Postcard from Jordan: Shining like stars

Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen

21.8.2018 | Global Mission, Mission, Moderator, Overseas Tour

In his fifth ‘postcard’ from Jordan, where he is on his oversea tour, the Moderator, Dr Charles McMullen, describes the close bond he has formed with the people he has ‘shared life with’ in Jordan, and reflects on the call for God’s people to ‘shine like stars in the universe’ as they hold out the word of life, regardless of where in the world they might live.

In the reformed tradition, the relationship between minister and people is very special. As much as I am enjoying my moderatorial year visiting different congregations in Ireland, there have been occasions when I have missed my own people in Bangor West. We have travelled together over these past 19 years through the changing circumstances of life. Deep bonds are formed with families as you hold a baby in your arms, experience the joy of bride and groom exchanging vows, or share in the loss of a loved one. At heart, I am a pastor.

I have preached four times in Amman over these past 10 days, a challenging experience in itself as I have never had to use a translator before! It was my final service on Sunday evening that left me on a complete high, as over the past few days I had shared life in its rawest form with many of these people. Very quickly, I have come to have a very close bond with them, and I will carry them in my heart.

There were warm smiles as I looked down from the pulpit. The experiences were occasionally similar to the average Sunday in West Church. There, for example, was the little baby with the most incredible hair, who I had blessed the previous Sunday by praying the Aaronic Blessing over him. At home, we have a wonderful outreach in Bangor town centre at weekends, while 250 children come to our Easter Mission. Meanwhile, dotted around this congregation in Jordan were people from different countries helping out in some of the most visionary and imaginative outreach I had ever experienced.

As I saw the faces, I looked at the destitute refugee mother and her daughter, who had somehow made a contribution to the offering a little earlier in the service. Tales of surviving ISIS and of persecution. Things that I do not want to commit to paper that are too graphic and sensitive to share, but which underline sacrifice.

Such adversity and yet such joy in the Arabic praise. As I came to speak, I felt the Lord prompting me to tell my brothers and sisters in Christ that they were to be children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, shining like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life (Philippians 2). Come to think of it, that’s true of God’s people everywhere in the world, in Bangor or Amman.

Dr McMullen is minister of West Church Bangor and was selected as moderator-designate in February 2018 and officially elected and installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the General Assembly on 4 June. You can read his previous ‘postcards’ here, and news about his overseas visit here. You can also follow his travels on Twitter at @pcimoderator hashtag #pcioverseastour.

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