Thursday, 18 April 2024

Visit to the South Asia Mission Province in January 2024

First Synod of the South Asia Mission Province

Following the resolution at Unity Synod in September 2023 that South Asia should become a Mission Province, plans began for them to hold their very first Synod. On 11th January Sr Jane Carter, Chair of the BMB (British Mission Board), Sr Roberta Hoey, Chair of the Unity Board and Br Joachim Kreusel, Bishop of the Unity, set off for New Delhi where preparations were underway. On arrival we were met by the choking pollution. If you consider that where you might live in the UK the air quality range may be in the region of 0-5, in Delhi it is on average 500! It is like a constant fog that smells like nicotine. However, Delhi was the most central area to hold a meeting with 28 ministers and delegates travelling from the four regions of Ladakh, Central, Northeast India (NEI) and Nepal.

We met and stayed at the YMCA in New Delhi near Connaught Place, a busy area for commerce, finance and retail. Beginning on Saturday 13th January over four days the meetings were chaired by Br Shanti Pradhan from Nepal aided by Vice-Chair Br Joseph Kundan from Rajpur. All regions and congregations were represented with the exception of the Leh congregation. Sr Jane led the Synod opening service and as we were still in the season of Epiphany we explored the visit of the Magi, in Luke's gospel, and how they were changed by their encounter with the infant Christ; reflecting that the experience of Synod may indeed find us challenged and changed and we might return home to our regions 'by another road'.

As this was the delegates first experience of a Synod there was much explanation required on the procedures and protocols in order that the meeting ran smoothly. How to present reports and proposals, how to conduct a debate and indeed how to vote were all explained and practiced. Reports were received from the BMB and the Interim Provincial Board (IPB), elected at the Conference in January 2023. Members of the IPB formed part of the clerking team. The main business of Synod was to come to a consensus on the draft Book of Order which the IPB had been working on over the past year (at no less than 30 meetings over 12 months) and to elect a Provincial Board. A number of resolutions were carried to revise the text to enable the draft Book of Order to be accepted as a working document. It was acknowledged that the Book of Order might never be deemed complete; it is a living, working document, subject to change and revision, and this was understood.

On the Sunday morning we took a break from the meetings to attend worship at the YWCA, a short walk from our venue, where the Delhi Fellowship meet for their worship. Br Bir (Rajpur) led the worship group with excellent music and the singing was wonderful. Brs Levi and Ebenezer (New Delhi) led worship, Sr Vani Pradhan (Nepal) brought the message and Br Joachim presided at the Holy Communion Service assisted by Sr Vani and Brs Levi and Ebenezer. The hospitality was warm as was the tea afterwards and it was a lovely opportunity to meet members of the fellowship.

On Tuesday, the final day, the elections began for the new Provincial Board. Sr Roberta took charge in directing proceedings (because by this time Sr Jane had completely lost her voice!) and over the course of the day the following were elected for 4-year and 2-year terms to allow continuity upon the next round of elections at the next Synod:

Br Shanti Pradhan (Nepal) - Chair
Br Ebenezer Gangmei (Central) - Vice-Chair
Br Nathaniel Gengmai (NEI)
Br Darshan Lama (Central)
Br Samson Thangpa (Ladakh)
Br Joshua Pradhan (Nepal)
Br Danish (Ladakh)
Br Titus Gangmei (NEI) - Reserve

Thanks were expressed to the retiring Interim Provincial Board for their work in the lead up to this historic meeting and special thanks were given to Br Thsespal Kundan for his leadership and expertise in preparing the Book of Order to the point where it could be used as the basis for future polity.

Br Joachim led Synod with a closing act of worship thinking about new horizons and a new heaven and a new earth and ended with a Cup of Covenant.

It was a great time of fellowship with many shared stories over mealtimes and we lost count of the number of cups of tea consumed. We continue to hold the new Provincial Board in our prayers as they meet to discern the way forward for the South Asia Mission Province. The BMB will continue to work closely with the South Asia PEC as they consider the processes necessary to enable the smooth running of a Province.

Ordination in Assam

After the Synod the BMB members travelled to Northeast India to Binnakandi in Assam where preparations were being made for another historic event, the ordination of Sr Suaihiamlu Pamai, as a deacon in the Moravian Church, the first woman in India. Sr Suaihiamlu is the wife of Br Jacob Gangmei, a member of the team ministry of Binnakandi, Haflong and Latingkhal. There is always a warm welcome in Binnakandi and this was no exception. During the month of January, the ministers were visiting every household in the village for prayer. We joined on three evenings where we experienced singing, a message and a time of open, extempore prayer following by tea (well we were in Assam!) with family and friends in each home.

On the Saturday the ordination service was held with a full church including representatives from the region's three congregations and the Silchar Fellowship, friends and family. Br Joachim and Sr Jane preached, both with very personal messages for Sr Suaihaimlu. A feast was shared afterwards, and it was a day of joy and celebration.

In the evening the BMB met with members of all three church committees for a broad discussion about the ministry in Northeast India.

Sunday worship was early at 7am, another joyful experience as Sr Suaihiamlu presided at her first Holy Communion. The BMB delegates left later that morning to start the journey home. We travelled to the airport in Silchar via the tea plantations, another sign of a country and region that is rich in resources, beautiful landscapes, poverty and wealth hand in hand and a population with a diversity of faith and belief. We were grateful for our time with our sisters and brothers of South Asia and pray that they continue to be richly blessed in their ministry as they serve our Chief Elder.

Sr Jane Carter
Chair, British Mission Board (BMB)

 

The new South Asia Provincial Board with the BMB: Sr Jane Carter, Br Joshua Pradhan, Br Ebenezer Gangmei, Sr Roberta Hoey, Br Joachim Kreusel, Br Darshan Lama, Br Shanti Pradhan, Br Danish, Br Samson Thangpa (Br Nathaniel Gengmai not present)

Team Ministry: Br Dimchui Rongmei, Br Nathaniel Gengmei, Br Jacob Gangmei, Sr Suaihiamlu Pamai

South Asia Mission Province Synod – The delegates

Evening Prayers

Ordination: Br Joachim Kreusel, Sr Roberta Hoey and Sr Suaihiamlu Pamai

Br Jacob Gangmei and Sr Suaihiamlu preside at Holy Communion.

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