Bahrain in August: August 2016

August 24, 2016 in Dean's Blog

We returned to Bahrain on 28th July, overlapping with Stephen Thanapaul, my colleague, for 24 hours, before he headed off to India for his leave and the following day was preaching at the Friday morning service.

August is generally a quiet month and a very hot one with temperatures regularly in the forties. Awali Church closes down with the start of school holidays at the beginning of July and we concentrate forces at the cathedral. But our Tamil community gives a different dynamic as the Tamil congregation does not disperse to the four corners of the earth as much as the English-speaking congregation.

Bahrain in AugustIt gives time for doing different things and in particular I have been researching and writing an entry on Bahrain for a Dictionary of Christianity in the Global South, which I was asked to do several months ago. It is fascinating discovering the pre-Islamic presence of a Christian Church, of a monastery in Al Dair ( which means monastery or cloister in Aramaic) and a Bishop of the Nestorian Church resident in Bahrain in the 7thC. The mosque in Al Dair is apparently known as the Monk’s Mosque even today though there is no visible sign of its former use. Fascinating to read too of the arrival of the Arabian Mission in the 1890’s and the part Amy (nee Wilkes) Zwemer an Anglican CMS missionary from Sydney, Australia who established the first school Acorn School, the roots of Al Raja School now. It has been interesting too to interview those who are ‘indigenous’ Christians to Bahrain, though most of these have arrived here from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Palestine, when oil was discovered and took on Bahraini citizenship when that was possible

On Wednesday evenings we have had regular evenings out usually a meal together drawing up to twenty people to The banana Bahrain in Augustleaf, and David’s Stir Fry Crazy and we had a wonderful family outing to see the movie Finding Dory. This coming week we are going Bowling at Dana Mall and the following we’ll conclude with Biryani and watching the DVD of Chariots of Fire that Simon mentioned in his sermon at the weekend, reflecting on the Olympics and the healing on the Sabbath.

Bahrain in AugustThere was some excitement in the compound when a snake was seen in the car park of the compound, the first I have seen in nearly seven years, but having checked the internet it looks as though it is a rat snake, so if it is eating the occasional rat and that seems quite a challenge for the relatively slim fellow, I’m all in favour of it staying. I have not seen a mongoose for a few years either; we used to have  regular visitor.


Bahrain in AugustWeddings have continued over the summer and I had three in the space of a few days. One between twoBahrain in August hotel managers resulted in the church being filled with flowers. The congregation were a little surprised to find the altar rail covered in flowers the next day though the aisle flowers and archway and main displays had all moved on to their reception.


Summer Leave: July 2016

August 24, 2016 in Dean's Blog

For the first time for many years we headed off for our summer leave at the end of June rather than august, primarily so Summer Leavewe Summer Leavecould attend our son-in-law, Dan’s ordination on Sunday 3rd July in St Alban’s Cathedral, a proud and very happy occasion followed by a picnic lunch in a lovely garden on a beautiful sunny day. We both robed, which freed up some family seats for others in the cathedral, which was packed for the occasion. We were able to hear Dan preach his first sermon in St Mary’s, Hitchin, where he is serving as a part-time curate as well as giving oversight to a pioneering church The Hub that meets in a bar of a small theatre and also had the opportunity to visit Alex in Youthscape, the converted flour mill in Luton, which is now fully up and running and meet some of the young Summer Leaveleaders. Later this week will be visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, an indication of the good work that they are doing.

Summer LeaveFrom St Alan’s we flew to Cork and spent a week in a little octagonal cottage near Bantry, deep in the south-west of Ireland  that we’d booked through airbnb – in fact almost everywhere we stayed was through airbnb and Alex and Philippa joined us for a long weekend. We hit a classical music festival in Bantry and attended two lovely afternoon concerts in a local church. We also bumped into Rob Millner, now teaching in Abu Dhabi. He came into the café, where we were catching up on our Summer Leaveemails, looked at Tricia and said “you look awfully like the wife of a priest in Bahrain!” I’d just appointed Rob as our part-time Music Director when the troubles of February 2011 hit Bahrain and sadly he had to leave as his job folded. We had another unexpected meeting later in the holiday, when we were having a bite to eat in an Italian restaurant in Rochester, Kent and I overheard in an adjacent table’s conversation: “Archdeacons of Cyprus and the Gulf”. I turned to see Harry Ching, newly ordained in Nicosia and leading the church in Famagusta, Cyprus! We loved exploring that part of Ireland and seeing the seals off the coast and enjoying our cosy cottage.

From Limerick, we returned to Alex and Dan and in particular helped Philippa, our youngest move out Summer Leaveof her flat in London as she prepared for her move to Australia via some travels in south-east Asia. Philippa hadn’t driven for sometime so launching out in London and immediately having to cross a very busy road in the largest vehicle that she’d ever driven was a big challenge, but one she accomplished and gave her confidence to get behind the wheel again, if she needs to, in Australia.


Summer LeaveWe then had our final ten days in “a cottage” – the end part of a wing of an old manor house in Summer LeaveChilham, near Canterbury in Kent. It had a lovely garden and on several occasions we would eat out in the garden, on one occasion with friends from our previous parish. We also met up with Carol Byers, who’d just moved from the Scottish Borders to West Malling, so we were able to visit her in her lovely new home.


We took the train up to London on one occasion and met up with the Rev’d Summer LeaveBertrand Olivier, who had generously run the London Marathon on behalf of our Building Project, so I dressed up for a photo op of the handing over of the cheque in All Hallows-by-the Tower, just adjacent to the Tower of London. The last time we were there was for an interview for my present post!


Memorial service for Akeem Lawal: Saturday 11th June 2016

June 13, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Akeem LawalAkeem was a familiar face in the Cathedral Office and on Friday mornings and he became the focus of considerable support following renal failure, the need for regular dialysis and the plan to get a kidney transplant. Fund-raising events not only raised money, but brought people who would not have known one another in the normal course of life together: from Nigeria, and the African continent, Asia, America and Europe. Once sufficient funds had been raised he went to India in preparation for a kidney transplant; his sister, who was to be a donor was to follow but very sadly he died of heart failure in India before his sister arrived.

His Memorial service at the Cathedral also brought a breadth of people together from “his family in Bahrain.” Several people reflected briefly on his life, Fozia, our Administrator, and Esther from Kenya, who organized an early fund-raising event, read Bible passages and Jon Lavelle who had co-ordinated fund-raising for Akeem, preached reflecting particularly on the experience of Job and the mystery of suffering, but also highlighting the vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, from which people from every nation were drawn into. Pastor Joshua, from a Nigerian church community, led some prayers and the President of Nigerians in Bahrain thanked all who had given Akeem support, both individuals and organizations. Perhaps the most moving part of the service was the singing, without accompaniment, of How great Thou art.



The Refugee Crisis: Sunday 12th June 2016

June 13, 2016 in Dean's Blog

We had a lively discussion among a group of migrants – (how often Angie Thadanido we think ourselves as that?) – at the Living Room Dialogue with Angie Thadani, who set about debunking a number of myths concerning migration and the refugee crisis. She pointed out that the levels of migration worldwide have remained fairly static at about 3% of the world’s population for many years, though as population increases this is a growing number of people.

  • She highlighted the fact that the current refugee crisis is more a Middle Eastern European problem than a European one, as Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey have received the lion’s share of refugee settlers.
  • She said that migrants do not, on the whole, take jobs away from nationals, but often regenerate the economy in countries with ageing populations.
  • Investment to reduce levels of poverty and improve economic conditions does not discourage migration, but rather increases levels of mobility and creates aspirations. Those who are migrating currently are not the poorest; they have funds to pay the smugglers.
  • Migrants should not be regarded as Islamic extremists; they are often fleeing from countries or regions where Islamic extremists have taken control. The problem is often the reverse: extremists from Europe and North Africa heading to these contries and regions to fight.

A very stimulating and thought-provoking evening. We ended in prayer: for a compassionate heart for all who are so needy and a recognition that each one has dignity as those made in the image of God.


Baptism, Confirmation and Dedication of the Cathedral’s altar array: Friday 10th June 2016

June 13, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Baptism, Confirmation and DedicationFriday morning was a very special service: the Baptism of Tim and Vickie and their 17 month old Patrick and Confirmation of Tim and Vickie, John serving with the Royal Navy here and young people from both the English-speaking and Tamil-speaking congregations: Alisha, Andrea, Ann, Annie, Abigail, Andrew, Ahaan, Valentine and Victor. This was my first experience of the baptism and confirmation of a family and having spent many weeks in their home leading a Christian Foundations group, it was a special joy. It was a joy to welcome grandparents too from France and India. It was a joy to welcome Jon Lavelle, who’d stayed on after the Clergy and Spouses Day, for the Confirmation Service and to present the young people from the English-speaking congregation whom he had prepared for confirmation.

Baptism, Confirmation and DedicationIf baptisms and confirmations were not enough, Bishop Michael also dedicated the Baptism, Confirmation and Dedicationnew altar array that had been designed and painted onto silk by the Rev’d Deborah Chapman and sewed onto cotton sheet backing by Julie Donelly and Angela Murray. It is wonderful to see the fruits of Deborah’s creative design incorporating rich biblical themes and rooting them so firmly in the history and culture of Bahrain. From a distance you see the swirl of a galaxy, such as you can see on a clear night, away from artificial light, in the desert areas of Bahrain, but when you look closely there is so much fascinating detail to be discovered. We are privileged to have such a beautiful work in St Christopher’s Cathedral – one that will inspire wonder – and I am so grateful to Deborah for offering so much time and her creative skills to the Cathedral and also to Angela Murray and Julie Donnelly, who have given their sewing skills and time to back the designs onto cotton sheets for the altar, the lectern and pulpit.

After the conclusion of a memorable service, the candidates and clergy gathered for a group photo with Bishop Michael at the entrance to the Cathedral

Baptism, Confirmation and Dedication