Over the last couple of days we have been helping in the hospital in the morning and then in the afternoon we have been driving for an hour out of the town to a small village. It is a village that two American missionaries went to in the 19th century and most of the Dhalits or untouchables became Christians. There is a small church there built in 1932 and the village is where Dr Moses Khartoum,s mother grew up.
Moses is the founder of CBHP and this village is a significant place as the missionaries also set up a school that Dhalits could go to and this enabled his mother and father to be educated and become an accountant and doctor respectively. It also allowed Moses to get an education. The photos show the village and church and our clinic in the church. As we were in a church and in this village we were able to pray for healing as well as do what we could to help medically.
Tomorrow we will go back to the village probably for the last time as we will go to others next week.
The time for outreach to Buldhana had arrived and on the 11th of November I set off from Dumfries and arrived in Mumbai around 19:30 the next day. I met up with the rest of the team in Mumbai and flew 40 minutes inland to Aurangabad, from here it was a three hour car journey to our destination of Buldhana.
Buldhana is a large town on the top of a hill surrounded by bush inhabited by bears and tigers. The town has many hospitals run by both the state and private individuals and we planned be working in these hospitals as well as providing mobile primary health clinics in the surrounding villages. We planned to be undertaking this work in partnership with community-based health project (CBHP) which is a voluntary organisation that has been providing and teaching community-based care in the local villages for the last eight years.
Some of you may have noticed that there have been one or two near misses recently, particularly with visiting Clergy, who have either tripped over the middle section of the altar rail kneeler, or who have stood on it, and found it not to be a stable surface to stand on (as we know, it’s not meant to be, anyway).
There is not a simple solution. The kneeler is in 3 sections and the middle section is longer than the opening when the central part of the rail is lifted. Adaptation to make just the central section of the kneeler removable would still result in something that is too heavy for one person to lift and would create difficulties with where to put it, when removed.
The Vestry has considered a number of options and none is straightforward. Having a thinner central section of kneeler would make things look uneven from the rest of the church, would be more difficult for people to kneel down to, and get up from, would make the servers have to bend over more (already a bad enough problem as things are) and would still not solve the problem of the weight, or the storage. Replacing the whole thing with carpet would not provide sufficient cushion for people’s joints, might just create a new trip hazard…and so on.
Nonetheless we have to do something about this. Churches are not subject to quite the same Health & Safety régime as other public buildings; but we must minimise the risks as much as we can. To that end, the Vestry proposes trialling various alternatives over the next few months. The best solution we have come up with so far would be to remove the central section of the kneeler altogether. Those who particularly wish to kneel would use the side sections, where there would still be kneelers; those in the middle would stand. A number of people choose to stand, anyway, but this arrangement would allow for either. It might be a bit untidy to begin with, but no doubt we could adapt. If you encounter this happening in the next few weeks, please remember it’s an experiment only and there will be proper consultation before we make any permanent change. We are already in discussion with the Dean, to ensure that we observe the Church’s rules about alterations. And if you think what’s proposed is a silly idea – do you have a better alternative to suggest? Talk to a Vestry member, or contact the Rector (rector AT stjohnsdumfries DOT org / 01387 254126) or Vestry Secretary (secretary AT stjohnsdumfries DOT org / 07754 596140) if you have suggestions.
AS I write, the clocks have recently gone back, we’re in to December and things are getting darker. People now talk of light deprivation as a medical condition and it does seem that some of us are susceptible to all of that.
But, at this time of the year, there’s a lot of extra light around. Crowds of people out shopping and enjoying themselves among the brightly lit streets, Christmas lights and Christmas attractions. And, here in Glasgow, down at the St Enoch Centre, the wooden booths of the Christmas market, gluwein, bratwurst and those wonderful German Christmas robins, like the one I bought a couple of years ago, on sale once more. Wet, grey, dark there of course too, but surrounded by light, colour, life, fun.
It’s easy enough, it’s fatally easy enough, for Christian people like us, to dismiss all of this as so much tinselly trivia, utterly unrelated to what we like to call the “true meaning of
Christmas”. Well, if you have thoughts like that, let me try to persuade you this Christmastide to give them up, once and for all.
People like us who will gather at the Christmas Eucharist to welcome the true light who lightens everyone coming into the world, have no business being sniffy about people’s desire at a dark time of the year to enjoy light and warmth and being together in that light and warmth. We should have the imagination to sense that, however vaguely, this is a very natural, very human, and so ultimately God-given reaching out for something better that lies beyond the often dark and grim realities of the world we live in – and, God knows, they are dark enough.
So, for us, far from being nowhere near the true meaning of Christmas, the Christmas lights in streets, on countless trees, the reindeers and snowmen plastered all over houses or wherever, should point us towards another light. And here’s the difference – sometime in January all the Christmas and seasonal lights and all the Christmas and seasonal attractions will disappear, put away for another year. Like many people I hate taking my own lights and cards and tree down – the house looks so bare – but I ought to remember that the light we have been celebrating in the 12 days of Christmas shines all the year round and can never be taken away or extinguished.
One of the simplest and yet most powerful testimonies I ever heard to this great hope of ours was offered by one of my curates when I was Rector of St Ninian’s in Pollokshields on the south side of Glasgow. He was taking some children round that wonderful church and they noticed the white light burning above the altar of the side chapel, where the sacrament of consecrated bread and wine was kept. Why was that light burning away there? Well, he said, it is there to remind us that Jesus, the light of the world, is always with us so that, even if we came into this big church in the dark we needn’t be afraid because Jesus is here, Jesus is with us, the light still burns.
So, this coming Christmastide let’s allow ourselves to be pointed once again towards that single, world-changing, all-important truth, the Light of the World. He came into the world all those years ago looking for us and He comes into our midst this Christmas on the same quest, to embrace us with joy and wonder so that we may do the very same to Him.