Adding Pacific spice to church life in Lancashire

Rev Garo Kilagi and his wife and three children have traveledalmost 9000 miles to Lancashire, but they aren't here for a holiday- they're here to serve people in Accrington and Haslingden. InSeptember last year, Garo joined the World Church Partners inBritain programme, through which ministers from other countrieshave the chance to live and work as a Methodist minister in the UKfor five years.

After his induction period, Garo went straight to work in theAccrington and Haslingden area of Lancashire, where he had beenstationed by the Methodist Conference. He was given pastoral chargein two churches and may well end up looking after three.

Looking back on his first six months, he says a lot has happenedand it took a while to settle in: "We were all very homesick atfirst and called home almost every night...until we got a hugephone bill! I felt so nervous at the first service I conducted - Ireally struggled with the language and I found it hard to find theright words. But everyone has been so patient and kind - we wereoverwhelmed by the number of cards we received at Christmas. Theweather will certainly take a bit of getting used to!"

Ordained in 1992 into the United Church of Papua New Guinea, theland that Garo left behind is very different to the place that willbe his home for the next five years. Situated along the Pacific"Ring of Fire", the country is subject to frequent earthquakes,mudslides and sometimes even tsunamis. It is a tropical,mountainous region, with more than 700 indigenous languages. Garosaid, "Church life is very different too. My first placement was ina very remote area with lots of witchcraft, but here that is veryrare and the church has so much more freedom and fewerdifficulties".

Having initially struggled with conducting services, Garo and hisfamily have tried to add a new flavour to local church worship,using traditional songs and dance from Papua New Guinea. He wantsto encourage people to explore his culture as much as he isexploring theirs and has a passion for seeing young people moreinvolved in the life of the Church; "In my circuit, we are slowlyseeing the church being transformed as people of all ages take aninterest in what's going on. We need to pay special attention tothe younger generation because they will be our future church;otherwise there won't be anyone in the church in the next 20 to 30years time. We need to show them that they are loved just as theyare and give them opportunities to both learn from us and teach usnew truths about God's work in the world. These challenges canoften seem too big to take on, but God will take care of ourworries."