Blog – December 2017

December 7, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Advent Service: Friday 1st December 2018

d2A big thank you to Sharon for her enthusiasm, encouragement and professional expertise that brought together narration, music and dance in a powerful reflection on the meaning of the Incarnation to mark the beginning of Advent. d1It was wonderful to have such a mixed choir drawn from many nationalities and from the English and Tamil-speaking congregations, several soloists many singing for the first time and the wonderful interpretation by Saskia, a ballet teacher, who interpreted in her movements the feelings of Mary , hearing that she was to be the mother of the Christ.

d3Several people said how much they appreciated it including Royal Navy chaplain Martin Evans who wrote

I must say it really was a particularly special service this morning, the choir were superb, but also the congregational singing (no doubt helped by interspersed choir members) really was ‘something else’ as well.

It was followed by a lot of hard work at the Charity Centre and once again we can be very grateful to Angel and her team who had to prepare the tables for the outdoor sale, spend a long day responding to many people coming to the sale and then clearing up afterwards. A total of BD141 was raised, which, as most of the items were selling for only 100 fils, means that a lot of clothes and books were shifted.

Awali: Saturday 2nd December 2017

d4I realized that we didn’t have an Advent wreath and so we used one of the electric candles that we are encouraged to use at Awali to mark the first ‘Sunday’ of Advent first and Jacob, a delightful boy, helped by ‘lighting it’. When we came to the Communion he held the candle as bread and wine were passed round the circle (as we normally do at Awali) and entered fully into the prayers by saying them after me and always saying the ‘Amen’ at the end confidently. I think our small community at Awali felt that Jacob had really lifted our worship in a special way.


British MPs’ visit: Saturday 2nd December 2017

d5I had a phone call last night from a lady in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: a group of British MP’s wanted to visit the Cathedral and the leader of the delegation, Rehman Chishti, was the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, our previous constituency; he had been very supportive of community activities in the Church, and I’d played cricket with him in at least a couple of community cricket matches that he’d organized.
d6It was a joy to meet him again and to hear something of the purpose of their visit to Bahrain. He brought with him some hand sewn coasters from the ladies of St Matthew’s our previous parish, which was very thoughtful


Blog – November 2017

December 7, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Navy Chaplain speaks at Living Room Dialogue: Sunday 19th November 2017

n1The Reverend Martin Evans, the Royal Navy Chaplain based in Bahrain, was the speaker at the monthly living Room Dialogue at St Christopher’s Cathedral. He spoke about his life-transforming experience of living in a L’Arche Community home in London, where people with intellectual disabilities live in community with staff and volunteers.  There are currently 147 communities worldwide in 35 different countries, inspired by Jean Vanier, whose work began when he invited two men to leave the institution that they were staying in France to live in his home. Together they launched the first L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil in the north-east of France.

Tour of Recycling Plant: Tuesday 21st November 2017

n2The discovery that I could no longer take our recycled waste and that of the Cathedral Office to Awali on Saturday mornings, when I lead the service there – the bins had been taken away –
led to a conversation over an informal dinner with Darshan Singh and HE Simon Martin. n3I soon discovered that they have also been removed from other places that we have used previously: in Saar (outside St Christopher’s School and outside the Saar Cinema) and in Manama (outside Al Raja School) and I have been carrying rubbish in my boot for over a week. But it led to a visit, that Darshan kindly arranged, to a well-established recycling plant in Salmabad.

I was very impressed by their work, their desire to educate the community, especially children in schools, and their seriousness about the environment.

n4They also supply very attractive bins, which are well maintained and regularly emptied and the company will also put on a logo.

This would also enable us to begin to fulfil the fifth mark of Five Anglican Marks of Mission, which have been a focus for our Synod’s discussion in recent years:

  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth.

We are not good at managing our waste on the Cathedral compound: plastic bottles especially are thrown straight into the waste bins or onto the ground and end up as landfill. There is an educational role for us to play for our young people in Friday Club, our congregations and the guest congregations that use our halls each week.

So perhaps the failure of some schemes in the community to recycle gives us an opportunity to partner with this company and encourage others to do the same: to model recycling and to begin to campaign for a change of attitude that will take recycling more seriously.

In response to an email I wrote to thank the General Manager, following Darshan’s and my visit to the recycling plant, I received an email back which said:

It was indeed great pleasure meeting you at our facilities and rather amazed to see your passion towards the environment protection.

 I hope that we will be able to give a lead in demonstrating our concern for the environment, because we believe that this is God’s world and that we need to demonstrate a responsible stewardship for it.

Marathon Relay: Saturday 24th November 2017

n5It was a great atmosphere arriving at the Bahrain International Circuit – the Formula One track – and meeting up with several n6members of the cathedral running for various teams, in addition to our own Cathedral team – the Holy Strollers – with its wonderful international flavor: Kenyan, Ugandan, Indian, English, South African…. Exuberant at the improvement on the time from last year by twenty-five minutes, 87th out of 198 teams, and knowing that we had beaten the Saar Fellowship by two places: a friendly rivalry! So congratulations to our team and the very professional team that David puts together running for Mission to Seafarers, who came an impressive 25th overall.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church community was there too with their drums and dances celebrating their team’s success and I was asked to join them in the middle of their circle and for photos with them and their priest when we got back to the Cathedral.

Bishop Michael and Julia’s visit: Tuesday 28th November 2017

n7Bishop Michael with Julia arrived for a Chaplaincy visit on Tuesday evening and we went to a concert at the small Cultural centre in the new souq building near Bab Al Bahrain to hear the Bahraini flautist, Ahmed Al Ghanem, play with a guitarist. The room was crowded and there was very limited seating but we were able to climb some stairs to a gallery where there was very comfortable seating and a fine view. Ahmed was really delighted that Bishop Michael had come and gave him a special mention at the start of the concert. It was good to meet up with Jason Carter, the harp guitarist who was attending the concert too and is soon taking his Grain of Sands documentary film on the Bahrain pearl fishermen’s songs to the Dubai Film Festival. Having parked in the Downtown Rotana car park, we had some dim sum at the Teatro Restaurant afterwards.

Day Two of Chaplaincy Visit: Wednesday 29th November 2017

n8As usual the day began with Morning Prayer and we were joined by Royal Navy Chaplain Martin Evans. Stephen and Martin took Bishop Michael out, an opportunity for them to share something of their ministry with Mission to Seafarers and on the base, though for security reasons a visit to the port was not possible this time. The British Ambassador H.E. Simon Martin and his wife Sophie came for a simple soup and cheese lunch around the kitchen table, their first opportunity Bishop Michael and Julia. In the afternoon we had a rehearsal for tomorrow’s Confirmation service with the candidates, a final opportunity to reflect on the significance of what they are doing as well as running through the choreography of the service. We are expecting a full house tomorrow. In the evening there was more food, an opportunity for Bishop Michael to meet with the priests from the Church of South India and Mar Thoma churches that are in formal communion with the Anglican Church. We sat on the rooftop of Passion restaurant in Adliya, adjacent to a lively Indian hen party.

Confirmation Day: St Andrew’s Day, Thursday 30th November 2017

n9What a truly awesome day it was, tangible felt the Holy Spirit working in me…. was one response from one of the candidates… and indeed it was a very special service: fifteen people being confirmed – eight adults and seven young people -from five different nations, varied backgrounds and different walks of life but united in their desire to confirm their faith and be confirmed in it. Bishop Michael reflected on the call to be a disciple through the call of Andrew and the challenge to respond and grow in that calling. The service was followed by the cutting of a cake, and an excellent lunch enjoyed by all who attended the service graciously provided by parents of those being confirmed.

Such is the nature of life in the Gulf that two of the candidates will be moving on to new work elsewhere in the next two days: one to the United States and another to Dubai, via Kenya. And already this afternoon I have heard from one receiving church ready to welcome and looking forward to her joining them. That’s the reality of the Christian family and I am grateful and it means that we have to have a very dynamic model of the church, generous in our hospitality and welcome, but gracious in our willingness to let people move on and to wish them well in their life and faith journey.


Blog – 30th October 2017

November 16, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Homeschoolers visit: Monday 30th October 2017

a1A first for me was the visit of a group of children from various backgrounds and nationalities whose parents are homeschooling them. They were a lively and interested bunch of children and Mums and they were following a multi-faith unit exploring different faith traditions and were very appreciative of the time and attention given to them. Some were clearly fully-committed homeschoolers; others had not got into the school of their choice and others had had a bad experience of school. I am always glad to connect with people wh want to find out more and some of the most thoughtful questions were from a Bahraini Mum for whom this was the first experience of coming into a church.


All Saints Family Service: Friday 3rd November 2018

a2Tricia led a lively interactive All Saints family service with a practical activity that involved plaiting three strands of ribbon in groups and then joining the various strands together to make a circle round the church and then with everyone holding the circle we sang Bind us together, Lord. The Bible reading had been from Romans chapter 16, a list of greetings of Paul to so many people in the church of Rome, most of whom we do not know anywhere else in Scripture, but people from all sorts of walks of live, male and female, slave and free, Greek, Roman and Jewish all who had clearly contributed to the life of the church community by who they were and what they did: all who were “saints”.

Tamil congregation service led by the children: Friday 10th November 2017

a3It was good to attend the Tamil congregation’s children-led service and to see the growth in confidence in so many of the children in both reading and singing and their enthusiasm in the different roles they played. It was followed by a wonderful biryani behind the cathedral.


Remembrance at British Embassy, the Old Cemetery and Cathedral: 11th/12th November 2018  

a4Remembrance once again this year was held in the grounds of the British Embassy, a very gracious setting for the diplomats, servicemen and women and the many others who attend from the community, many who have themselves served in the armed forces, but the war memorials and graves of servicemen are not there and it is hard to create a focus for remembrance, though the simple wooden cross that we use on Good a5Friday is effective. In future we will need to work at making a significant Remembrance event in the Old Cemetery. Following the excellent curry lunch in the Embassy grounds a few of us took several of the wreaths and placed them on the War Memorial and held a simple act of remembrance there.

a6On Sunday 12th November Remembrance Sunday we welcomed several ambassadors and servicemen and women to our Remembrance Service including Commodore Steve Dainton, Commander of UKMCC, who read the Parable of the Good Samaritan and it was good to welcome the a7Chelsea Pensioners visiting Bahrain this week and also the Cub Scouts who came in good numbers and paraded their banner. Royal Navy Chaplain Martin Evans preached very thoughtfully but with a light touch.


Two more adult baptisms: Sunday 12th November 2018

a8The bubbly flowed following the morning service to celebrate not only the baptisms but the engagement of two members of our Kenyan community: Eunice and Suleiman. a9Both shared a little of their journey to faith and how coming to Bahrain had caused them to reflect on their life and faith and I have had the privilege of meeting with them each week to explore together. They now look forward to their Confirmation. They have been attending worship on Sunday mornings, which has become such a welcoming and refreshing community – a small congregation, mostly linked with the hospitality industry, but ready to embrace all who are new.

It was a joy to welcome Dr Hrayr Jebejian, the Gulf Bible Society General Secretary, and Daniel John, who co-ordinates the Bible society’s ministry in Bahrain. Three of our members are following a course that the Bible Society are currently running on trauma healing, which they all speak very highly of.


Blog – 22nd October 2017

October 29, 2017 in Dean's Blog

The Turin Shroud: Sunday 22nd October 2017

01More than forty people squeezed into The Deanery for the Living Room Dialogue to listen to Nigel Goddard speak on the subject of the Turin Shroud and to weigh the evidence that this was the shroud that wrapped the body of Jesus. Nigel has worked as a Rolls-Royce jet-engine performance engineer and has a solid computing background, as well as two Masters degrees in Engineering and Operational Research. He presented the evidence in a measured forensic way exploring some of the remarkable discoveries: the fact that it is not a painting, that the image on the shroud is a negative (only discovered when it was photographed for the first time in the nineteenth century), the discovery of pollen from plants found only near Jerusalem, the presence of blood that is proven to be of a victim of torture, and the remarkable image that could have been formed by a burst of radiation, not dissimilar to images left in Hiroshima following the nuclear bomb on the city.

Whatever one’s conclusions, this is a remarkable relic that has stood the tests of 21st Century science. It was a fascinating evening.

Cyprus and back: Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th October 2017

Both Tricia and I headed off to Cyprus, Tricia leaving on Sunday for the Barnabas team meeting and I followed on Tuesday for the Bishop’s Council and Standing Committee which was all day Wednesday. There was plenty of meaty business to discuss and it was good to meet Helen Perry, the new member of staff in the Diocesan Office. Both of us managed to catch quick swims in the sea: The Mediterranean is still remarkably warm at this time of the year.

Celebration of Music: Thursday 26th October 2017

02We arrived back from Cyprus just in time for A Celebration of Music with the very talented musicians who make up the St Christopher’s School Music Department. It was an initiative of Paul Bagshaw, Head of Woodwind, who felt that, for regular concerts in the Cathedral, we needed a better quality upright piano. We have now completed five years of Thursday evening concerts at 6pm and they have been a regular feature of 0.3the musical life of Bahrain. All who were there enjoyed a very varied programme and at the end all of the musicians came to the front for a final bow. We charged the regular price for tickets (BD5 with children free), but in addition we had a retiring collection, so the funds now stand at over BD1000. Research suggests that we need to raise at least another BD3000.


Baptism of Simon: Friday 27th October 2017

Our service this Friday was in two parts: the first part of the baptism service with Holy Communion in the Cathedral followed by baptism by immersion in a compound swimming pool in Saar. 04Simon gave a very interesting testimony he said he’d grown up in a home with parents who were both atheists and living quite a wild teenage life on the streets. But he came across a picture of Jesus on the cross and he stuck it on the headboard of his bed. Later he went to watch a movie and found an enquiry postcard about exploring the Christian faith, which he filled in and was contacted by the pastor of a church in Portsmouth. 05He joined a baptism class but was soon sent off on a ship, which meant he could not follow it through. When he was back in Portsmouth, he connected with his local parish church, St Jude’s, where he felt very much at home. In the last few months he has been a regular part of the cathedral’s life Bahrain in the Friday morning congregation, and with the encouragement of Royal Navy Chaplain Martin Evans he decided to take the plunge and be baptized. He will follow it through with Confirmation when Bishop Michael visits us at the end of November.Following the baptism those who came enjoyed a simple lunch of samosas and salad and fruit sticks and enjoyed the opportunity of a swim.


Blog – October 2017

October 24, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Harvest Festival Weekend : 6-8th October 2017

O01Harvest Festivals are always a time of great celebration and of generosity towards others and this year we gave the congregation more guidance in foodstuffs to bring that could be used to provide for the needy through the ECC, the Mission to Seafarers and directly through our Cathedral Office, often the first port of call for those who have not been paid their wages or who are struggling for other reasons.

O02In addition to what the various congregations gave, Stephen and I also visited the St Christopher’s Junior and Infant Schools for their Harvest assembly, where I told the story of the Book of Ruth which hinges around failed harvests which force the family to flee as economic migrants to the neighbouring country of Moab and then when Naomi and Ruth return as widows to Bethlehem, Boaz’ faithfulness to the law of the harvest which eventually leads to his marriage to Ruth.

O03Our World Harvest Supper and Barn Dance was as ever a lot of fun; there is no better way in mixing people up from different countries, different congregations as well as guests than getting them involved in a Barn dance. And the food was excellent too: mostly homemade cuisine from many different countries represented in our congregations.

Our monetary gifts were directed towards the Ras Morbat Clinic in Aden, which despite the continuing war in Yemen, continues to provide service to patients.

This is Bahrain visit to Los Angeles

O04Anthony Perlman kindly represented the Cathedral in the recent visit to Los Angeles and made contact with the Episcopal Cathedral, St Paul’s, while he was there. In the aftermath there was a reception for the delegation at Sakhir Palace, where he met His Majesty the King and gave him greetings from the Cathedral.  

Red Arrows Display: Sunday 8th October2017

O05The Red Arrows must be one of if not the best aerobatic display teams in the world and they certainly put on a spectacular display. We watched it from Karababad where thre was a good atmosphere of expectation. I met some of the children I’d met in the St Christopher’s School Assembly earlier in the day and those with a commercial eye were setting up drink stalls and bouncy castle.

National Evangelical Church Urdu-speaking congregation 50th Anniversary: Friday 13th October 2017

O06It was a privilege to represent and take St Christopher’s Cathedral’s greetings at this significant anniversary of the NEC Urdu-speaking congregation and be invited to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s blessings on them as a community. The only danger of these occasions is that every pastor invited to take part has his own sermon tucked in his back pocket so there you have already had several sermons before the preacher gets to the pulpit! But as these things only happen every fifty years all is forgiven and our stamina was rewarde with an excellent dinner outside.


A Funeral and a Wedding: Saturday 21st October 2017

My voice was clearly rapidly disappearing through the latter part of the week, so I was especially grateful for colleagues who were able to help with a Memorial service at Awali in the morning and a wedding in the afternoon, the biggest funeral and wedding of the year! Thankfully I was able to get through a personal time with the family prior to the cremation and a prayer of committal at the crematorium and Stephen was able to lead the majority of the service at Awali Church. And Royal Navy Chaplain Martin Evans was kindly drafted in to help with the wedding in the afternoon.