee Grants.
It is easy to categorize Amazonia as ‘poor’ and us as ‘rich’ but that is only true in material goods. I found myself humbled by the stories of their commitment in mission to those on the edges of their society. Dean Claudio Miranda spoke about reaching out to women and indigenous people who live on a landfill at the edge of the huge city of Manaus, training community leaders who will train others. Bishop Marinez Bassotto spoke about serving the indigenous people displaced from Venezuela who are finding their way to Belem and need help.
They do not wait for the material resources to be available. They go – as Christ did – into the midst of those in need and offer what they can − teaching and supporting with love and compassion.
At times we describe ourselves only in terms of what we do not have. We assume scarcity believing there is not enough money or people or resources to do something new. We believe the lie that we need more before we can begin.
In the Diocese of Amazonia the clergy and people serve first and trust God to provide enough. They begin with what is available without waiting for more. Their commitment models the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4) and invites us to do the same.
The Kingdom of God is not about material wealth. It is about how we live with what we have and use it joyfully to tell the Good News of God’s love.
Some of our congregations are very small and may feel as though they cannot possibly engage something new. Yet I have seen the smallest congregations, with few resources, start a youth program; feed the hungry; open their doors to their neighbours; start a bible study and find new partners to share their building.
Some larger congregations feel weighed down by the size of their buildings which constantly need repairs. Yet I have seen them commit to open the doors to neighbours; start community dinners; meet the neighbours and think creatively about alternate forms of ministry.
We can share God’s Good News without one more dollar on the collection plate. We can be welcoming communities even if the roof is leaking! We can create communities of hope. Our abundance is not in our material wealth – our abundance is in our people, their faith and their vision for God’s Kingdom.
I am grateful to the Diocese of Amazonia for being our teacher through the richness of their faith. Thanks be to God!