Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shalom Report:-- 4th Quarter 2008

In summary: we consolidated the Shalom network based at Drew and resourced Shalom conferences and sites nationally; built a national Shalom team comprised of staff, interns, and consultants; organized regional and conference Shalom trainings; equipped conference coordinators to equip their local Shalom sites; identified and nurtured new national training partner; found new ways to communicate and promote the Shalom brand of community development; produced Fall Nexus newsletter; continued planning process and trajectory work with Duncan Associates; and found seed funding for two new sites.

Building the Team:

• Attended monthly meetings with staff at GBGM as our major national partner of Shalom at Drew, and attended their national leadership training conference in Phoenix focused on online presence and organizational development. Met with the Advance Office staff and Assistant General Secretary for communications to coordinate Shalom branding and promotion. Met with Health and Welfare staff of Methodist Healthcare ministries regarding a national training partnership.

• Worked with national trainers—Will Dent and J-P Duncan—on enhancing the training and systematizing the process from information meeting to application to training to evaluation.

• Recruited MDIV students, Annie Allen and Mike Oliver, to continue their summer internships as national site coordinators.

• Recruited Jessica Moore as GBGM liaison and communications consultant

• Supported Rev. Tanya Bennett, Director of Religious Life at Drew University and member of National Shalom Committee, in giving leadership to our Shalom presence in Newark through the Newark Interfaith Coalition and the newly formed mentoring program—Nine Strong Women.

• Continued to supervise CLA student, Christian Ciobanu, a political science major, in doing a major research project on Shalom initiatives in Zimbabwe and Ghana, offering relational support to these African-based Shalom zones, and promote the work through Shalom coffee sales.

• Held first information meeting to recruit new Drew students for next year’s summer internship program, and announced availability of summer interns for specific site placements.

Organizing the Training

On January 1, 2008, 78 Communities of Shalom found a new home base at Drew Theological School. Since then, we’ve trained, reactivated and added 14 new sites for a total of 92 in the USA and Africa, including Shalom zones in Baltimore, Richmond, VA, and Western North Carolina. New Training began on native reservations in the Dakotas Conference and is scheduled to begin in Mississippi Conference in January (see attached Site Update).

Hosted Bishop Felton May as the keynote speaker at Drew’s annual Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures in October during which he delivered an impassioned lecture on the radical and prophetic spirit of Shalom, especially in the early days of the movement.

Offered Accelerated Training and consulting in Madison (May) and Equipping for Shalom training in Memphis (Oct) for 25 Regional Shalom Coordinators with oversight of Shalom ministry in their Annual Conferences. The Madison event was facilitated by our national trainers, Will Dent and J-P Duncan. The Memphis event was hosted by Dr. Gary Gunderson, Senior VP of Methodist Healthcare, and his staff who also offered units of the training. Methodist Healthcare has agreed to become a training partner of Shalom, and has assigned program consultant, Dr. Fred Smith, to work with me on a proposal.

Personally, I’ve mentored eight student interns at Drew and visited 23 Shalom ministry teams in the field this year (see Site Update).

Communicating the Message

• Worked with Drew Publications Office on the Communities of Shalom logo, dove icon, and informational brochure. Also worked with Communications Consultant, Jessica Moore, on the Fall ShalomNexus newsletter.

• Worked with Mike Oliver to continue the development of the Shalom websites: www.communitiesofshalom.org ) and www.shalomNexus.org I continue using my personal blog site to include Shalom reflections http://michael-christensen.blogspot.com/search/label/shalom

• Worked with Dean’s Office and Development on implementing the Jessie Ball duPont Prophetic Leaders initiative. This program not only allows us to pay ministry stipends to our summer Shalom interns, but also provides funds to bring prophetic leaders to campus for a one-week teaching residency.

• Presented “Social Conflict and Communities of Shalom”, Presidential Leadership Summit on Conflict Resolution at Bacone College (Oct)

• Presented “Theology and Practice of Shalom” Seminar at the School of Officer Training, Salvation Army (Nov)

• Taught “Urban Anthropology: Theology and Practice of Shalom” DMIN course at New Brunswick Theological Seminary (Dec)

• Presented “Social Conflict and Communities of Shalom” PowerPoint lecture at the Aquinas Seminar at Drew (Oct) and to the staff of the Drew Development Office (Dec).

• Designed a new course on “Prophetic Leadership in Congregation and Community” to teach in Spring Semester in conjunction with Prophetic Leaders in Residence program at Drew.

Shabbat Shalom



'Shabbat Shalom'שבת-שלום

"Shabbath"-שבת is the Hebrew word for "Sabbath." Saturday, "Shalom"-שלום means peace, welfare, health and wholensess. Shalom is also a greeting that means both "hello" and "goodbye," similar to the Hawaiian "Aloha" and the Indian "Namaste". Hence, "Shabbath shalom" is a greeting for the sabbath Saturday. Thus the person saying "Shabbat shalom" is wishing you a good and peaceful Sabbath filled with health and wholeness.

Communities of Shalom is a multicultural, interfaith network of community development sites in the USA and Africa committed to waging peace and welfare in their particular communities and neighborhoods. Initiated by the United Methodist Church, Communities of Shalom is somewhat of a movement--a grassroots movement that aligns assets and mobilizes resources, not a program that depletes funds and requires a bail out. Shalom offers hope for community transformation, not despair that things will get worse before they get better. Let us individually and corporately trust in the truth of the season-that if God is with us, who and what can be against us, as we wage peace in the world.

On January 1, 2009, Drew University will complete its first year as the new home base for Communities of Shalom. Last January 1, 2008, 78 Shalom sites migrated to Drew from the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Since then, we've equipped and added 14 new sites through training and reactivation for a total of 92 in the USA and Africa. Much good has occurred this year and there is momentum for a greater work next year.

If you would like a copy of the Fall 2008 ShalomNexus newsletter, an E-version is available on our website: http://communitiesofshalom.org/Nexus_Fall08.pdf

My fourth quarter Report as National Director of Communities of Shalom is available on our social networking site: www.shalomnexus.org

Stay tuned for more shalom updates in 2009.

And may God grant you shalom!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let the Work of Christmas Begin

Howard Thurman was a mystic poet, pastor, theologian, and civil rights leader who founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, California. It was the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman

Here's one of his poems:

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

by Howard Thurman

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hope Home Orphan Care Report for November



My Friends: I beg you to remember the poor during this season of sharing. We are in the midst of a global recession that affects not only the USA but the world, and especially developing countries. I left my heart, as you know, in Malawi among the one million AIDS orphans and abandoned and vulnerable children and youth who suffer from food shortages and the ravages of AIDS (not just a dip in their retirement funds).

We are now caring for 80+ orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children and youth (OVC) at Mzuzu United Methodist Church--in a wood and thatch sanctuary that holds about 100 people on Sunday and throughout the week.

Please join me in giving thanks for the fact that these kids are still alive and well, thanks to so many of you who continue to send a gift from time to time to WorldHope Corps, Inc. to sponsor a kid or help with the general need. Together, we are feeding 60-90 kids every day, supplying warm blankets during the rainy season, helping with some medical needs, and putting youth without parents or means through secondary school. Some of you have sponsored specific kids with your monthly donations. Others have sent in periodic generous gifts. Perhaps others will consider a year end gift this month, despite the 'crisis' in our own economy.

I plan to wire more funds to the church in Mzuzu before Christmas. Let me know if you want me to include your gift as well.

What follows is the most recent Report from Copeland and the Mzuzu United Methodist Church that cares for these kids. He also send some photos. Scroll down for background information on our Malawi Mission work.

Again, I thank you for your interest and support! mjc



THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH-MZUZU HOPE HOMES AND HOPE SCHOLARSHIP
November 2008 REPORT

We had Mk 139000.00 devoted to our hope homes and hope scholarship account in November 2008 and we present the subsequent data as our expenditure report.

Food Mk 83100:00

School transport (students) Mk 2200:00

Pens for exams (students) Mk 800:00

Internet Mk 3088:00

Picnic- (OVC) Mk 26000:00

Transport costs Mk 7260:00

Blankets Mk6500.00

Admin costs Mk 15000.00

Sundry costs Mk 4600:00

TOTAL EXPENDITURE MK 148, 548.00

We witnessed an exciting picnic on 29 November 2008 as the children mingled over snacks and juice for lunch and went out for recreation. This was also blended with bible quiz competition and the girl standing next to the pastor is TAPIWA (11 years old) and she scored the best at the quiz competition. The hope homes group exudes great enthusiasm in the learning the Word of God and we ask you that to keep them in your prayers so that God can engrave his name on their hearts for salvation.

NB: Our picnic expenditure went up because we had an influx of OVC to the picnic as can be seen from picture 047.

Thanks to world hope corps.

Copeland

P.S. I have inserted 6 pictures showing a heap of corn, picnic meal, best girl in the bible quiz competition, etc. Thanks in advance for any help you are able to provide for our OVC Christmas events.





Sunday, December 14, 2008

Muslim Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha)



I had never gone to such a feast before, but when Levent invited my family and me to join his Muslim community and interfaith friends to their Feast Day at the end of the holy season of Eid, in commemoration of father Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son (Ishmael), I responded with enthusiasm.

Levent Koç, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Interfaith Dialog Center in New Jersey, and his organization has sponsored interfaith events at Drew and elsewhere, and takes people on cross-cultural trips to Turkey. In so doing, this progressive Muslim community helps us find common ground among the three Abrahamic religions in the spirit of shalom/salaam/peace.

About 75 people of good faith gathered in Carlstadt for the Feast of Sacrifice. Together, we shared in a common meal and gave thanks for the Lord’s provision of a ‘ram in the thicket’ as a substitutionary sacrifice instead of Abraham’s son—the sacred story of how the ancient people of God learned that human sacrifice is not required, but rather faithfulness to the will of God.

The guest speaker for the Feast was a United Methodist minister--Rev. Pat Bruger, a former student of mine from Drew and Executive Director, CUMAC Food Program in Paterson (originally a shalom zone). Pat shared about how thousands of low-income families in northern New Jersey count on this regional Food Pantry for supplemental food from time to time; and how they were forced to close their doors in during the current economic crisis; until the Interfaith Dialog Center community heard about the need and decided to share their food and funds with her organization. It was an inspiring story of how Muslims and Christians not only can get along, but collaborate on feeding the hungry in the name of peace.

After we enjoyed a delicious, traditional Turkish meat dish, dessert, raffle and dancing, Levent shared about the deeper meaning of the Feast:

“One of the two main festivals of the Muslim calendar is the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), which marks the end of the Hajj (the holy pilgrimage). It is a festival with many social aspects: the pilgrimage, the sacrifice of an animal, remembering and helping the poor, and the reunion of visiting relatives, friends, and neighbors. In the tradition of Abraham's great act of faith many centuries ago, millions of Muslims prepare to demonstrate their own submission to God by sacrificing an animal. Muslims commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son after God's order, as well as God's mercy in sparing his son and replacing him with a ram.

At the end of the pilgrimage, each Muslim sacrifices an animal. The meat is then distributed to those in need all over the world. The feast is a time for thanking God for His blessings and for giving to the less fortunate, regardless of their religion, race and color. The Qur'an describes Abraham (peace be upon him) as follows:

"Surely Abraham was an example, obedient to God, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous." (Qur'an 16:120-121)

And "We made him (Abraham) pure in this world and in the hereafter; he is most surely among the righteous. When his Lord said to him: 'Submit,' he said: 'I submit myself to the Lord of the Worlds.” (Qur'an 2:130-131)

It is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for our sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations: "It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God; it is your piety that reaches Him" (Qur'an 22:37)

The symbolism is in the attitude: a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each of us makes small sacrifices by giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow God's commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that our Lord desires from us.

Next year, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice will coincide with Thanksgiving. So let us join together next year for an even bigger Feast."