Showcasing a city of harmony

2011-07-20 00:00

DURBAN is a melting pot of cultures and faiths, and the local organising committee for the 20th World Methodist Conference is determined to show delegates from around the world how the city’s different communities work together in harmony.

It’s only the second time that the conference has been staged in Africa — the first one took place in Kenya.

One of the men tasked with making the conference go off without a hitch is Athlone Park Methodist Church Minister, Reverend Graham Goodwin.

Based in Amanzimtoti, he has had to find time in an already busy schedule, looking after both his church in Athlone Park and a second parish in Isipingo, to ensure that this year’s event is a truly memorable one for the delegates travelling to Durban from 74 member churches, representing more than 132 countries.

“What we’re wanting to do this year is to showcase Durban,” Goodwin said. “We have so many cultures living in harmony, and all the faith communities working together in social justice issues, whatever they may be, that we want to show people from around the world the high degree of tolerance and diversity in this city.

“One of the significant things that we have pushed for, is to have people from other faith communities come and give greetings at the conference, so for example Sheik Walid El Saadi from the African Muslim League will be attending, to do exactly that.”

This year’s theme is Jesus Christ — for the Healing of the Nations, and all the Wesleyan and Methodist Christians from around the world would, Goodwin said, get the full African experience, courtesy of various cultural events, hospitality and worship.

The opening ceremony on August 4, which is titled Ubunye, Ubuntu and Amandla, and the closing ceremony on August 8, promise to be especially representative of South Africa’s multicultural heritage, and will include a range of music presentations, choir performances, and a colourful banner procession.

Malihambe iVangeli, an Evangelism event on August 9, will see delegates joining in with local societies, and the ‘un-churched’ around the city.

There will also be Sunday morning services in churches in and around Durban, during which visitors will get “a glimpse of our own brand of Methodism”.

Dr Mvume Dandala, former presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA) and the general secretary of the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC), will deliver the opening address at the conference.

Other speakers on the programme include Dr Joy Moore from North Carolina in the Unites States; Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church; Dr Claudio Betti of the Community of St Egidio; Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, from Norway; Dr John Barrett from the United Kingdom; and Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the British Methodist Church.

During the conference, which takes place at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC), delegates will take part in a street parade through the streets of the city on August 7, culminating at the Durban City Hall. The public is invited to participate in the procession, which Goodwin says will show “the diversity of the Methodist-Wesleyan family”.

Reverend George Freeman, the World Methodist Council’s (WMC) current executive director agreed, adding: “South African Methodists want their global counterparts to meet in Durban, so they can experience the changes that have taken place in South Africa since apartheid ended.”

Incoming chief executive of the WMC and presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Ivan M. Abrahams, added: “Many see Africa as the ‘womb of humanity’, ‘our primordial home’ and the ‘mother of us all’, and they are keen to live and experience the greatest human experiment in the 21st century as people quilt together a new society, after years of conflict and strife.”

Abrahams will be the first African and first non-American to serve in the office of WMC General Secretary.

Away from the ICC, delegates will have the chance to enjoy a beach party hosted by the Ethekwini Metro Council, during which Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform. They will also visit mission projects in KwaZulu-Natal.

All participants in the 2011 World Methodist Conference have been asked to bring school supplies for underprivileged children, which will be distributed to selected schools across South Africa by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

• For more information, visit http://www.worldmethodistcouncil.org or e-mail gills@turner group.co.za or phone 031 368 8000.

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