Some months ago, our church entered into a partnership with CMS Ireland, a mission agency to support a couple who are going to do important work in community building and trauma counselling in the diocese of Ibba, in South Sudan. 

The couple are called Andrew and Joanne Quill, and they recently did an interview with me on the Bitesize Chunks of Faith podcast. Check out episode 151. In this episode, they spoke a bit about their own faith journey and the work they hope to be involved in, and the process of discerning their call to go and serve in South Sudan.

I went to their commissioning service in February which took place in Bangor. In that service Andrew and Joanne spoke about the importance of partnership.

They were conscious of parishes like our own making a financial commitment to support their capacity to serve in this setting, and they wanted to build good links of communication and updates so we could pray for each other in the different things we were all trying to do.

Some months ago, when we were exploring this partnership, one of the staff from CMS Ireland came to speak to our Select Vestry, which is a group that has responsibility for overseeing the finances of the Church and making decisions on behalf of the church. Linda, from CMS, spoke about the kind of work the Quills would be undertaking. She, herself, had been to Ibba and described the reality of everyday life. There is a lot of poverty and intermittent electricity and internet connection. Daily life is very challenging after many years of civil war and the bishop of the diocese is trying to support people who are rebuilding their lives after much trauma. He is acutely aware of the desperate needs people have and he appealed to CMS to see if there was anyone who might be able to come and help encourage and train the clergy, and come alongside community leaders to help create new opportunities and build hope.

Arriving in Ibba

The Quills, with their particular skill set, seemed like a very good fit. Andrew is a clergyman with many years of experience working in parishes in Northern Ireland and, indeed, in Kenya and Uganda over the years. Joanne is a nurse with a recent focus on counselling, and so their skills seem particularly suited to the kind of needs that are there.

It’s not an easy calling, however, to leave their grown up family, their elderly parents and go and serve in a culture so different to our own. As the Vestry made the decision to do what we can to offer financial support and to pray for this work in South Sudan, the Quills asked me about some things in our parish they might pray for.

I spoke with them about our accessibility project, which had just been completed, and trying to make the church a more accessible place for those with mobility issues. I spoke about preparations for confirmation class and our small numbers of children and young people. They agreed, not only to pray themselves, but to mobilise the community where they were going to serve to pray for these concerns, too. 

Not long after these conversations, we hosted one of our quarterly gatherings for Messy Church. It was among the largest we have ever had, with children coming from all over the place and having a really encouraging afternoon as they thought about Jesus, the Light of the World.

We were unsure whether we would have sufficient numbers to be able to host a confirmation service in our own church, or whether we would need to go to another church with a bigger group. As it happened, we have two candidates who are coming to us from two different local parishes, as well as four other teenagers from our own church and an adult who would like to be confirmed. The dynamics, and level of participation in the classes, has been incredibly positive as we have been using a course to explore the Christian faith in more depth called Youth Alpha. It has been one of the great encouragements of the past year to see how people have been getting on so well together, and engaging so wholeheartedly in the discussions and having a lot of fun together in the process. We look forward to a special service in a couple of months time after we work our way through the course together.

We asked the Quills, also, to pray for our Lenten and Easter Services and, again, to date, we have been very encouraged by the content and the deeply prayerful atmosphere at those services over the past six weeks.  We are looking forward to our special services for Holy Week and we are excited about the variety and diversity of the speakers who are coming to share in that week.

Prayer and partnership change things. Sometimes we come to situations and seasons of Church life without a great deal of expectation or anticipation. It has been incredibly helpful to join in partnership with this couple and the community where they are serving in mutual support and encouragement. Can we identify any other good opportunities for partnership that might bring mutual blessing and encouragement?

Can I ask you to remember in prayer the family of our dear friend, Georgie Graham, who died early yesterday morning? The funeral will take place on Wednesday 27th March at 1.30 pm. Many will have fond memories of Georgie’s involvement in the Sunday school, in crafting classes and Mothers’ Union, and her gifts with children undergirded by her deep faith in Jesus.

Look forward to speaking again soon. 

Much love to everyone,


Listen to the latest episode of ‘Bitesize Chunks of Faith’