Saturday, 20 February 2010

John Monaghan reflects on a highlight of the GAT trip: Leading Worship

As vain as it sounds - a worship leader's highlight being the worship – I was truly honoured to be swept along with a tide of some of the most exuberant, expressive and heart felt corporate worship that I have ever encountered. It was most certainly ticking the all boxes of loving and praising God with ‘heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 12)’.

One of my concerns going on this trip was that I would not have any time to exercise. However, little did we realise that corporate sung worship in Uganda involves more than just moving one’s jaw bone.

Church servicePicture the scene – it’s Sunday morning 10.30am. The GAT team arrive at a church - the congregation are already in full swing and we’re expected…

It’s Pastor Paul’s church and as his honoured guests we have been given pride of place at the front with our very own table decorated with flowers (I was hoping to sneak in the back unnoticed).

Just before we prepare to sit at the table, I am cornered (metaphorically) by Pastor Paul and kindly requested to return to the van to get my guitar and I graciously walk back to the van to carry said instrument back into the church (no time for band rehearsals here!).

Exuberant worship We join with the rest of the congregation and are led by the worship group in singing and praise and adoration. I’m also intrigued by the ‘tag-team’ worship that’s going on… the musicians are to the left of the stage, the ‘worship-leaders’ are all female singers, beautifully dressed along the centre of the stage. I stress the fact that there were ‘worship-leaders’ because they would take it in turns to lead a few songs each and then pass the baton (the ‘microphone’) and continue in seamless worship. No music, no sheets, no projectors and yet 100% participation!

The songs we sing are beautifully simple and meaningfully repetitive, in part because it’s much easier to remember the words that way, but also I think they speak straight from the heart. One song comes to mind ‘Things (are) already better when the Lord is on the throne…’. I get a sense as we sing these simple words that people are reminding themselves that they are a part of God’s salvation story and growing in the living hope that they have in their personal faith with Jesus. ‘Things (are) already better…’ , Jesus is making a difference to these people in their everyday lives and they are joining together on a Sunday to say thank you. I sense their warm welcome, I already feel a connection with these people, I want to call them my brothers and sisters. There is a strong feeling of deep fellowship here. I sense I’m in the midst of an ‘Acts 2’ community whose members depend on each other for physical, emotional and spiritual health. I feel moved by God’s love in the room and suddenly I look down and my feet are moving to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Blame it on the boogie’ (I just can’t control my feet…). I don’t want this to end.

The moment comes and I’m asked to come and lead the church in a few songs. No time to tune up. A member of the congregation comes up and acts as my mic-stand. My mind is racing to remember the few Luganda songs (their native dialect) that I learned from a CD given to me by Pastor Paul previously. Quick silent prayer. I glance at the exits of the church in case I’m mobbed by angry parishioners. IJohn Leads worship at Pastor Paul's church mouth over to the musicians (looking at me in a kind and sympathetic way) that I’m playing in the key of ‘G’.

Off we go!

I’ve never led worship in another language. First line of first verse over and I see the expressions of the congregations faces light up – ‘jackpot’! - the place erupts and I’m feeling so glad that I drove my wife half-mad by listening to these Luganda songs over and over in our kitchen. I start to appreciate the benefits of having a moving mic-stand (I think his name was Andrew) as I’m able to dance and feel a little like King David dancing before the Lord (although more modestly dressed than a single linen ephod). We all enjoy a taste of the royal banquet that is yet to come. More of that back home Lord!

Gill Headington writes about her Highlights

One of my highlights was connecting with the people that we met, especially the women. Di and I spent a lot of time with several lovely Di with Ugandan teamladies at the Alpha training and they were all very warm gracious people  who are very faithful in spite of their difficult lives.

I was quite apprehensive on the visits to the “Center for Evangelism” (CFE) because I had expected to see much suffering.  We met many women who were widowed with four or five children, and many of them were HIV positive.

The village gathering They had been helped by CFE in many ways, and what I saw were empowered, confident women who were now able to feed their children and who were part of a close community, and part of God’s family.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Global Alpha Training Visit to Iganga in January 2010

Who Went?

Leaving Heathrow Di Rowlandson, John Monaghan, Simon Dust ( Vicar from St Andrews, High Wycombe ) Gill Headington, Tony Robinson and Paul Sillett.

Why did we go?

  1. To help train seventy six church leaders from the region of Iganga on how to run an Alpha course. This was a challenge as they had not yet attended an Alpha course.
  2. To visit some of the Love Africa projects from the Centre for Evangelism in Iganga that some of these leaders are working with.

What did we do?

Church service We were hosted by Pastor Paul Lubale the leader of the Centre for Evangelism who organised the training conference with the Alpha Uganda team. He visited St James in November when he came to our three Alpha courses to understand better how Alpha works.

It was a joy to worship in his church and the congregation loved theJohn singing lin Lucanda songs John had learnt to sing in their language Lucanda.

The three day conference was attended by church leaders from the Centre for Evangelism and many different denominations in the region of Iganga. It covered practical subjects The conference centre such as What is Alpha ? How to lead a small group, How to give the talks on Alpha but also five demonstration sessions from the Alpha course so that the delegates could experience Alpha. Each of the team helped to coach a small group of delegates over the conference on how to facilitate the small groups. It was encouraging to see them grow in confidence with this new skill. Delegates queuing for lunch Towards the end of the conference the Alpha Uganda team helped the delegates begin to think through an action plan for how they were going to start running Alpha in their area. They are running a follow up training event in March to continue to develop this.

We pray that God will continue to water the seeds that were sown and trust that they will continue to bear fruit.

We spent two days visiting some of the projects supported by Love Growing food from seed Africa in this area. It was encouraging to hear some of the ways that this help is making a difference. We heard from widows who had been trained to grow their own food and given seeds so that now they had enough food for their communities and could begin to sell some of their produce and start putting money in the bank.

It was moving to hear from young men in the child-headed household projects who had looked after their younger siblings from the age of twelve and were now in secondary education and hoping to become teachers.  We thank God for the privilege of working in partnership with these brothers and sisters in Christ from the Centre for Evangelism to help bring the Good News of Jesus to these communities in Iganga.

Group in Iganga