(Photo: © Jonathan Self/CMS)
Christians in Brazil and Britain are set to forge stronger links in a special ordination service taking place at the Church Mission Society base in Oxford this week.
Mark Simpson, a Church Mission Society mission partner, is to be ordained at the CMS centre in Oxford on Wednesday evening as a deacon in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro.
It's the first step on the road to priesthood in the Anglican Church. Next comes a training post called a curacy. What's unusual in Mark's case is that he will serve this in Rio, not a British parish.
In fact, with his wife Jess, he is off to the City of God (Cidade de Deus), made famous in the 1997 Paulo Lins novel and subsequent film.
But where that told the story of organised crime and violence, Mark will be working alongside someone telling different story – one of potential and hope. The Rev Nicholas Wheeler, a British priest missioner, is the first full-time priest of the Parish of Christ the King in the City of God. The church plays a central role in the life of the now-infamous favela.
Mark is also set to work with the Rev Ben Phillips, a CMS mission associate and the English chaplain of Christ Church Rio, and assist at the Anglican cathedral in Rio.
The two priests will supervise Mark during his curacy and as well as being an example of great partnership across the Anglican Communion, it's a teaming up of three missions. Nicholas is supported by Us (formerly USPG), and Ben is sent through the Intercontinental Church Society.
Mark and Jess have both loved South America for many years, since their gap years in Peru, and have felt God calling them in that direction as mission partners.
In the UK, Jess has been working for Happy Child, a Brazilian NGO working with children at risk. She has also supported the development of the Alpha Course in Latin America.
In 2012 Mark finished training at St Mellitus' College and also completed an MA in Biblical Studies at King's College. Long term, it is envisaged he will support theological education work in South America.
Jess hopes to continue working with children at risk, as there is an ongoing need for concerted action in caring for Brazil's poorest and most marginalised children.
The unusual ordination is being performed by the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry and CMS's Episcopal Visitor. The Bishop of Rio, the Rt Rev Filadelfo Oliveira will also be present.
The choice of CMS Oxford as a location was down to timing and practicality, as well as for emotional reasons, said the Rt Rev Henry Scriven, CMS mission director for Latin America.
The Bishop of Oxford kindly gave permission for the ordination to take place here so that Mark's friends and family could easily attend.
Mark is also part of the CMS mission community who we are sending out to serve in the Diocese of Rio, and having Bishop Christopher ordain Mark is a lovely way for us to make that more tangible.
It's also wonderful to see the level of cooperation between churches and agencies who share our desire for the world to know Jesus.
Factfile1. Church Mission Society (CMS) is a community of people in mission who want the world to know Jesus. Members commit to seven promises as they aspire to a whole lifestyle shaped by God's mission. CMS supports people in mission in over 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. It was founded in 1799.
2. Episcopal Visitor: As CMS is an acknowledged community of the Church of England, a bishop is appointed to be its Episcopal Visitor, for the purposes of holding the community accountable for its spiritual life.
3. About the ordination: Mark Simpson is being ordained by letters dimissory by which one bishop gives another bishop the right to ordain someone on his behalf, in this case the Bishop of Rio de Janeiro requesting the Bishop of Coventry to ordain. What makes these circumstances slightly unusual is that the Bishop of Rio will actually be present at the ceremony.
4. Date and time: Wednesday 9 January, 5pm, CMS Watlington Road, Oxford OX4 6BZ.