Dean’s Blog – May 2018

June 6, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Change of Speakers: Sunday 13th May 2018                                                                                                                            

001Our Living Room Dialogue speaker had to pull out at rather short notice but a few days before I had had an email from Dr Monika Nagel, who attends worship at the Anglican Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia who was keen to connect with the community here. 002I invited her to the St Christopher’s Day Dinner and at short notice she was willing to speak at the Living Room Dialogue and then later to the Monday Women’s homegroup and on both occasions provoked lively conversation and debate. She has an academic background in education and organizational psychology, is trained in Carl Rogers’ client-centred counseling theory but as well as teaching has worked in administration in the car industry, designing and dress-making. She has written a book Fatal Cocktails where she explores her interest in social behavior and the decline in peoples’ values.


Royal Wedding: Saturday 19th May 2018

003Like many we sat down to watch the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and was really delighted by it:  004the use Common Worship a first for a Royal Wedding, the conscious mix of people involved in the service, the wonderful traditional choral music balanced by a great gospel choir and a terrific address from Bishop Michael Curry, which has caused people to talk about not hats and frocks (and there were some dramatic examples of those) but about love and faith. The day after and sat down and wrote some questions based on  his address which both our homegroups used:


 Questions to reflect on the sermon

  1. “The power of love, the redemptive power of love….” What do you think Dr Martin Luther King meant by this…. Can you give examples of the redemptive power of love making the old world a new world?
  2. How can we “over-sentimentalize love?” On an occasion like a (royal) wedding is there a temptation to do this?
  3. Michael Curry points to God as the source of love (1 John 4: 7-8). What difference does this make for you?
  4. When Michael Curry says “love is not only about a young couple…. and we all showed up”, what more is love about both for Harry and Meghan and for all who shared in the experience of the service live or on TV?
  5. Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history” In what ways has that revolution changed the world and how could it further change the world in which we live? How can you be a part of that revolution?
  6. Michael Curry quotes the line of the spiritual The Balm of Gilead, that declares that all of us can be witnesses, even if we cannot preach like Peter or pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. What has been your experience of others sharing this message in their lives and words and how can you share that unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love with others?
  7. Michael Curry encourages us to think and imagine a world where love is the way.


Iftar Meal at Lanterns Restaurant: Tuesday 29th May 2018

005The Cathedral Council decided to have one Iftar Meal, so more than twenty attended a lovely buffet meal at Lanterns restaurant on the Budaiya Highway, a good opportunity to come together, to welcome some who were visiting Bahrain for a short spell of work filling in at the US Embassy.

006It was a foretaste of the summer programme of events that we plan to organize in July and August, to hold what becomes a rather fragmented community over the hot  months, while so many people are away. The hot summer has really arrived: temperatures well into the forties centigrade in the beginning of June and in our car saying it’s 48 degrees with an air conditioner that is clearly struggling.


Arrival of Recycling Bin: Saturday 2nd June 2018

007After much debate in the Cathedral Council and delay caused by the wrong bins being delivered to the recycling company, a smart new recycling bin has arrived on the compound and the first bottle posted into the bin. I rang the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to ask them to make use of it on Sunday morning and this morning on early morning walk around the Manama Cemetery I took a bag and collected 55 bottles!


008Looking ahead,  this is an opportunity for us to educate our children and young people and for them to educate us.   Our Friday Club will be using material recently produced by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network/ Green   – Oceans-of-Plastic  –  in September leading up to our Harvest Festival in October.  Harvest is a time when we particularly give thanks to God for the gift of the world and all that it produces, and we will use the opportunity to reflect on our abuse of our world and how we can begin in small ways to address that.


Wedding: Stephen and Mwikali: Saturday 2nd June 2018

Meeting together with Stephen from the US and Mwikali from Kenya a few weeks ago, I felt it would be good to connect them with Rob and Catherine (a UK/Kenya marriage), as I said to Catherine you Kenyans marrying Wazungu need to stick together. So it was lovely to hear that they had got together and that on her wedding day Mwikali changed into her wedding finery at their home and was driven to the Cathedral. and Rob on behalf of Mwikali’s family gave her away and Catherine was clearly acting in the role of Matron of honour. It was a lovely occasion and they went out to a song sung by the Kenya Boys Choir.


Dean’s Blog – May 2018

May 17, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Public holiday in Bahrain: Tuesday 1st May 2018

001It’s a public holiday in Bahrain and many of the church groups that use our compound are having services today. At 7am there were excited gatherings of people and our own Tamil-speaking congregation had a day out based in a villa in Janabiyah, rented out for such functions. It had all that was required: places to sit, and tables to eat at; a quiet street in which to play competitive cricket, though several balls must have gone missing, and a small swimming pool with a shallower paddling pool for younger children. I headed down there in time to join the cricket, have a swim and share in lunch, an excellent meal served on banana leaves and eaten with fingers, which saved a lot of washing up and spared the environment of plastic plates and cutlery. I learnt which way the banana leaf should be folded at the end of the meal, (topside over the lower side) though apparently at funerals it is the opposite way. An enjoyable day!


Violin and flute Duo: Thursday 3rd May 2018

002Two fine musicians: David Hlawiczka on violin and Ahmed Al Ghanem on flute combined together for a concert of beautiful music before a small, but very appreciative, audience at St Christopher’s Cathedral. Their programme included a repertoire of pieces by Furstenau, Gluck Wetzger, Loeillet, WF Bach and Beethoven. They finished with an encore – Traumerie by Schumann as they wished the audience to leave with good dreams.




Cyprus – Retreat and Meetings: Sunday 6th – Thursday 10th May 2018

003One of the joys of going to Cyprus for diocesan meetings is that it occasionally provides an opportunity to spend a couple of days to stay at Katafiyio, the Diocesan retreat house in Kapedes, a village in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. It’s a very calm environment, providing quiet for prayer, reflection and study, and opportunities for walks out in the hills. 004I went back to a book I’d not read for a while, The Go-between God,  a classic work on the Holy Spirit and Christian Mission by John V Taylor, and had opportunity to continue reading about The Romanovs, a lengthy, but very readable, history about the Russian royal family by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I am grateful to The Diocese for their commitment to Katafiyio and to Maggie le Roy and the Barnabas team for their encouragement of people to use it and Adrian and Stella for their gracious care of it and those who use it.



St Christopher’s Day Dinner: Friday 11th May 2018 

005Our ninth St Christopher’s Day Dinner took place in the British Club and once again we had a over a hundred people attending what was a good three-course dinner for a very reasonable price and with an excellent speaker. This year we welcomed Marietta Dias, a founder member and now the Chairperson of the Migrant Workers Protection Society, which has gained such respect in Bahrain for its work both to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers from many different countries and seek to respond to their needs, including the running of a women’s shelter. 006

For the first time this year, following the speaker and some time to absorb Marietta’s challenges to us as a community to be among those who respond to the needs of migrant workers, we had a disco which several people enjoyed including our speaker.


Dr Monika Nagel: Sunday 13th May

007When I was in Cyprus I got a message that our Living Room Dialogue speaker could not make it for Sunday, but I am grateful that Dr Monika Nagel, a visiting occupational psychologist from Perth, Western Australia, was willing to step in at short notice and a lively discussion followed her presentation. She is the author of Fatal Cocktails  and her interest is social behaviour and a decline in peoples’ (especially in the Westernized world) values is the most crucial factor for causing so many dilemmas around the world.



Sandstorms hit Bahrain

008For several days we have been hit by sandstorms and the papers have been full of warnings of the need to keep inside, especially if you have allergies to dust. Mostly I can keep inside but like many others I’m sure I have been struggling with the dust and am currently without much voice. It’s meant I have been able to catch up on a few other things – including updating this blog- though by the afternoon I need to rest for a while.


Dean’s Blog – April 2018

May 2, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Easter Monday Wedding: Monday 2nd April 2018

001002The Cathedral was full of flowers for the wedding of a member of the Mar Thoma Church to  a lawyer from London who was also from the Mar Thoma Church and it was made very special by the presence of His grace Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Supreme Head of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. I didn’t attend the service but met with him following the service.



Meeting with US Congress House of Representatives delegates: Monday 2nd April 2018

For the second week in a row I have met with a group from the US Congress visiting Bahrain. These are visits arranged through the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I have prepared a powerpoint of photographs that highlight Bahrain’s diversity of faith communities and simply speak about my experience of leading a faith community in Bahrain. As they were running half an hour late, we could not meet in the Cathedral as this would have clashed with arriving wedding guests but they came into our living room.

 Birthday party: Thursday 5th April 2018

Travelling down the Budaiya highway we had a very unpleasant experience. A young man stepped into the road armed with tyres forcing me to stop very suddenly, and following on close behind was another with a large can of petrol. I made the decision to put the foot on the accelerator going over the tyres, which in seconds would have been ablaze. I think if I had not taken this action the car itself would have been part of the inferno. On our return we could see the scorch marks on the road.

But we had a very happy celebration of Saskia’s 23rd birthday in a restaurant further down the Budaiya Highway with a group of her friends mostly from the Cathedral.

Formula One Grand Prix: 6-8th February 2018

003004As we’d never been to the Grand Prix since we’d been in Bahrain and as I was not on the rota to preach on Sunday evening, and we were given (yes given! three day tickets) we headed down to the International Circuit, not sure if we would enjoy it, but with a sense of excitement in the festive air surrounding the race. We were in seats in the grandstand just above the start so, had an excellent view of the action. It was not as noisy as I had expected and feared and found that I could survive without ear plugs and the action around the race – the street performers, the concert the relaxed sitting around and enjoying simple food – made it an experience to remember. 005We particularly enjoyed the friendly bunch of East African gymnasts – we met performers from Kenya and Tanzania –  and a lively band of drummers from Columbia who through everything into their performances. And the fireworks that marked the end of the race were spectacular.

Bahrain is rightly proud to be able to put on such a prestigious event and the lack of alcohol made it all the more a family festival.


US Independence Day Celebration / Queen’s Birthday party  17th/18th April 2018

006Two festive national events on consecutive days: the first at the Four Seasons Hotel was a very early celebration of US Independence Day (Ramadan and the hot summer is approaching)  in a packed ballroom, spilling out onto the expansive terrace looking over the water to The Avenues, Bahrain’s latest experience for shopping.

007The Queen’s Birthday Party was held in the wonderful British Embassy Garden in the heart of Manama and featured as its theme the Queen’s marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh and had as the focus of its decoration a series of cakes made like the Queen’s hats. The lighting of the hedges – in red white and blue – was particularly effective too.

These occasions provide an opportunity to meet with all sorts of people and I was especially glad to meet the Philippines Ambassador and to invite him to our annual St Christopher’s Day Dinner, where the focus will be on the plight of migrant workers.


Party in the Park: Friday 20th April 2018

008009If two big parties in a week was not enough, we were delighted to attend a farewell for the principal of St Christopher’s School, Ed Goodwin and the head of the Junior School, Wendy Bataineh in what was a spectacular open air concert on the St Christopher’s sports fields in Saar. It was a magnificent event with all sorts of music groups – bands, orchestras, as well as individual musicians and duos taking part, a real showcase for the school in honouring long and faithful service to the school. It was an honour to be there and to share in the celebrations with over a thousand people.


Church of South India South Kerala 5th Anniversary: Saturday 21st April 2018 

010I was honoured to be invited to the Church of South India South Kerala Diocese celebration of their fifth anniversary as a congregation in Bahrain with a special Thanksgiving Service in the Cathedral during which three babies were baptised. The guest preacher was the Rev’d DL Paulson, who did his Masters in theology at trinity college Bristol, one of the Church of England’s Theological Colleges.  He serves as the Bishop’s Secretary and had come from India for the occasion. I was struck by the number of families and children there were which re-enforces the need to press on with our Building Project, not just for our own young people but the other groups that use our compound.


Meal out with friends: Monday 23rd April 2018

012We had a wonderful Thai meal out in the simplicity of the Banana Leaf Restaurant, one of our favourite places with Mockbul Ali, Deputy British Ambassador and Sajeda and Shareef and Janet whose wedding at the Cathedral I had taken recently. The laughter was such that the waiters had to quieten us down! Next time fish and chips we gather…



 St Christopher’s Music Festival: Wednesday 25th April 2018

It was a joy to attend the St Christopher’s Music festival finals and to witness such talent from across the community. St Christopher’s has such high quality results and gained most of the top prizes but as Andy Holman organizing his fifth and last festival said: “all who’d reached the Finals were gold medal winners.” But it was good to see the Philippines School compete so strongly with two excellent choirs and a young drummer attending the British School won everyone’s hearts with his enthusiasm and professionalism and cool outlook on life as he gave the judge a high five on receiving his trophy.

Farewell meal with Tryphena: Thursday 26th April 2018

013It’s been lovely to see Tryphena growing up in both the English-speaking and then Tamil-speaking congregation over the years that we have been here and now she’s finished her final school exams and is heading to Madurai to study English literature in a Christian college there. It was lovely to have a meal at Stephen and Jasmine’s home to say goodbye to her and to wish her well in the coming years. We gave her one of the Jerusalem cross necklaces as a reminder of her years in Bahrain and it was lovely to see her wearing it at the service the next day.



Cathedral/Awali AGM: Friday 27th April 2018

014A lot of unnecessary worry goes into the preparations for the AGM, but probably all of us have been involved in meetings where someone has an axe to grind and you never quite know what might come up under Any Other Business, but in the end all went very smoothly: the meeting was quorate, people listened and everybody seemed content and happy. The big challenge for the Council is surely to see through the Building Project, in the coming year hopefully, and it was good to hear of progress on that front.

Stations of the Resurrection: Sunday 29th April 2018

015Stations of the Cross are something that we are all familiar with: we have them around the walls of the Cathedral and during Monday to Wednesday during Holy week we set up 14 Stations that we follow round the compound, leading finally to the tomb where Jesus is laid.

This was my first experience of following Stations of the Resurrection, a service in Common Worship: Times and Seasons and using as a basis for many of the reflections, Andrew Walker’s book Journey into Joy. Choosing verses for hymns was an interesting challenge – we did not have time for many whole hymns – but generally the service was widely appreciated and used thirteen readers for the different stations.


Dean’s Blog – Holy Week and Easter 2018

April 2, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Holy Week and Easter 2018

0001Through this Holy Week and Easter the central act of what we have done in our worship has been to retell the story of Jesus’ last week in a variety of different ways and it has struck me afresh how powerful story-telling is and in particular the transforming power of this particular story. I was taking a school assembly on Palm Sunday morning and as I was telling the story I felt that some of the children were hearing this story for the first time: the shock of Jesus betrayal by Judas, the sadness hearing how Jesus friends abandoning him and Peter denying him, the difficulty of understanding the brutality of the violence against Jesus. And I have been reminded that the original Greek often uses the historic present tense – which in English is translated as past – but for those reading or hearing the story in the original language the reader/hearer is present. 0003That is we are not just observers of events that have happened, but we are present. 0002In a very real way we are participants. And so the telling of the story and we have often done it though dramatic portrayal:  in the Station of the Cross; in the washing of feet at the Maundy Thursday service; and in the powerful journey to the cross that we make in the Good Friday service.  The whole congregation moves from the celebration of Passover in the Upper Room (Cathedral) to the Garden of Gethsemane (Deanery garden) to the place of judgement (Coffee room) to the place of crucifixion (back in the cathedral) and we make our own connection with the story by pinning our names to the large wooden cross.


0004In the Good Friday three hour service, we explored the experiences of six people who were there:  Mary of Bethany, Peter, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene and the Roman Centurion using what I think is a deeply insightful book At the Cross by Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart as the basis for the meditations. The service ended unexpectedly dramatically for as we were singing the final hymn a car was ablaze in the car park. There was some quick thinking and fire extinguishers and hoses were soon being used and the police and fire brigade were also soon on the scene, but the car was a right off and an adjacent one was badly damaged through the heat. Thankfully no-one was hurt, it was an electrical fault (not a terrorist act) and the petrol tank did not explode.    


On Easter Eve I had a final meditation on Nicodemus, who, with Joseph of Arimathea, had taken responsibility to get permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body and place it in a tomb. It shows the transformation from the Nicodemus of John 3, who comes under cover of darkness to meet with Jesus. Here he is publicly identifying with Jesus, which clearly demanded huge courage given his position as a Pharisee and on the Sanhedrin, the religious council and he gives Jesus a burial that was fit for a king with a huge quantity of myrrh and aloes. Had Nicodemus come “to see the Kingdom of God”, which were Jesus first recorded words to him in John 3: 3.

0005Easter for me began by delivering Jesus and the angel to the Easter garden in preparation for the joint Tamil service at 5am and it was good to meet the Salvation Army Major, Stewart Grinstead who was the preacher and visiting from Kuwait. I then headed up to the American Mission Hospital car park for the Ecumenical Sunrise service at 5.30am; it’s always striking how many people gather before heading off to work on a working day for many. returning to the Cathedral to greet the Tamil community who were having breakfast. Our main Easter service was at 10.30am in the Cathedral and the Rev’d Sujith Sugathan, from one of our Church of South India congregations, helped lead the service, while Canon Stephen led the 9.30am service at Awali. 0006Tricia and I managed a quick swim and fish and chip lunch at the British Club, which revived us for the final Easter Holy Communion at 6.15pm, the usual time for our regular Sunday service. I enjoyed the challenge of preaching on Mark 16:1-8, which ends not with Alleluias that Christ is risen, but the women, trembling and bewildered fled from the tomb and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Fear which paralyzed them into running away and silence, as fear does. But why does Mark end in this way?  – an ending that later scribes could not cope with so they added another for as our Bibles say: “the most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16: 9-20.” It is surely because he wants us, the hearers and readers of his gospel, to take up the responsibility of sharing the good news with others.


Dean’s Blog – March 2018

March 25, 2018 in Dean's Blog


Male and Female Models of Discipleship in John’s Gospel: Sunday 11th March 2018

001Anne Futcher’s final event of her busy month with us before returning to her parish in Exeter was to lead a Living Room Dialogue exploring Male and female roles of discipleship in John’s Gospel, particularly looking at the examples of Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in chapter 4. She gave an overview of John’s theology before looking at the particular examples in these two chapters and her conclusion that Jesus was more concerned about discipleship than gender specific roles. Anne had to be whisked off to the airport to catch her 23.00 Emirates plane via dubai to London Heathrow and I followed her carrying a parcel she’d left behind the following early morning at 02.15. I was able to meet her off the plane, hand over her parcel and have a quick cup of coffee before she caught the bus to Exeter and I caught the train via London to Gloucester.


Meeting Isla: 12th-17th March 2018

002It was exciting to spend five days with our daughter Alex and Dan and their newly born daughter Isla, my first meeting. The first two days were spent in Ross-on-Wye, where they were at the end of their holiday, which included a lovely 10kms walk out of Monmouth, up into the hills overlooking the city and back along the River Wye which after recent snow was in full flood with the meltwater.

003On the Wednesday we drove back to their home in Hitchin. Dan was back to work immediately, but as the weather was fine Alex and I got out and about on foot, meeting up with her fellow new mums for an ice cream one time and meeting a former colleague of Alex, a church youth worker, for a coffee. And it was lovely just to be able to relax and to read Isla stories.

The weather turned back to winter on leaving Heathrow, the snow beginning to fall and the plane needed to be de-iced before take-off.


Preparing for Holy Week and Easter

004Holy Week for us in the Middle East begins on the Friday before Palm Sunday, so really is a Holy Ten Days, but having decided on telling the Passion Story in a variety of different ways in our Palm Weekend services and using many people to be involved, especially for the crowd responses for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and Pilate’s interactions with the crowds when he tries to have Jesus released, it is sometimes a challenge to pin people down. This is especially so on Sunday evenings as the road in front of the Cathedral compound has been made one-way, creating longer journeys for most people at a time when the roads are already crowded, so people are anxious about making a commitment.

The Easter News is all prepared for emailing and distribution, as well as going onto our website. It has an Easter message, details of services though Holy Week and Easter Day and news of events coming up in our life together.


Palm Sunday weekend: 23rd-25th March 2018

005Telling the story in a variety of different ways seems to be the most important part of our worship through Holy week and Easter and in Greek this is often apparently done by using the historic present tense, which draws the readers or hearers into the text into the story, into the present time of the story as if we are there. 006This is surely the function of a well-told story that we become participants in it. I felt this was so both in the dramatic reading of the Passion from Susan Sayers’ simply but well told story of The Road to the Cross and the dramatization of the crucifixion and resurrection by our older Samaritans group. It was as if we were there, especially when Neha appeared from behind the big rock, alive following the crucifixion.



Remembering Camille Jones and her family: Saturday 24th March 2018

In response to the tragic death of Camille Jones, whose funeral was held yesterday in her home town in Canada, I had suggested keeping the cathedral open for those who would appreciate it as a place to come and pray for her and her family. This note went out to the St Christopher’s School community:

007Many of us in the St Christopher’s School and wider community have been touched by the death of Camille Jones.

Although St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama is regularly open in daylight hours for anyone to come and pray, on Saturday 24 March between 3:00pm and 5:00pm the Cathedral will be open for all who would like to come and pray for Camille and her family. There will be a book for messages of condolence and candles will be available to light for all who find that a helpful symbol.


About fifty people came to the Cathedral at different times over the two hours and it was clearly appreciated. In our frenetic society we rarely give ourselves time and quiet to sit still and reflect and as well as candles to light, a book of condolence for all who wanted to write a message, I’d prepared some prayers for a time of bereavement.