Blog – July 2017

August 8, 2017 in Dean's Blog

A Separation: Wednesday 12th July 2017

j01Pizzas, ice cream and popcorn, distributed by young Patrick before we watched the movie A Separation, was this week’s activity organized by Tim and Vickie in the café and the very smart cinema room at their block in Juffair. A Separation is a very thought- provoking movie, set in Iran, dealing with all sorts of moral dilemmas: wanting the best for your child, care for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, truth-telling, and in the end the heart-rending decision for the child of which parent to stay with. This is a foreign language film that deservedly won an Academy Award nomination for its original screenplay. A big thank you to Vickie for hosting it, while Tim was dining with the visiting Prince Michael of Kent.

Wimbledon semi-final : Thursday 13th July 2017
j02Having not seen any of Wimbledon live on TV this year, I headed down to the British Club to join a small group watching the Jo Konta/Venus Williams semi-final. In the end the match was a disappointment for British fans, who had high hopes of Konta winning the Championship as the highest remaining seed. But the experience of Venus Williams, who has already won the tournament five times before proved too much on the day.

Charity Clothes sale: Friday 14th July 2017
j03The Charity Centre has been closed for far too long, but with Angel’s enthusiastic lead, a sale of excess clothes was arranged for Friday with the hope that the shop can open very soon clear of the overflowing bags.
By the number of people who have bought clothes at knock-down prices, there is a clear need for such provision and it raises funds for the work of the Ecumenical Conference of Charity (ECC) for its ministry among the needy in Bahrain.
So once again we will need donations of good quality second-hand clothes, we will need people to help keep the shop open at regular hours each week and we will need good publicity to say that we are now open again for business.


Bastille Day: Le 14 Juillet 2017
j04It was fun joining Tim and Vicki for the French Bastille Day celebrations at the Sofitel Hotel in the evening and it was an opportunity to catch up with a variety of people whom I had not seen for a long time. Large photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and Le Moulin Rouge created the atmosphere of being in Paris. Excellent food, Champagne and French wines and cheeses and being chauffeurred by Tim and Vickie there and back made it very special.

A week of weddings
Over the next week I have four weddings to take in the Cathedral: one on Saturday, two on Monday and one next Thursday. Each one will have a very different character. I was invited to the Reception in the Coffee Chimney following the Saturday wedding and wore my Freedom Tie in support of Freedom Dolls, taking with me a few in my pocket and some in a bag in the car. Without any sales pitch the groom and nearly all the male guests bought one! Ten sold in the evening!

Desi Spice Evening: Tuesday 25th July 2017
j05The summer weekly programme of activities has been going really well and it’s good to see that all the weeks have now been filled by volunteers willing to organize an activity. This week sulo arranged an evening at Desi Spice and many of us enjoyed exploring a new cuisine, especially the chaat the snacky street food that Desi spice is known for. Twenty-four gathered at the restaurant and it is good to see those who are relatively new to our community integrating so easily and the mixing-up of those attending different services meeting and making friends.

Pray for Bahrain: Wednesday 26th July 2017
Pray for Bahrain is a monthly ecumenical meeting hosted by the National Evangelical Church to pray for Bahrain and the wider region, which I try to attend when I can, but often get caught up with other things on a Wednesday evening. But this month I had been asked to lead. It was interesting meeting up with a medical student from Cambridge doing an elective at King Hamad Hospital.

Baptism service for Solomon and Kenneth: Friday 28th July 2017
Friday’s service was full of joy with the baptism of two cousins Solomon Kigen Murei, visiting with his mother Rahab from Nairobi, and Kenneth Jabali Dawson son of Rob and Catherine. An East African Choir led songs of praise in Swahili and Kikuyu to open our service, and a bagpiper Lindsay Aird accompanied j07Sharon on piano playing Amazing grace – quite a sound in a confined space. It was a service of great joy and celebration. In the middle of my sermon a young lad from another congregation, quite oblivious to the congregation and the preacher, rushed into the church playing catch-me-if-you-can, at one point chasing round the altar, much to the consternation of his parent/carer. As one person commenting afterwards said: Never have I been to a service when quite so much happened.

Songs of Praise: Sunday 30th July 2017
j08Being the fifth Sunday of the month we had a Songs of Praise Service in the evening; a variety of hymns chosen by members of the congregation interspersed by readings, both Biblical and from other sources that reflected the themes of the hymns chosen.


Blog June-July 2017

July 8, 2017 in Dean's Blog

The Boy behind the Curtain

a1One of the joys of the summer months is the change of rhythm of life in and around the cathedral, especially in the evenings and the opportunity to read a little more widely. Having spent the last week of our sabbatical in Western Australia, I have enjoyed reading Tim Winton’s The Boy behind the Curtain. The title comes from his opening chapter following a move to Albany at the age of thirteen, and clearly finding it difficult to settle in his new environment, he took his unloaded parents gun and, from behind a curtain, would line up people in the sights…. “Anything could have happened, none of it good. And just in time … before anything irreparable could come of this impulse, I found words.”

He writes exquisitely on a range of subjects including his parents coming to faith following the care of a stranger who looked after his father following a horrific motorbike accident, his love of surfing and his passion to preserve the environment for future generations, which has led him to political action confronting the power of big industry. I look forward to reading more of his novels.

Summer Programme of weekly activities

a2With the summer exodus, it is hard to sustain many weekly activities, so we arrange one weekly event – mostly Wednesdays – and the first was a Thai meal at the Banana Leaf Restaurant on the last day of the Eid Public Holiday: excellent food at a reasonable price. It was good to welcome Kennedy who had arrived from Nigeria just a week before and was looking for an Anglican Church as a priority. Eighteen of us gathered for the meal, though several were leaving Bahrain on summer leave within a few days.

a3Week two and we were invited to a bbq- bring your own meat, and a salad or dessert to share – around a small, but surprisingly deep, pool. This time forty people came and especially families from our Tamil-speaking congregation who clearly enjoyed the pool. It was good to see members of all five of our weekly congregations present and many meeting for the first time. A big thank you to Anthony for arranging the event and to his elves Del and Jade, members of our small Sunday morning congregation who work in the hospitality industry here, so hardly a day-off for them.

Farewell to the Holland Family: Wednesday 28th June, 2017

a4This is the particular season for farewells as we said good-bye to Andy and Jo Holland with Michael, Shauna and Kathleen, heading for Belfast. We had a relaxed meal at the Dilmun Club and caught up with their next moves: Jo to work with the charity Saphara, seeking to open the eyes of young people to change the world through working together in projects in India; and Andy still exploring options, but with opportunities to teach or a training role.

And Farewell to the Hoff family: Friday 7th July, 2017

a5Another week and another family leaving us: Aaron, Brooke and Philip Hoff. When we came to their commissioning prayer we could find a kneeler with St Philip but not St Aaron or St Brooke, but a challenging time ahead with Aaron heading to Tunis and the rest of the family back to home in Kansas and we wish them all well, grateful for the year that they have journeyed with us.


Dean’s Blog – June 2017

June 18, 2017 in Dean's Blog

H20 – a Year Three Cantata: Monday 5th June 2017

01It was good to be at the Year 3 Cantata H2O at St Christopher’s School, each class performing one song which followed the journey of water through the hydrological cycle. There was lots of enthusiasm from the children and their watching parents, clear diction and as well as lively songs, this was a good way of learning about H20. And it was good to see one of our Cathedral members, Elaine, directing the music.

Lunch with French Ambassador: Tuesday 6th June 2017

02I had invited HE Bernard Régnauld-Fabre to our Living Room Dialogue when Vickie Hudson was speaking on The Role of the Church in the conflict in Ukraine. He was unable to come but was interested to receive a copy of Vickie’s paper. So Vickie, Tricia and I had a very pleasant lunch at the Ambassador’s residence, an opportunity for him to quiz Vickie on her paper. He clearly has an informed interest in the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe.

Qatar Shutdown: Wednesday 7th June 2017

03News of the diplomatic isolation of Qatar and the closure of Bahrain airport to Qatar Airlines brought with it a rush to the Qatar Airlines Office for those, like us, who’d bought tickets home for our summer leave when Qatar Airlines was making some very good offers. Reading the paper at 7.30am that the airline’s offices in Bahrain would also be closed in twenty-four hours, I headed straight to Seef and joined the growing crowds. Having made the booking online, the supervisor said that his on-line bookings man would soon be out and I found myself at the head of the queue and back home by 8.30am with an e-mailed reassurance that a refund was being processed. I felt sorry for all the staff, who were perhaps working their last day in the office under huge pressures and in as calm and professional manner as possible and for mothers with small children in tow in a bewildering environment. We are now booked on BA at rather higher costs and we hope their computer systems don’t go into meltdown!

Spirituals and hymns concert from the Manama Singers: Thursday 8th June 2017

04This was the final concert for Elizabeth George on the night before her departure , but also the final concert for Musical Director Leah Churchill and accompanist Gavin Stewart after three years with the choir and clearly an emotional event for them. The audience enjoyed a selection of hymns and spirituals, many of them arranged by Leah Churchill. This concert marks the end of the Cathedral concert season.


Farewells and Welcomes

Over the last few weeks we have had two significant farewells for:

The Lucas familyJean-Baptiste, Jennifer, Valentine, Victor and Zoe – who will be going to London and Elizabeth George

There will be more farewells to come: Brooke, Aaron and Philip Hoff and Andy, Jo, Shauna and Kathleen Holland.

Thankfully traffic is not all one way and even on Friday there was a new family, who wrote in response to a welcoming e-mail:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It’s wonderful to have been at Church today. It was great meeting everyone.                                                                                                             We will be joining you again. It was especially nice to see so many children.

It shows how important a warm and welcoming community is and how all of us need to be looking out for those who are new in order to welcome them into our community.

Living Room Dialogue: Sunday 8th June 2017

05We had an excellent Living room dialogue with US Navy Chaplain Victoria Chappell currently with the US Marine Corps, who reflected on the journey of her vocation and encouraged us to do the same.


Clergy and Spouses Conference in Ras Al Khaimah: 13-15th June 2017

06Stephen, Tricia and I attended this event and it was good to see both Jon and Karen Lavelle flourishing in their new surrounds. We stayed in the Coptic Church, worshipped in St Luke’s and went out to a Mexican and Italian restaurant on successive evenings. As Chair of the House of Clergy I had to chair the various sessions, one of which was sharing liturgies that had worked effectively in our own settings. One of the locums, visiting from the US, particularly commented on the unity of the Gulf Clergy, which is always encouraging! Bishop Michael joined us for the conference, which was encouraging too.

Old Friends: Friday 16th June 2017

07It was lovely to meet up with a friend, Suzanne, from our previous parish in Kent in the UK, who is here as a Royal Navy Reservist. She is working in the media in the combined Naval Force based in Bahrain under a Japanese Admiral, so she has been learning some Japanese as well as building on other skills. We met for a swim and a meal at the British Club.




Blog May – June 2017

June 11, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Off to Cyprus for Bishop’s Council and Standing Committee: 9th – 11th May 2017

Back from Perth, Australia, on Sunday, on Tuesday morning I was heading off to Cyprus for the meeting of the Bishop’s Council and Standing Committee, meeting up in Bahrai Airport with Archdeacon Bill, who’d kindly held the fort for three weeks at the beginning of the sabbatical. It was good to hear that it had been such a positive experience for him.

Voila Viola: Thursday 11th May 2017

01Arriving off back to Bahrain on the plane on Thursday, I just made it in time to the Cathedral to welcome the audience and performers for a wonderful concert Voila Viola, given by Nora Lee Smith on viola accompanied by Mina Iwahashi on piano. The programme included the Suite no 3 in C Major by  JS Bach , the Cappricio pour Alto Seul by Henri Vieuxtemps and the Sonata No 1 in F major by Johannes Brahms. Nora has been taking the lead role in co-ordinating our concerts at the Cathedral, so it was a special pleasure to hear her play.


Jean’s 90th Birthday: Friday 12th May

02Following the morning service on Friday, and it was good to be back, Tricia and I headed to the British Club to celebrate Jean Thomas’ 90th birthday. Geoff and Jean spend about six months usually over the winter and avoiding the summer heat, with their daughter in Bahrain and they are regulars at our Sunday morning congregation. They are a wonderfully gracious presence, much loved by our small international congregation.


Building Bridges through Music with Jason Carter: Sunday 14th May 2017

03Jason Carter had given us a concert with his harp-guitar before we headed off on our sabbatical, so it was good to have him back to reflect on the many different places that he has travelled to and how music can connect with people in a way that diplomacy and politics often cannot. He is a particularly gifted story-teller with a wicked sense of humour and his account of a trip to North Korea, including a trip to the North Korean 04Embassy in London, located in a small rather bare terraced house in London had everyone in stitches, but he has a serious message and he spoke of his current project working to preserve the songs of the Pearl Fishermen in Bahrain and the Gulf.


St Christopher’s Day Dinner: Friday  19th May 2017

05After several years in smart hotels, we held the St Christopher’s day Dinner this year in the British Club with a set menu from which everyone made choices ahead of time. It was, I think, a good decision given that our community now is much more mixed and the price of the meal a very real factor in peoples’ choice to attend or not. It also reduced wastage and enabled the chefs to know exactly what was required ahead of time for the 99 guests. The tables were decorated by Natasha Prince, and looked really good as people arrived. Costs were more than half the previous year and Gulf Brands kindly sponsored wine.
Our speaker was the Deputy British Ambassador, Mockbul Ali OBE, who addressed the subject Keeping Faith in an Unpredictable World. He said that conflicts were often attributed to different religions, but that at the heart of the three religions of the Book was the concern for peace expressed in everyday greetings between people. He also pointed out that men and women of faith were always at the forefront of making peace and seeking reconciliation. He quoted the former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs on the importance of “the dignity of difference” and that difference was a God-given characteristic. Bahrain was a striking example of a country that respected this dignity of difference with mosques, churches, synagogue and temples alongside one another.

Ascension Day Vigil for Manchester: Thursday 25th May 2017
0607Prior to the Ascension day Eucharist at 6pm, along with many churches worldwide we held a vigil for Manchester, for those who had died, for bereaved families and prayed for the Emergency services – police and paramedics – for nurses and doctors caring for the injured and religious and community leaders. We lit 22 candles in the shape of a cross for the 22 who had died in the attack and were able to keep these burning through the Ascension Day service that followed.


Thank you for the Music: Saturday 27th May 2017

08Three bands in one evening: Group Therapy from Saudi Arabia, the St Chris Rockers, drawn from our young people and a surprise Abba Tribute band made a very happy and enjoyable evening in the Alun Morris Hall. Bring-and share food meant some very tasty dishes. I decided, having seen Alison our churchwarden dancing, that the Diocese should hold a Churchwardens Dancing competition as there is no doubt that we would walk away with the prize. A big thank you to Graham and Cathy and our friends from Saudi for such a special evening and all in aid of the Building Fund.


Farewell Meal for Elizabeth George: Monday 29th May 2017

09There was a lovely gathering for a meal at Lanterns Restaurant, Juffair of about forty people from at least twelve nationalities to wish Elizabeth well as she retires from twenty years in Bahrain and before that a long spell in Abu Dhabi. She has contributed and been involved in much, as part of the St Christopher’s family: serving on the Bahrain Anglican Church Council, as Administrator for three and a half years, as a Reader, leading worship and preaching, as a homegroup leader, but above all as a friend of many. She has also served in the Diocese as a Synod representative and as Secretary of the Bishop’s Advisory Panel for those exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. As Chair of this panel, I know how much work this involves and I’m very grateful.

Elizabeth returns at least initially to Bangalore, where one daughter is, but will also be going to Texas, where her other daughter and grandchildren are.

We also say good bye and commissioned the Lucas family at the Friday morning service on 2nd June– Jean Baptiste, Jennifer, Valentine, Victor and Zoe. They are moving to London, and we are grateful for the time that they have been with us. Valentine will board for a further year and we hope to keep in touch with her.

St Chris Community Big Band Concert: Thursday 1st June 2017

10Under the direction of Paul Bagshaw, the St Chris Community Big Band made a very welcome return to the Cathedral for a Thursday concert and what a sound they made! There was both jazz and popular music featuring songs such as Skyfall and Caravan as well as medleys by Stevie Wonder and the Bee Gees.

The discerning filled up from the back, but it was certainly a powerful sound from the eighteen musicians that make up the band.

Pentecost: Friday 2nd June 2017

11Our Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian community has become a core part of several of several of our congregations. At the Pentecost service on Friday they sang a couple of Swahili songs, a particularly lively and rhythmic one being Mwamba, which means Rock, and which the congregation joined in with gusto! Asante sana.


Sabbatical: February 14th – May 7th 2017

June 6, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Following the Diocesan Synod in Cyprus we returned to Bahrain for a couple of days before heading off on a three month sabbatical. We are very grateful to the Bahrain Anglican Church Council for generously supporting us in this, for Stephen Thanapaul who took on extra responsibilities, for the support of Archdeacon Bill Schwartz and Canon Ian Calder and his wife Penny who provided pastoral cover while we were away. It has been an opportunity for a different rhythm of life for which we are truly grateful.

A Time for Travel

01We travelled first to Bangalore and then travelled by car to Coorg, a fascinating area of natural forest, inhabited by wild elephants whose habitat is increasingly under threat due to the pressures of forest clearance and cultivation and which has many coffee estates. We were staying on the estate and the coffee was being harvested while we were there, so we could witness the various processes: picking, drying, winnowing, packing while we were there. We were in India for just a week.

02We flew on to Hong Kong for two weeks, where our daughter Hannah (who was born there) is working with her partner Tom. We had spent seven and a half years in Hong Kong in the 1980’s and this was our first return of any length of time, an opportunity to see the changes in this dynamic city.


Our final country was Australia the country of Tricia’s birth, and where most of her family are o3still living, but also a place where we have many friends from past parishes and from my theological college days. We spent three weeks in Brisbane and three weeks in Sydney where our youngest daughter, Philippa, now lives (with a two-day trip to Adelaide). We then flew on to Tasmania for a week, to Melbourne for five days and Western Australia for our final week, arriving in Perth, but driving to Albany, on to Margaret River and back to Freemantle. We flew back to Bahrain from Perth through Dubai.

As perhaps is inevitable with so much travel, we had some challenges : Bangalore was enshrouded with fog and our plane had to fly on to Chennai Airport. It was clear that they did not know what to do with us there. After several delays, we were offloaded into the terminal and found ourselves having to write our own boarding passes for the flight back to Bangalore, once we had received clearance six hours later! Between Hong Kong and Brisbane we had a very tight transit time in Singapore, but just managed to get on the plane; our luggage followed the next day. Singapore Airlines were very efficient however and provided us with an emergency bag with essentials for 24 hours and delivered our luggage to where we were staying.

A Time for Study

0405Both Tricia and I went loaded with books: Tricia continuing her PhD studies and I took books on Islamophobia and Islamic extremism. Since my arrival in Bahrain, I have been very conscious of the respect in which faith communities and people of faith are held; I am also aware that in the last few years in Europe, the UK and in the United States there has been a growing narrow nationalism, an anti-migrant and anti-Islamic stance.

I write this in the immediate aftermath of the atrocities in Manchester and then two days ago in London, so there is plenty to fear from Islamic extremists, but a blanket Islamophobia that portrays all Muslims as jihadists or extremists only encourages the polarization of communities.

So I have read lots of books on the subject and made many notes, but now I need time to distil what I have read and noted.

A Time for Retreat

06Before I left Bahrain I had booked a week’s retreat in St Teresa Spirituality Centre: Retreat Centre Brisbane, which belongs to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of

07It was a lovely centre to stay for the week: a beautiful setting on the coast, though fringing mangrove swamps meant you could see, but not get near to, the sea; a garden with mature trees and outdoor spaces for prayer; two chapels which had large plate glass windows looking out over the garden to the sea; comfortable en suite accommodation and excellent food. I was the only person staying there for the first five days, so I had my personal chef. At the weekend two groups came in; a multi-disciplinary palliative care team and a senior management team from a Brisbane Roman Catholic School. An Anglican lady was leading the retreat for the school team – her first time, and she was obviously anxious – so when I offered to pray for her, she was so appreciative.

A Time for Family and Friends

08Wherever we went we were not far from family and friends and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with so many people from different periods of our lives. So in India we were hosted by Ayesha, who was here in Bahrain for several years and always stays with us when she returns, and her mother, Lyra, and we travelled together from Bangalore up to Coorg where we all stayed with a school friend of Lyra’s, Nalini, a retired headmistress, who welcomed us into her home on her coffee estate and showed us around Coorg.

09In Hong Kong we stayed with Hannah and Tom, but met up with so many friends from our Hong Kong days, several who’d been part of Emmanuel Church, when we were there in the 80’s. I write further about our time in Hong Kong under a separate heading.

10In Australia the only time that we were not staying with family or friends was in Brisbane, where we rented a simple flat on the river. In each place we visited we had a large family reunion over a meal. It was really the first time we had attempted to meet up with all the family since the year that we were married (1980), but of course now there are not only nephews and nieces, but grand nephews and grand nieces.

11In Sydney we were able to stay with our youngest daughter Philippa in her apartment. We met up with Doreen (from Kenya and ex-Bahrain) now in Sydney, three couples from our Hong Kong years in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide; two college friends – Steve Williams and his wife Gillian in the Blue Mountains, Steve was my best man and David and Gretta Jones with whom we did a parish swap, when they were in Parramatta in 1992; they are now in Melbourne. We also caught up with Vic and Delle Roberts, who live in Bowral, where Sir Don Bradman played cricket; they’ve visited us in every parish we’ve served in, including here in Bahrain, when they spoke to both a men’s group and women’s group. In Adelaide we had lunch with Nic and Julia Denny Dimitriou, who were in our Diocese in Paphos, Cyprus, but now happily settled in Adelaide, Nic a parish priest and Julia a school chaplain.

12In Melbourne we met with a second cousin of mine and his wife, whom we met for the first time at my aunt’s 80th birthday a few years ago; it was an opportunity to get to know them and to hear their story. They have been glad to connect with family over these past few years.
It has been special too to see Hannah and Philippa, to stay with them, to meet their friends and to see the communities and places where they are living through their eyes. So much of what we have done over these three months has been over meals and in going for walks. If it had only been the former, I am sure that we would have broken the scales on our return.

A Time to Reconnect with the Church in Hong Kong

13I realize now how important the years that we had in Hong Kong were in shaping my life and ministry, so in many ways the two weeks we had here were a time of pilgrimage. Without the experience of Hong Kong, we probably would not have considered a post in Bahrain.

I had the privilege of preaching both Emmanuel Church, where I was priest-in-charge in the 80’s, though it’s now meeting in a different place (Bethanie Chapel, an old French Mission) and also the following week in St John’s Cathedral. There were a few familiar faces in both churches, but of course the Church has moved on and the contexts of their ministry are different.

14I joined the weekly Diocesan/Provincial Thursday morning Eucharist, breakfast and meeting, a great institution for a small diocese/province allowing the clergy to meet regularly with their Bishop/Archbishop; I was delighted to see that tradition had continued. One of the Bishops, Andrew Chan, said that, as a student, he had attended a retreat that I had led in our home on Julian of Norwich. I had lunch with Archbishop Paul Kwong, who was a young curate when we first came to Hong Kong and Dean Matthias Der, whose father was a priest in HK in the 80’s, took us out to a dim sum lunch and he kindly gave me a history of St John’s Cathedral, Imperial to International, which I have read with interest.

15I visited St James’ Church and Settlement at the invitation of the Rev’d Lysta Leung and was shown around their impressive new facilities. I was intrigued to see a photo from 1983 on the wall featuring both Tricia and I, and Lysta rang 16Archbishop Emeritus Peter Kwong to see if it was convenient for me to call on him in the Provincial office and he seemed genuinely delighted to meet me. Tricia had acted as his English secretary, essentially being on the end of a fax machine and dealing with his English correspondence.

We had wonderful lunch with Emmanuel Church members and Father Robert Martin and met up with the only founding member of Emmanuel still there May Large (Auntie May). We caught up with Stephen and Catherine Miller, Stephen with Mission to Seafarers, Hong Kong, hearing of his big plans for building a multi-storey block on the current Mariner’s Club site in Kowloon; Catherine is on the staff of the Cathedral. 17We met up with Jenny Wong and her husband Andy, who have visited us in Bahrain; Jenny is an Anglican priest and former headteacher and having been ordained in Canada, but with Hong Kong roots, was always a helpful interpreter of events in the Diocese, when were there.

We were also able to return to places that were important to us and in particular our home in On Lee, Pokfulam and Pokfulam Reservoir, an enclosed reservoir, a concrete tank with a grassy top, where we occasionally had games and picnics after church on a Sunday.


A Time for Different Experiences of Worship

1819Holy Week was especially rich in this regard in that we attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney on Good Friday, which was followed by a performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion in the Sydney Opera House on Holy Saturday.


On Easter Day we attended the early morning Communion Service in the Cathedral, at which the Archbishop of Sydney was preaching. I gave the Dean greetings from St Christopher’s Cathedral, Bahrain after the service. On Good Friday and one other Sunday, we attended the local parish church near to where Philippa’s apartment was located, but sought out a church that had rather more liturgical content on Palm Sunday.

At other times we attended worship in a variety of different churches over the three months.

20While in Sydney I rang Robert McLean, the Partnerships Coordinator for the Anglican Board of Mission , Australia, who have been very supportive of the student chaplaincy in Famagusta. We had lunch together and he introduced me to all the staff, who were in the office. I was given an excellent little book, with beautiful photos, of forty days of Bible Study: Into the Desert. In the introduction Rowan Williams is quoted, describing Australia as a country with a desert at its heart, a desert that it has only begun to explore spiritually. It is a booklet that we might well find helpful in our own desert areas in the Gulf.

A Time for Holiday

21The final week of our sabbatical was unashamedly family holiday and we headed to Western Australia to Perth, which was at least in the direction of Bahrain! Alex and Dan flew out from the UK, Hannah and Tom from Hong Kong, and Philippa from Sydney. Our first evening was a very interesting time, meeting up with a contact of Alex and Dan’s. We had a shared dinner with refugees and those working with refugees or in the area of social justice. 22It was fascinating group of people. One man from Afghanistan had just heard that his citizenship had been accepted and the opportunity was opening up for him to bring his family in Pakistan. Understandably he was full of joy. We all met up for the first night in a motel in Perth, and having hired a couple of cars, on the first full day together, headed in the direction of Albany.

It was perhaps the first holiday that Tricia and I had really very little hand in organizing and the girls and Dan did most of the driving. Our first 23three days were spent in a large house sufficient for the seven of us on a lovely estate not far from the sea. Again much of our time was spent walking, talking, eating with occasional forays into the surf of the beautiful Western Australian beaches, trying to keep a wary eye for any great white sharks! Some of the coastline is very rugged and the surf is often dramatic.

24After three days we drove on to Margaret River area, staying in another house near the sea for a further three days and added to the mix of walking, talking, swimming and eating the added pleasure of wine-tasting. Philippa had taken us up to the Hunter Valley one day from Sydney, so we were becoming connoisseurs.

Our final night was in Freemantle and Alex had arranged a night tour of Freemantle Prison, a grim place at any time, but perhaps especially at night. What I hadn’t realized was almost the economic necessity of prisoners for the young colony to build the infrastructure (including the prison) as there were relatively few people to do this heavy work.

25We were flying out of Perth on the Saturday evening, so we all took a ferry to Rottnest Island for our final day together. The younger ones hired bikes and cycled round the island and we met up for lunch before catching the ferry to Freemantle, returning to our lodging, showering, returning the hire car and getting out to the airport.

The journey home thankfully proved uneventful and Emirates delivered us safely to Bahrain Airport from where we caught a taxi home.