Sunday, March 26, 2023

Life in Delhi and Lent Sermon: Martha, Mary, and Jesus

Hanging on by a cord in a coracle in Hampi 
Greetings from New Delhi, India!

It has been nearly seven months since we arrived in our new home, a treetop appartment within walking distance from my husband's posting at the American Embassy. Not going to lie—the first few months were rough. He was working long hours, all three of us kept getting respiratory and stomach bugs (me especially—it turned out our kitchen water purifier was faulty), there were family/house crises back state-side to remotely manage, and somehow in the midst of all this we needed to unpack and figure out basic tasks like getting E safely to/from school and how to buy groceries. 

Now that the moving dust has settled, we've adapted to our new normal, which includes things such as a roving family of extremely mischievous monkeys regularly playing on our balcony, us needing to wear air pollution masks when walking outdoors, and auto-rickshaws and electric taxis being our primary means of transportation. We also go into tourist mode as often as we possibly can (our Facebook albums show the best parts of those adventures around India) and have added Bollywood dance and private ballroom lessons (after months of searching, we found a retired international ballroom champion living in Delhi who agreed to coach us) to our weekly schedule. 

As for me, my role as Bishop Mande's executive assistant has become more time and travel-intensive than ever before. For example, I just got back from serving as the advance team for the Africa University board meeting in Dar Es Salaam, and next month I'm heading to Maputo for the big Africa Central Conferences consultation organized by the UMC's Board of Global Ministries. After that, I'm scheduled to lead a 24-week intensive online course on United Methodist History, Doctrine, and Polity via the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

Speaking of Methodist history and politics, I've been getting an unofficial crash course on Methodism in northern India, and it has been fascinating to compare/contrast it to other forms of Methodism I've encountered.  Some things are the same (e.g. they use the cross and flame UMC logo and the anglophone services use the United Methodist hymns/hymnals I grew up with), some are highly contextualized (e.g. shoes must not be worn in the altar/preaching area, baptism is full immersion and done in special outdoor pools), and some, well, you can imagine my face when I was told that here Methodist women are not allowed to be ordained and Methodist clergy wives are required to give up their professional careers in order serve as full-time unpaid assistants to their husbands. Upon hearing this, suddenly so many odd interactions I'd recently had made sense, and I finally understood the political implications of the preaching/teaching/co-officiating the sacraments invitations I'd been receiving from leaders of  two Methodist congregations in Delhi.  There are a number of pandemic-delayed regional Methodist legislative sessions and elections on the horizon, and not-so-coincidentally plans for special gatherings to discuss the status and role of women are being made. I've been asked to be there. Perhaps I find myself in Delhi for such a time as this?

In related news, this morning I was the guest preacher at Centenary Methodist Church (Delhi, India). The sermon focus came from the lectionary Gospel reading about Mary, Martha, and Jesus. I've attached the video of the live stream below. (As you'll notice, the women of the congregation decided to make it a de facto women's Sunday event)

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