In a moving tribute to the programme and his role in it as mentor to the Agents of Change pilot in Dhaka, Jeremy Key-Pugh said: “I had not expected to find friends in Bangladesh; but the joy of following Jesus is that one’s expectations are very frequently confounded – and very often surpassed.”
“There is a quotation from a poem by Rudyard Kipling that has been elevated to the status of a “famous saying”. It asks, “What should they know of England who only England know?”, and is used to make the valid point that, however well we think we know that with which we are familiar, we can always learn to understand it more fully by contrasting it with something different. It would not be out of place – except that it would ruin Kipling’s rhythm! – to apply that to the Anglican Communion. Far too many Anglicans are, sadly, seriously ignorant about the Anglican Communion; little do they know how much they would benefit from a closer acquaintance with, and understanding of, the reality of our world-wide fellowship.
“In my own case, it all began with the link between my Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Dioceses of the Anglican Church in Zambia, part of the Province of Central Africa. At the suggestion of my Rector, my wife and I travelled to Zambia. It was the first time either of us had set foot on the continent of Africa, and just as so many have found before us and since, it was a profoundly life-changing experience from which we learned an incalculably great deal.
“We made lasting relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ from Central Africa, who have had a major impact on my own life as an Anglican in the West of England. It led, moreover, to my becoming involved in the World Mission Group in our diocese, and that eventually resulted in my attending a Partnership in World Mission conference at which I first heard about the concept of ‘Anglican Alliance’. A year and a half later, the embryonic outline of that idea had developed into a fully fledged entity with its very own Director, who came to Somerset to talk to a conference we hosted in Wells to raise the profile of the Zambia link. From then on it was exciting to follow the development of the Alliance, and in due course to learn about the Agents of Change programme.
“Many people in the world today are living with constant change. It is a truism to say that the rate of change in the UK and Western Europe has been faster during my lifetime (I was born in the year the Second World War ended) than at any other period in human history. Yet even if that is so, much of the Church appears to be in denial about change; so many of our congregations shun change, resist it and fight strenuously against it. So should we, as the Church, be instead promoting it and training people to bring it into effect?
“My answer lies in the transformational nature of discipleship and of the Gospel of Our Lord. Unless we are willing to change things, and to be changed ourselves, we shall find that we are not developing, not being “transformed into the likeness of Christ”. That, in a nutshell, is what attracted me to the Agents of Change programme: I want to be changed by what I learn from others even as I help them to be changed and to bring about change in the communities where they live and serve.
“My favourite definition of mission is that “authentic mission invites communities to gather and pool resources for collaboration in activity that transforms them both even as it changes the world.” If I have any resources to offer, I do so gladly, in the fervent hope that I shall be transformed as I try to help my new-found friends to be transformed, and that we shall, between us, bring about gospel-based change for the better in our different communities.
“I had not expected to find friends in Bangladesh; but the joy of following Jesus is that one’s expectations are very frequently confounded – and very often surpassed.”