‘Be present to the peoples of today’
Sister Ruth Percival, from England, trained as a nurse-midwife and served for many years in Tanzania. She is now based at our house in Ealing, London. As part of the Sisters’ Mission Committee she raises awareness about mission in parishes around the country. She told us about one visit that was particularly life-changing.
‘Mission awareness is an opportunity to emphasise that we all share in the missionary life of the Church. We appreciate being able to thank people for the great support they have given us.
‘One weekend I travelled to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire. When I first discussed the arrangements on the phone, Father said that they had been affected by the floods of December 2015 but all should be well by the end of July this year.
‘When I arrived at the church it looked like a building site, which it was. I started to think I was in the wrong place but there was a big banner saying: “We are open.” For what? I wondered.
‘The parish priest and people began to arrive for Mass and welcomed me very warmly. I now heard more about their experience of the flood. I was shocked to learn that the priest had to be rescued by the emergency services after a wall of water came through his house.
‘The amount of devastation in the church was still evident. This lovely building originally had a stone wall, representing a wall in a field, as a background in the sanctuary. Behind the altar had been a wall hanging of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Now there were heavy plastic barriers across the altar wall, under re-construction. The wall hanging, thankfully rescued, was back in place.
‘Richard Constantine, who was part of the salvage team, said, “Since the flooding we have celebrated outdoors, in churches loaned to us by our Methodist brothers and sisters, and now we share what we have of our church with the equally devastated Anglican community.”
Richard kindly provided the photographs of the church. Commenting on the one showing the barriers in place he said, ‘When I saw this photograph I thought: “The only barriers we make to Christ are ones we place there ourselves. For Christ there are no barriers through the Eucharist.”
We are not so different.
Sister Ruth reflected, ‘This beautiful community thanked me for coming, for sharing news of our Sisters, and assuring me of their prayers. They gave so generously that I was deeply humbled. I was reminded of when I lived in Maasailand in Tanzania. There was very little food and the young men had gone off with the cows to look for grass.
‘We gathered for Mass under an Acacia tree and were to have a collection for Refugee Sunday. Our senior elder, Lambarnat, stood up and asked that we give as generously as possible for the poor refugees.
‘He said, “We are all hungry and are not eating every day but God has blessed us.
We are at home with each other and this hunger will pass.”’