Hannah Fialor-Agbanyo: Finding God In and Beyond Life
Hannah Fialor-Agbanyo shares about her calling, preparation to ministry, her spiritual practices, and the impact of UPSem on both her ministry and spiritual life. She is a M.A.C.E. student from Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Christian Education.
My call is comparable to that of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. Samuel did not realize that he had been called. I needed Catechist Senyo Kwasi Adu (now a Reverend) and the district pastor Reverend Joyce Kofi Kodade to realize my call. Affirming my calling, they concluded that I should be trained as a minister. Catechist Senya Kwasi mentored me as I prepared to enroll at Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra, Ghana, in 2007. At the seminary, I learned about Christian stewardship, Pastoral Conduct, Christian faithfulness, the practice of prayer, communion with the Holy Spirit, and the art of preaching.
My coming to UPSem was also an initiative of the church leadership. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, nominated me to pursue the Master of Arts in Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Since my arrival on campus, lots of activities alongside the academic work have enhanced and shaped my ministerial journey. The weekly Communion service conducted together by both clergy and laity ending with a community lunch is notable of them. This reminds me of Acts 2:46 “… they broke bread and ate together.” This practice has given me a deeper understanding of the priesthood of all believers where no one is perceived to be holier than others. The academic work has immensely shaped my spirituality with respect to time management. I have come to appreciate the fact that time management is a serious spiritual discipline that can enhance one’s life. The pressure of academic work coupled with other equally important activities such as community break interactions, monthly Shalom Farm visits, and supervised ministry opportunities have sharpened my time management skills. The academic work has also broadened my knowledge and opened my eyes to a better way of doing ministry when I return to my home country.
Let me share with you some of my spiritual practices. Being a Christian is a journey of eternity. To be a Christian is to embark on a journey that is measured not by the days of the calendar. It is a journey of continual seeking of the Ultimate Reality to achieve the maximum satisfaction that the soul desires. People use different means and practices in search for the God of their lives. Most think that going to church every Sunday and listening to sermons or teachings is enough for them to find God and be closer to God. I do not dispute this. However, finding God in and beyond life goes beyond church attendance only. There are other practices that help me find God. In Jeremiah 29:13, God called God’s people, “seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.” God must be sought in order to be found. Like other Ghanaians, I find God in community life —times of joy, bereavement, alms-giving, and caring for the less privileged in the society. As an evangelical I seek God in prayer, scripture-reading, confession/repentance, Holy Communion, silence, and rest.
Prayer is an integral part of my Christian life because it connects me to God. In prayer, I communicate with God, seek good things, and request forgiveness. In times of joy, success, prosperity, sorrow, pain, loss and grief, prayer has been one of the practices through which I have discerned God’s purpose for my life. I have found God actively involved in every facet of my life, especially in times of sorrow and pain. Through prayer, I have felt patted on the shoulder, carried along, walked by my side and warmly embraced to continue my Christian journey. I consciously create and include prayer time in my daily schedule so as to remain in relationship with God. For me, God is not a spare tyre to use or fall on only in times of hardships.
The study of Scriptures also helps me to find God. Studying the Bible calls for discipline and for me I make a conscious effort to plan and study the scripture at least twice a day- first thing in the morning and last thing at night. During these times, I hear the same scripture speak in new ways. This heightens my desire to seek and find God.
As I seek to find God daily in my life, I make confessions daily. I do it because I realize that I fail most of the times in things I should do. I find myself doing things I should not do and I have needed to be forgiven on a daily basis. Human iniquities separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Personally, I practice confession daily not because God needs to hear (God sees and knows), but that I need to hear myself say it and make amends. I experience healing and restoration in God’s presence through daily confession and repentance.
In addition to these practices, I find God during the administration of the Eucharist or the Communion. The Lord’s Supper reminds me of God’s constant love for me. It also reminds to embody the body of Christ Jesus which was broken for the world and live in fellowship with others—Christian and non-Christian. Through the Eucharist, I see the love of God shared abroad and seek to share the same with people from all walks of life.
Silence has been one of my favorite spiritual practices through which I find God and am drawn closer to God. I have come to appreciate the value of silence over the years as a practice through which God reveals God’s self. Silence helps me to defy my internal noises and focus on God’s still, small and gentle voice. It teaches me to be patient in everything. Thus, refraining from speaking out and speaking in and just looking, watching and listening to the sounds and things around me helps me to find God in many ways.
Finally, rest as taking a relief from all social activities, work and social life to be alone or with people I am comfortable with to share reflection and contemplation with, has revealed God to me in fulfilling ways. During this time, I fast and pray (and put off my mobile phone) just to be alone with the Lord. Through rest, I feel closer to God and the greater my desire is to know more of God.
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- Hannah Fialor-Agbanyo: Finding God In and Beyond Life
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