“I thank you and commend you deeply for your commitment… which will bring about change across the whole Anglican Communion, rippling out from our church into our communities” – Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Over the last year, Anglicans from every part of the Communion have been participating in a ground-breaking initiative: an online learning exchange to build the resilience of local churches and their communities to disasters.
The first roll out of the Resilience Course has now come to an end and the success of its graduates from 30 countries was recently celebrated. Seven archbishops from the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Asia took part in the online commissioning service, which was led by the archbishop of Central Africa. In his words of commendation Archbishop Albert Chama, who is also the chair of the Anglican Alliance, said:
“I have been so encouraged and inspired as I have followed the development of the Resilience Course over the last year… You have heard best practices shared by global and regional Anglican leaders on a range of important resilience themes. I have heard how you have gained new insights from the course Bible studies and how you have encouraged and supported each other in prayer through all the challenges that the year has brought you. You have enriched the course by sharing the wealth of experiences from your own contexts and you are applying the knowledge gained from participation in this course. You have now prepared a capstone project to present to your church leadership, a plan to enhance resilience over the next 3-5 years.”
Commendation by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recorded a special Advent message for the course participants in which he said,
“Over the past year you have come together each month for an amazing journey, sharing your experience and learning from each other. I am so inspired to learn that you come from all corners of the Anglican Communion: from Angola to Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vanuatu, Syria. Rich discussions … have been possible thanks to the broad participation, including people who are often excluded from Anglican meetings through language or time zone.
In order to graduate, participants in the Resilience Course had to complete monthly homework assignments. These helped the learners develop their final ‘capstone’ projects – the resilience plans the archbishops commend above. The graduates are now sharing these plans with their own bishops and archbishops so that they become embedded in the missional life of the church, diocese or province.
Reflections from participants…
Graduates of the Resilience Course have been reflecting on their experience and learning. Ruan (Brazil), said, “At the beginning of the course, we all thought about natural disasters, and we commented that we didn’t have one here. Over time, we have come to realize that there is a series of everyday tragedies around us that demand as much resilience as a natural disaster.”
Jocelyne (Madagascar) said, “Before [the course] I was not familiar with this term ‘resilience’ at all, but now I can say that this word is part of my vocabulary and if I may say so in my life”. She continued, “Serving God and serving the community do not mean that you should neglect and kill yourself with work. On the contrary, you have to take care of yourself, know how to pace yourself, rest and have fun activities, in order to be able to move forward better.”
Participants also commented on the spiritual, transformative and leadership dimensions of the course. Elizabeth (Malawi) reflected, “[The course] provides a deeper spiritual meaning of servant leadership in serving communities experiencing the emotional cycle of a disaster and it empowers and transforms the relief aid mindset”. Leticia (Brazil) also talked about vocation, saying, “It was a unique experience. I didn’t know what to expect from the course, but I was surprised by an eye opening, a call to a true Christian role. Understanding how we can act within critical moments in our community gave me a perspective on how much we can do, how [to do it], and the importance of this for those affected.”
…and the course directors
Dr Janice Proud, the Anglican Alliance’s Disaster Response & Resilience Manager and one of Resilience Course’s two directors said, “It was a delight seeing the satisfaction on the face of learners at the graduation and commissioning ceremony. Strong bonds of fellowship have developed between the learners on each course as they have journeyed through this COVID year, learning together from best practice but also from each other’s experience.
“The course has exceeded my expectations. Learners from 30 countries have prepared resilience plans for their church, diocese, province or organisation. This will strengthen the Church to be better prepared for, and respond to, disasters from the Pacific, through East and South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and through Caribbean, Central America into Latin America.
“The course would not have been possible without the amazing team of facilitators from around the Communion, the skilled team of translators and interpreters and financial support for the latter from Episcopal Relief & Development.”
Co-director Nagulan Nesiah, who is the Senior Programme Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction at Episcopal Relief & Development, added, “Among the many outcomes of the Resilience Course are emerging opportunities to highlight ongoing ministries within the Anglican Communion. As a result of the visibility afforded through the course, learners have been invited to speak on panels in external spaces such as during the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum, the international Faith and Child Safeguarding summit and at the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women. Learning from the course also informed the Anglican Communion’s COP26 policy position paper.”
Although the 2020-2021 course is now complete, it is not the end of the Resilience Course. Currently, over thirty graduates are exploring the possibility of becoming Partners in Response and Resilience accompaniers. Accompaniers are resource people who work and walk alongside communities going through a disaster or build a church’s capacities and resilience ahead of a disaster.
The course faculty is also exploring the next roll out of the course, which is expected to be done regionally. A further piece will be published in the new year with details. Watch this space!
For more on the Anglican Alliance’s work on relief and resilience, please see our website here.
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