The diocese celebrated its many and varied overseas mission links at a special event in Bangor Abbey on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November. We revealed the very encouraging results of our parish mission links survey and formally launched two exciting new diocesan partnerships with Multan in Pakistan and Santiago in Chile. These are in addition to our existing link with Maridi Diocese in South Sudan.
Every parish was invited, and representatives from partner mission agencies also joined us so that churches could chat and make connections over refreshments at the end of the evening.
Bishop David led us in a short act of remembrance for Bishop Gordon McMullan before introducing the evening.
He remarked that with its links to Patrick, Bridget and Columbanus, Bangor Abbey was the perfect place to focus on mission – mission which is part of our diocese’s history and is in our DNA. The bishop also emphasised the importance in these days of growing our links with the Anglican Church in the global south.
In the autumn we asked all our parishes and church plants to tell us the extent and nature of their overseas mission links. Diocesan Communications Officer, Annette McGrath, presented the survey findings which, whilst not rigorously scientific, give us an encouraging snapshot of our global connections. The response rate was 89% and the key findings are outlined below.
To bring some of the overseas links to life, Archdeacon Jim Cheshire interviewed representatives from three parishes. Revd Joanne Megarrell spoke about Moira’s longstanding partnership with Bishop Wilson Kamani and Ibba Diocese in South Sudan. The parish has sent two teams to Ibba and there are plans for a trip in 2024. Bishop Wilson visited Moira last summer. The parish has raised funds for several projects including water boreholes, peace and reconciliation work, the training of diocesan evangelists and pastors, and the purchase and repair of a vehicle.
Cathie Hylands from Donaghcloney told us about their Lent Soup Project where parishioners filled empty soup cans to fundraise for a soup kitchen in Lima, Peru. They were able to kit out a new kitchen and buy food supplies as well as establish a mutual prayer link.
Christine Connolly from Shankill Parish described how they support Open Doors financially and prayerfully with home groups each focussing on specific countries from the World Watch list.
We also heard from our Partnership Links Coordinators for Maridi, Multan and Santiago Dioceses. Dean Geoff Wilson updated us on Maridi and announced a team visit to take place in October 2024. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
Denise Wilson introduced the link for Multan in Pakistan and Revd Mark Lennox the link for Santiago, Chile. Both partnerships are in their infancy but a visit to Chile is planned for next year and we hope that Bishop Leo Paul will be able to travel to us from Pakistan.
The gathering was framed with worship, led by Jude Frame, and prayer, with intercessions led by Archdeacon Mark Harvey. It was an uplifting evening and reminded us above all that mission is built on relationships.
Download our Overseas Mission Links Leaflet with the survey results and useful contact details, HERE.
Key Survey Findings
We discovered that 73% – almost three quarters of respondents – have one or more overseas links. The majority of those without a link are new church plants and vacant parishes and all are keen to engage globally now or in the future. Even among churches with existing links, 67% are interested in exploring an additional link.
Parishes were asked about three types of overseas mission links and we found that 32 churches have link(s) with mission partners, 38 with projects and 14 with other churches. These links can be found in 30 countries (not including those where then church is persecuted) and on every continent apart from Antarctica.
When asked how they supported their links, 95% reported financial support; 50% described past or planned visits and 39 % specifically mentioned prayer support.
From building schools and supporting the persecuted church, to resourcing clinics and training pastors, we have all kinds of links with people and projects. These links are facilitated almost exclusively by mission or other organisations, especially CMSI, Crosslinks, Eggshell Cambodia Fields of Life, Open Doors and SAMS, but 20 others were also mentioned.
Finally, our respondents were clear about the benefits of having an overseas mission link.
An overseas mission link really can lift our eyes from ourselves, giving us a global perspective and a bigger vision for the kingdom of God. It gives us the opportunity to build precious relationships across race and class, gaining understanding as we do so. Our faith is built as we witness God at work across the world and we are challenged and humbled in our relative comfort and religious freedom.
An overseas link can encourage generosity within a congregation and allow us to share in acts of mercy. It helps us be obedient to the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. A link can enhance the prayer life of our church and finally, there is an all–age appeal, which allows our youth and children to broaden their horizons and know that they belong to a global church in all its diversity.