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The Annual Christian Aid Week service, held for the first time at St Richard’s, was enlivened by music from Mozambique – one nation of many self-helped by donations and materials from Britain.
Readers from neighbouring churches read messages of thanks and need from Christian Aid people in Mozambique, Congo and India.
The organiser this year was Gillian Casey, of St Richard’s, on the right of the picture):
"The Christian Aid committee consists of volunteers from most of the city's churches and one or two from surrounding villages. We meet about six times a year to discuss fundraising in individual churches and in Chichester as a whole. The main fundraising thrust occurs in May, beginning with an ecumenical service, held this year at St. Richard's, led by Father Kieron with the Bishop of Chichester, who preached the sermon."
(Bishop John Hind:)
...we do our best to support those in need throughout the world. Well, of course, all, everywhere in the world, are in need. But there is a particular responsibility on Christians, who, with others who share this aspect if not the whole of our faith, have a vision that human dignity is not only because God gives it to us but above all because we bear his image and are called to share his life - or even, as St Peter puts it, "to share his nature".
...our behaviour towards the alien, the immigrant, the stranger, the former slave must be determined by the way God has behaved towards us.
...The prosperity of a particular country, the advantages of a particular political or economic system are not the point. What is the point is that every human being should have the best possible opportunity to enjoy the fruits of this life to learn and to be able to enjoy the next, where no distinctions of wealth, culture, advantage or anything else will count, but only the grace and above all the life of God himself.
Read the full text of the Bishop's sermon here.
(Gillian continues) "This was a joyful event and the first time since I've been our rep that so many from St Richard's have attended this service, which gives us an opportunity to pray and reflect together with our fellow Christians in the city. It also provides inspiration and encouragement to all the volunteers who take part in the house-to-house collection during the following few days. Last year St Richard's volunteers collected £1,021.15, contributing to the grand total for Chichester of £15,162. There are other fundraising events throughout the year to add to this sum. Christian Aid is also a member of the Trade Justice Movement, a growing group of churches and agencies campaigning together for fundamental change to the unjust rules and institutions governing international trade."
By coincidence, St Richard’s Pastoral Planning Group member student Delia Floyd has spent six months of her gap year in India, close to an area devastated by the tsunami. She was based in an orphanage. Some children came newly from the inundated villages.
Delia was sent to Chennai by Changing World and worked in a Catholic orphanage headed by a local hero, Father Jesu.
When the tsunami struck, Delia was asked to help the villagers. At her request, parishioners at St Richard’s collected £521 on top of other donations for tsunami relief. Fr Kieron sent this direct to Fr Jesu. So the funds were swiftly given to the needy – unlike much relief which has been held up by red tape.
Delia was proud to attend the presentation of new nets for the fishermen who could not live without their harvest from the sea.
New boats arrived – Delia joined celebrations on the beach where the flood swept in just six months ago.
For much of the time, Delia helped in the orphanage – cheerful youngsters with a sense of fun and new hope – despite the loss of their parents. They learn to look after themselves, living a Christian community.
In one of her many -mails to Helen, her mother, Delia wrote: "There’s so much poverty - I know I must study hard at uni to then try and do something for the world. It really humbles you seeing these things, though."
Delia returns to Chichester in June. In the Autumn she will study at the London School of Economics. One of her last visits in India will be to the Taj Mahal.