KUNDASANG – The Sabah Heilbronn Ecumenical Partnership (SHEP) will mark its 10th anniversary in September this year.
The partnership was signed on 26 Sept 2008 between the Protestant Church of Sabah (PCS), the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia-Sabah (BCCM), the Roman Catholic (RC) Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, the RC Diocese of Keningau and the RC Diocese of Sandakan, together with the RC and Protestant churches of Heilbronn, Germany.
Towards this noble purpose, about 30 church leaders and believers who are in support of the Partnership celebrated The Partnership Day in Jabez Resort, Kundasang, on 12-13 Jan 2018.
Among the highlights of the event were dinner, praise and worship, opening prayer, sermon, sharing, speech, intercessory prayer, benediction and group photo, as well as discussions and fellowship among the participants.
On the second day of the event, the group started off with breakfast and prayer, followed by SHEP committee meeting, a visit to the Agape Centre for stateless children before the gathering dispersed.
The goals of the Ecumenical Partnership are to mutually experience and live the mission of Christ as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, as well as to share in the joys and sufferings of humankind.
Apart from that, the movement also hopes to learn from each other and to strengthen one another when and where it is necessary.
Among those who attended the celebration were Chairman of SHEP, Dr Paul from PCS, Rev Michael Yin (BCCM Ranau), Bro Peter Lee, Father Thomas Yip, Father Stanley Matakim, Father Michael Modoit, Father Rudolf Joannes and Rev Dean Poiter from BCCM.
In 1982, an ecumenical study group from Heilbronn, Germany visited Malaysia. It was initiated by Dr Karl Rennstich, a Protestant missionery formerly serving the Rungus community in Kudat and Mr Werner Reiter, the Executive Secretary of the Catholic Centre for Education Work. Dr Rennstich was at that time attached to the Office of Mission and Ecumenical Relations of the Protestant Church in Heilbronn.
A direct consequence of this visit was the first ‘return visit’ when a group of Christians from East and West Malaysia was invited to participate in a Mission Festival in Heilbronn in 1984. Since then, there has been cordial and meaningful contacts between the churches of both countries. A second ecumenical study group from Heilbronn visited Malaysia in 1986. Subsequently such mutual visits were organised once in two years.
In August 1990, formal agreements were signed to seal the partnership. Bishop Thu En Yu of BCCM and Bishop John Lee of the Catholic Church were the signatories from Sabah while the Heilbronn side was represented by Gerhard Berroth, President of the District Synod, and Dean Mohler of the Catholic deanery of Heilbronn.
On 23 Sept 2016, a delegation of 11 SHEP members from Sabah paid a return visit to Heilbronn, Germany to keep with the tradition of visiting one another. – Clarence G Dol