The genesis of MIWC
The year 2020 surely plunged the world and the normal order of life into an unexpected valley of despair. Amidst these challenges, the Church of God remained triumphant through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and continues to ride on in His majesty. Through God’s rich grace, the North America Diocese arm of the Methodist Church Ghana convened for SYNOD in April 2020. The Methodist International Worship Center (MIWC) concept was first proposed at the 2020 SYNOD by the Diocesan Lay Movement Council. The council briefed members on the need to prayerfully consider the MIWC as an additional option to the traditional worship platform. The council highlighted the fact that the MIWC had hope of attracting a multinational audience – thereby, accelerating the growth of the Methodist Church in the diaspora. Furthermore, the council led members to consider MIWC as one possible antidote to curbing youth exodus from our societies. To buttress their point, the council cited the success of similar programs within other Ghanaian congregations in the diaspora. The presentation was both compelling and timely. SYNOD 2020 endorsed the idea. This article presents the current and future state of the MIWC. Specifically, we explore the preparation, launching, progress, and the future of the MIWC.
From concept to action
Under the leadership of Diocesan Youth Organizer (Rev. Ebo Quainoo), the Diocesan Executive Council met back in November 2020 and initiated plans for the MIWC. The executive team envisioned two phases of the MIWC. Phase one (1) of the MIWC was to involve a monthly virtual gathering of young people across the diocese. The gathering was to take place the last Sunday of each month between 7:00-8:00pm. Phase one (1) was to include a unique liturgy that combines elements of our current liturgy and some contemporary concepts. The DYO was to work with the Youth Council to identify unique topics that speak to the experiences of our young people. Phase two (2) of the program was to include the adoption/creation of physical centers that caters to a multinational community of believers. These centers were to be in full connexion and under the pastoral care of trained Methodist Ministers. Further deliberations and research will be needed to proceed with phase two (2). The mission and vision of the MIWC were as follows: Mission: By the grace of God, to create worship centers that combine elements of our sacred traditions and contemporary worship concepts to attract and retain a multinational audience and curb youth exodus. Vision: By the Grace of God, to plant Methodist International Worship Centers across the North American Diocese.
Launching of MIWC Phase 1
By the mercies of God, the Very Rev. Eric Gyan (Director - Youth Ministries Directorate) officially launched phase 1 of the MIWC on 01/31/2021 at 07:30pm eastern time. In his address, Very Rev. Gyan stated that the MIWC was “something good coming out of the North America Diocese.” Per the Director, discussions were underway among the Bishops in Ghana regarding the need to adopt a similar measure. He further stated that a draft paper has been sent to the Presiding Bishop and that the General Purposes Council (GPC) was going to discuss the report in March 2021. In his concluding statement, the director stated that a recent research in Ghana revealed that young people are leaving the church at an alarming rate. He emphatically stated thus:
“It is time. It is time to worship in a different style, far from, not too much far, but a little far from what we normally do as Methodists. This time adding a touch from the contemporary way of worship. I believe it will help solve the youth drift.” “the orthodox way of doing things, though good, doesn’t meet their need. The young people want a contemporary way of worship.”
Also, in attendance from Ghana was the Connexional GHAMSU Coordinator in the person of Rev. Yaw Anokye K. Baffour. The Very Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Y. Lartey, the Bishop’s Deputy of North America Mission Diocese, was the main speaker at the event. Speaking on the theme “Unleashing Your Potential,” Very Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Y. Lartey reminded us that:
1. As God chose David, each young person has been chosen by God for something special. He reminded us that that, though chosen, we were to remember that the battles, giants, and oppressive forces (the battle against racism, powerful bureaucracy, and big money) we face are the Lord’s. Speaking on this, the bishop reminded us of 1 Samuel 17:47:
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.
2. Just as David was a skilled young man in instruments, horsemanship, and courageousness each young person is talented in unique ways to serve in the body of Christ.
3. Just as David depended on God and not on armor or weapons, each young person must depend on God alone. He stressed that depending on God alone meant having a consistent prayer life, a great affinity for the word of God, staying humble, growing in faith, and being courageous. The bishop shared the words of David as recorded in 1 Samuel 17:39 thus:
Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor. David tried to walk but he could hardly budge. David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off.
According to the Bishop, “Saul wanted to put on David what he (that is, Saul) knew as his armor and what he knew as his weapon to face the foe.” The bishop reminded us that though there was nothing wrong with the armor itself – David could not move freely in them because it was made to suit him. The bishop went on to ask the youth “Do I hear you saying – I can’t move freely?” Per the Bishop “perhaps this MIWC will provide for you a means or way by which you can freely move and serve the Lord.” After the official launch, there have been two other successful sessions of Phase 1 with over a hundred participants in each service. Among the participants have been ministers and leaders across the diocese.
Titbits from February MIWC Service
By the mercies of God, the diocese successfully held the February 2021 MIWC on February 28. Bro. David Abubekr spoke on the theme “Unleashing your potential: Utilizing your gifts.” Bro. David reminded us that:
1. Anyone God created has the potential to accomplish specific assignments.
2. God is in the business of partnering with people to accomplish His purpose on earth and that every youth is qualified for the partnership.
3. Focusing on 1 Sam 16:18 (A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp," one official said. "He's a brave warrior, he's good-looking, he can speak well, and the LORD is with him) - Bro. David posited three specific ways through which the youth could unleash their gifts:
a) Speaking on the following lines from 1Sam16:18 “A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp," one official said, "He's a brave warrior, he's good-looking,” Bro David challenged every youth/young person to do something in the house of the Lord by developing their talents and gifts. He further encouraged all young people to stop wishing for things and start doing things in God’s house. He inspired all young people to seek service opportunities within their respective societies/organizations and be skilled in them.
b) Speaking on the portion of 1Sam16:18 that reads “…he can speak well ….” Bro. David reminded each young person of the need to speak well. He intimated that it is essential for every young person to develop their oratory skills in addition to being adroit in addressing people with humility and reverence.
c) Bro David spoke on the need for every youth to develop a spiritual life as referenced in the concluding portion of 1 Sam16:18 “…………and the LORD was with him.” Bro David stressed on the fact that David had a spiritual life or a personal relationship with God. He encouraged all young persons to develop private spiritual lives. This is because, having a personal relationship with God inevitably ties his presence with us wherever we go.
At the February 2021 MIWC, we were privileged to have talented young women participate in the monthly DYO Challenge. The challenge for the month of February requested young people across the diocese to create artforms, musical renditions, spoken word, or poetry focusing on MHB 578 “a charge to keep I have.” Three young women participated in the contest. We are proud to say that the submissions were purely a master class. One of the young women worked on a painting, another wrote a research paper, and the third wrote a poem all based on the hymn. All three participants were adjudged winners and rewarded with a $25.00 gift card.
Titbits from March MIWC Service Sermon:
Yet again, God was with us in the month of March for a successful MIWC Service. The speaker, Sister Abena Bondah, spoke on the theme was: “Unleashing your potential: Bring it out!” Sis. Abena, first reminded the young people that the secrete to unleashing our potential is knowledge of where we come from – that is, God himself. She stated that everyone has a potential and spoke on five ways young people can release our potential:
1. Every young person has to understand that God placed a value on our lives per Psalm 139:13-16:
For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Citing Jerimiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations,”
She stated that before any young person was born, God consecrated them to do something in the world for the greater good of the Kingdom of God. In addition, everyone has talents and skills (Ephesians 2:10 and James 1:17) suited for specific tasks.
2. Young people are to arm themselves with knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 2:6, 16:16, 19:8). She encouraged all young people to invest in knowledge and desire wisdom.
3. There was the need to make certain changes in the following areas of life to unleash potential:
a. Thinking – she stressed the need for every young person to think positively and have an optimistic view of life (Philipians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5). She stated that the Holy Spirit is positive, perfect, and smart that all young people are to submit to the Holy Spirit to think like Christ.
b. Words – She stated that words are spirit and that the words a person speaks over their life has impact (positive or otherwise) - thus, the need for every young person to speak life into their situations. She reminded the us of Proverbs 18:21: The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.
c. Time and Resources – She encouraged us to value and cherish time by investing time in reading the Bible, different genres of books, and learning new skills. On reading the word of God she submitted that the bible is full of principles, promises, and prophesies awaiting the young people to harness. On the wise use of resources, she encouraged all to stop spending extravagantly and invest in the kingdom of God.
4. There was the need for every young person to build a habit of worship and prayer. She reminded the us that God is Spirit and that to get close to Him, one has to fellowship in God’s presence constantly.
5. To bring out our potential, each young person is to shine as light in the world (Mathew 5:14).
We were privileged to listen to four submissions for the DYO Challenge in March. The March Challenge requested submission of creative work using the Ghana National Anthem. All submissions were unique and exuded great talents. Two of the submissions were artwork while the other two were song performances on the national anthem. All four participants were awarded a $25 gift cards.
What is Next?
By the grace of God, we plan to continue Phase 1 of MIWC for the rest of the year. We pray and hope that in God’s own timing and providence, some of our societies will be able to transition into Phase 2 of the program in the near future