7 January – 6 April 2010
As part of a three month sabbatical comprising, Rest, Research and Writing, my wife Anita and I spent one month in Singapore and China. This was the ‘Research’ component. The time was stimulating, rewarding and also challenging.
In Singapore, I ministered at St Andrew’s Cathedral on two Sundays as well as at a well attended Prayer Conference. St Andrew’s is an amazing Church community with 14 services on a Sunday in different languages and around 3,000 people attending. There is a careful Christian Education programme incorporating all training events. And there is a strong and coherent Missionary Work among the Poor. We felt stimulated to consider afresh how our own Church; St Aldates, Oxford which has around 1,000 people attending, might develop in the light of all we saw at St Andrews. This seemed especially pertinent as there are similarities in terms of the busy city centre situation, and effective training of the sorts of numbers of people we might hope to see reached regularly somewhere in the future of St Aldates. Throughout our visit, the Dean and staff were extremely hospitable and kind. The intervening week was spent at Trinity Theological College researching for a book I am in the process of completing on ‘Greater Love’.
We travelled on from Singapore to China and spent 2 weeks in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan and Xi’an. Each of these cities is home to over 15 million people. In each we met Christians from the ‘underground church’. We listened to their leaders, made friends, visited some of their hidden facilities and marvelled at their fortitude. We taught at several different seminars and Sunday events. Our chief impression was of a people full of faith but who have endured suffering, and at times we glimpsed their weariness. We were beneficiaries of their generous welcome and contagious cheerfulness. We felt inspired by some of the training initiatives and this has helped as we have gone on to consider our own programs to reach mainland Europe with the love of God.
Our final week in Asia was spent in Hong Kong where we visited Jackie Pullinger OBE and had a short time to see the work she is doing there among the drug addicts. Her vision to reach out to the least, the lost and the broken was a timely reminder of how our precious Lord came to meet the needs of just such people and our hearts were quickened that outreach to the marginalised might remain a priority in our own situation. We also had the opportunity to look into some family connections in the city as an ancestor of mine was a Surveyor General for Hong Kong, it was good to been able to see where his life’s work had taken him and see buildings he worked on still standing.
We returned for a month of writing in Wales, full of gratitude to God for an extraordinary, stimulating, enriching ‘Sabbatical Journey’.
Revd Charlie Cleverly
(Written 5 May 2010)