Dean’s Blog – January 2019

February 11, 2019 in Dean's Blog

Farewell to Pastor Jim Harrison and family: Friday 11th January 2019

001One of our early memories in Bahrain was a party to say farewell to Pastor Dick Westra, who had served for several years as pastor of the English Language Congregation of the National Evangelical Church. Now at quite short notice Pastor Jim Harrison, who followed Pastor Dick is heading back to the United States, recruited for a new position as  the Prayer Co-ordinator for the Reformed Church in America after many years as a missionary pastor first in Estonia and then Bahrain. 002Jim has been a good friend and colleague and over the years we have met several times for a meal at Central Café to keep in touch with one another and our different ministries and encourage one another and Tricia served with him on Al Raja School Board of Governors for several years.

It was a touching farewell from the members of the English Language Congregation, so many expressing their thanks for him and Beth and their ministries and we were glad to be there to share in thanksgiving and to wish them as a family well for the future.


Women’s Crisis Care International: Sunday 13th January 2019

003For the first Living Room Dialogue of the New Year we were honoured to welcome Mary-Justine Todd as our speaker, the Founder and Director of WCCI. WCCI was founded in Bahrain in 2015 and began full-scale operations in January of 2016. Just three years on they now have a team of over 100 people, including more than 115 volunteer certified advocates. Among the group, there are 20 languages spoken and a wide range of skills and expertise. 004Mary-Justine began by telling a story of a young lady, with all the dreams of a loving and fulfilling marriage, finding herself caught in an increasingly abusive relationship. For further information do check out   I am glad that at a recent meeting or our Council it was agreed tto give BD 400 towards the work of WCCI.   


Confirmation and Admission and Licensing of a Reader Service: Friday January 18th 2019

005Bishop Michael was in Bahrain for a very special celebration at St Christopher’s Cathedral on Friday 18th January 2019: the Confirmation of ten candidates – six adults and four young people from several nationalities and backgrounds– and the Admission and Licensing of Dr Angel Afolabi as a Reader on the day that she herself was confirmed.

It has been special preparing both adults and teenagers in this group and so encouraging when the adult group suggested afterwards that it would be good to continue to meet together, perhaps on a monthly basis to encourage one another on their faith journey.

006Angel grew up within the Southern Baptist Church in the United States, but since she began teaching in the Gulf, first in Fujairah and then Bahrain, she has found her home within the Anglican Church family and has increasingly felt at home within Anglican worship. She discovered that the Anglican Church was the community that reflected the breadth of nationalities that make up the expatriate communities in the Gulf in a way that other churches did not. For the past three years she has been following the Exploring Faith course and attended a Bishop’s Advisory Panel Conference in Ras Al Khaimah in October 2018 following which the Bishop accepted her as a Reader in training.

007The service was followed with a wonderful Buffet meal at the BAPCO Club, the venue for several special cathedral celebrations over the years, which seventy of the congregation attended.




Epiphany – Ethiopian Orthodox style : Saturday19th/Sunday20th January 2019-01-23

008The Ethiopian community certainly know how to celebrate their festivals. On Saturday they celebrated the Baptism of Christ, this year down on the coast near Alba. I dropped in on my way to the Saturday morning service at Awali, and though very challenging to find, eventually I saw tents and buses and a huge crowd near the sea. 009At one point in the service the priest with a huge “water pistol” sprays the worshippers as a reminder of their own baptism and of their identity with Christ’s baptism. I was graciously invited to greet the gathering and to wish them a special festival.

010The following day they were back at the Cathedral for the celebration of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee and once again there was a wonderful festive spirit with singing and dancing and ululating.011 It made our own celebration that followed look very dull, though one of our congregation commented that the only thing missing from Tricia’s sermon was shared glass of wine, though of course we did have that in communion.


Dean’s Blog – Saturday 14th December 2018

January 3, 2019 in Dean's Blog

Christmas gifts for Seafarers:  Saturday 14th December 2018

001A good team of volunteers got together in the coffee room to wrap and parcel Christmas gifts for seafarers. 002This year we encouraged bulk buying of items and as well as many from the cathedral and awali, there was good support from the US Navy Base and the American Women’s Association. Three hundred parcels with various gifts were made and will be distributed over the Christmas season to seafarers visiting the ports of Bahrain, a sign that they are valued and remembered for their vital but largely unseen work and for those from Christian countries especially away from home and families in this special season.


Church of South India Malayalee Choir – 50th Anniversary: Sunday 15th December 2018

003Fifty years ago the Church of South India established their Malayalee choir to lead their worshipping community meeting in the cathedral so it was an honour to be invited to speak briefly at their service on the text which they had chosen; Thus far has the Lord helped us. 004They currently meet following our Sunday evening service and it has clear that their choral tradition remains an important feature of their life and worship. A retired CSI bishop had flown from Kerala to share in their celebrations.



Staff Christmas Lunch: Wednesday 18th December 2018

005It is always good to honour our loyal staff team for the work that they do throughout the year and our Christmas lunch at the Copper Chimney was much enjoyed by all. 006It was a joy to welcome little Abigail, Renitha’s daughter, who has recently arrived in Bahrain and especially good to see that she is settling in happily.




 Christingle Workshop: Friday 20th December 2018

007Organizing our workshops around times when we have the maximum number of people seems to be a good idea and the fellowship of doing something practical and creative together always helps bond people of different ages together, nationalities and backgrounds together.  008So thank you to everyone who turned out and supported it and for your information, on Friday 4th January we will be having our first Palm Cross Workshop with the aim over two consecutive weekends of producing 2000 palm crosses for our representatives to take to the Diocesan Synod for onward transmission to Exeter Diocese.


Tamil Nativity Play: Friday 20th December 2018

009It was a delight to attend our Tamil-speaking congregation’s Nativity Play on Friday evening. 010The first part was a fairly traditional telling of the Nativity story but it was followed by an exploration of the meaning of the Incarnation with the incorrigible Robert, who has rather like the writer of Ecclesiastes sought meaning in life in all sorts of ways – money, celebrity status, fame, power – is eventually given a copy of the Bible and reads about Jesus coming among us.



Nine Lessons and Carols: Sunday 23rd December 2018

011The Nine Lessons and Carols was a wonderful service and it was especially good to hear a revived Manama Singers leading our worship and singing a couple o carols: O holy night and We three kings with the kings singing in Persian reflecting their likely heritage. A choir from our Tamill-speaking congregation sang a Tamil carol and members of our East African community sang a Swahili carol. 012Choosing the readers for the Nine Lessons is always an interesting challenge. I try to have members of the community as well as cathedral members, balance the genders draw people from different ethnic/national backgrounds and have young as well as old readers. You need rather more than nine readings to achieve these aims! It is more than a matter of political correctness, but a genuine attempt to express the diversity and universality of the Church and that the message of the gospel is for all people. I had one lovely text from one of the readers from the community, that was a great encouragement : The most beautiful nine lessons and carols I have ever been a part of. A very special evening. Loved the truly inclusive feel.

Royal Visit on Christmas Eve: Monday 24th December 2018

013It was an honour to receive His Excellency Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince’s son to the Cathedral on Christmas Eve afternoon with the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and the Minister of Labour , and the Chairman of the Board of trustees of the King Hamad Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Global Co-existence and the British Ambassador. 014As well as seeing the Cathedral, looking beautiful for Christmas, they came into the Alun Morris Hall and saw the Nativity sets from all over the world on the cross table all prepared for Christingle service which followed an hour later. Shaikh Isa said that he would like to return on a more normal occasion, so we must try and arrange that. His father the Crown Prince attended school on the compound, when St Christopher’s School was located here, and tells of attending prayers in the cathedral.


Christingle service: Christmas Eve December 24th 2018

015One of the activities that I enjoy over the Christmas season is preparing the Alun Morris Hall for the Christmas Eve Christingle Service with the help of Kumar and Kalam. 016Moving tables and chairs has been a lifetime’s job in ministry, but it seems a particularly purposeful one for this service, creating a cross-table at the centre of the hall, marked out with candles on which Nativity sets, that I have collected and been given over the years from many different countries of the world, making the central focus and then creating several circles of chairs all facing the cross in the centre. It creates a wonderful atmosphere especially when the christingles are given out and the lights turned off.  We often show a youtube film at this service from a very creative community in New Zealand: St Paul’s Arts and Media and this year we showed  Star of Wonder 


 Husseini Processions: Christmas morning 25th December 2018

017In recent years on Christmas morning the Husseini Processions band have joined us at the end of the Christmas morning Holy Communion service, but sadly this year they were unavailable but very graciously Nader Husain Bardastani came to wish the congregation a Merry Christmas and God’s blessings on all. He quoted an Islamic scholar: All about Jesus is a miracle. He was born of a virgin mother, he has spoken while he was in cradle and his unique tendency towards love, peace and spirituality for all humankind.



Family Christmas

 018For our final Christmas in Bahrain it has been lovely to have family with us: all of our three children (from the UK, Hong Kong and Australia) and one year old granddaughter joining us here for a week over Christmas. Inevitably Isla stole all our hearts. 019Thank you so much to all our community for loaning us so much baby equipment while she was here which made everything so much easier. There was plenty to celebrate as a family alongside Christmas: Isla arrived on her first birthday and we heard that our middle daughter Hannah had just got engaged to Tom, so it was a special joy to welcome Tom’s mother, Jo, to join us for Christmas too. As well as a lot of time spent over meals, we had a trip down to the go karting circuit adjacent to the BIC – a first experience for me – and tested our skills and speed behind the wheel. The caution of age saw me slower than all three of my daughters!


 2018/19 Watchnight Service

020Once again our Tamil community initiated the Watchnight service. Tricia played the organ and I preached and it was good to see a good cross-section of our wider community there: Kenyan, South African, American Indonesian, Seychellois, Filipino….and probably others that I missed. With 1 Samuel 7: 12 fresh in my mind from the CSI Choir 50th Anniversary (see above) I used the same text to look back on the past year and to encourage us to look forward to the new. I was reminded of the cairns on the mountains in England’s Lake District, when we lived there in the 1990’s, the tradition of putting a stone on the cairn to show that you have achieved the summit, but also to leave the mountain higher than when you arrived!   May we all know God’s blessing through 2019.






Dean’s Blog – Advent

December 18, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Advent: December 2018

001With schools breaking up for their Christmas break on 13th December, and the need to put on a Nativity play before some families go away, the Christmas season presses in upon Advent. On the first weekend of Advent we once again showed the Busted Halo youtube film Advent in two minutes, which reminds us that if you are sick of Christmas by December 25th, you haven’t done advent correctly.

002So despite having a wonderful two plays – a traditional Nativity play, by the younger children and another reflecting on the meaning of Christmas by our burgeoning teenage group, Stephen and I found ourselves covering up the Nativity that we put under the altar and putting back the purple advent altar frontal, so we could more easily continue the Advent themes up until the evening of Sunday 23rd December, when we hold our Nine lessons and Carols. The Nativity, from Shelter the UK based charity addressing the challenges of homelessness was beautifully narrated by Aidan, and had a young sheep trying to kidnap the baby Jesus and a shepherd seeking to restore order, and parents and leaders not sure when to step in, but it caught the elements of good and bad news that are all part of the telling of the story.

003Our teenagers put on a thoughtful play, whose script they had worked on themselves: a discussion set in an expatriate school while the teacher was out of the classroom in which there were both cynics, who dismissed the Christmas story, and others for whom it was passionately important. It ended with the most cynical member of the class being given a Bible to go and read for himself.

005We were delighted to welcome the new Manager for Mission to Seafarers for the Middle East and South Asia, the Reverend Andy Bowerman, whom I interviewed during the service. It didn’t need much of an interviewer as Andy was clearly full of stories both of a previous Nativity, in which his then young son was involved as a shepherd, and of the needs of seafarers away from home over Christmas and the difference that the Mission’s Chaplains can make through their care in this season. That Friday morning we were collecting gifts for seafarers’ Christmas parcels.


004006Andy had a busy 30 hours in Bahrain, spending time visiting ships with Stephen, meeting our Cathedral Council over a meal on Thursday evening with representatives of BISS, (the Bahrain International Seafarers Society), meeting our Treasurer, as well as attending the Friday morning service, but it was an encouraging time and he seemed impressed by the model of partnership between MtS and the Cathedral and other community groups. This was reinforced with the presentation of a generous cheque from the Marathon Relay organizers and Christmas gifts from Sue Gale, representing the American Women’s Association.


Hairspray and Winter Concert : Tuesday 4th December/ Tuesday 11th December 2018

007Undoubtedly some of the best musical theatre in Bahrain comes from the schools, so it was a privilege to attend the St Christopher’s School production of Hairspray in my capacity as a Governor. It was not a show that I knew, but the music is catchy and the setting in the 1960’s highlights  themes that remain particularly important grappling as it does with some serious contemporary issues serious issues such as racism and prejudice based on social class.

008A week later we were back at St Christopher’s for their Winter Concert, another wonderful occasion bringing together children from across all age groups in the school in a mix of different choirs and instrumental groups for a very special event. Congratulations to the music staff and all the children involved!


Christmas Living Room Dialogue: Sunday 9th December 2018

009We were a fairly full house for mulled wine, shared food and shared contributions of Advent and Christmas stories, poems, music and carols for what is usually our Living Room Dialogue programme. There was a lovely mix of special choices including an old youtube clip of a very young David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy, which I’d never seen. I enjoyed reading Tomie de Paola’s The Clown of God. The evening finished with a beautiful carol composed by John Rutter.



St Christopher’s School Christmas Assembly: Monday 10th December 2018

010I had an early start after the late evening before to get down for the St Christopher’s School Junior School Assembly in Saar, taking with me Jesus Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan and a few innkeeper’s clothes and props. 011It’s a simple retelling of the birth of Jesus from the point of an increasingly grumpy innkeeper who likes a good night’s sleep, but is constantly woken up by knocks on the door, bright light (the star), and angel’s choruses. He eventually goes round the back (a constant refrain in the story) in anger to see what is going on, but finds a little baby has been born; his anger flies away and he is caught up in the wonder of his birth and, in the excitement of it all, he goes round knocking on the doors of all the other guests staying in the inn so they too can share in the joy, so no one got much sleep that night. Rhona kindly read the story and I mimed the actions, only adding to the script by snoring when the innkeeper was asleep.

Over the last few days a few parents have said how much their children enjoyed my assemblies, and the particular aspect apparently mentioned by the children was that we prayed, as if this was a new experience, at least at school. I can’t help feeling that in our self-consciously secular age, schools have deprived our children of what is an important aspect of their lives and that prayer is an expression of the fact that we are spiritual, as well as intellectual and physical beings.

British Embassy Carols: Monday 10th December 2018                                                                         

013012It was once again a privilege to share in the British Embassy Carols, a wonderful community event put on by the staff of the British Embassy, reading a Bible reading and giving a blessing at the conclusion of the event. It is always an occasion to catch up with a variety of people, but for us a special joy to meet up with Charlotte who was just three or four years old when we arrived in our last parish in Kent and fourteen when we left; she is now here in Bahrain for six months with the Royal Navy, as a reservist.




Dean’s Blog – Remembrance Weekend

November 25, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Remembrance weekend: Saturday 10th – Sunday 11th November 2018

001The services over Remembrance weekend this year had a special poignancy marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. On Saturday at 12.30pm about fifty gathered at the Old Christian Cemetery, where there are several servicemen’s graves and where there is a memorial to all who died in the two World Wars. 002Sailors from HMS Ledbury, who’d helped with a final tidy-up of the cemetery in the morning, joined with the Chelsea Pensioners, several veterans and members of the community for a simple service at which the Last Post and Reveille were played on a trombone by a former army musician.

On Sunday we cancelled the 10.30am service at the Cathedral to attend the service at the British Embassy. At 10.20am the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour and, as usually happens in Bahrain, the floodwaters rose! But by 10.45am the  rain had stopped and the decision to hold the service outside was taken with ambassadors, senior military and members of the wider community presented wreaths on the table in front of the Cathedral’s rough wooden cross that we use during holy Week for Stations of the Cross and on Good Friday.

004At 3.30pm those who could, gathered in the thoroughly flooded Cathedral car park, having been delivered to islands in front of the Cathedral and Alun Morris Hall for Bells for Peace, coinciding with the bells of Westminster Abbey, churches throughout the UK and ships here and throughout the world ringing out at 12.30pm GMT.  Five minutes before I was in shorts and a tee shirt and barefooted; robes cover a mukltitude of sins. 003Here it was an interfaith event and as well as Christian representatives from various churches we had Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh ringing the ship’s bell presented to the cathedral in 1954. Once again the irrepressible Chelsea Pensioners were with us, as was the British Ambassador and his wife and at the conclusion of 100 rings, everyone played whatever instrument they could lay their hands on.


005Following Bells for peace it was all hands to deck to try and reduce the water level a few inches to enable people to come to the Sunday Evening Remembrance Service, approaching the Cathedral from the side entrance through the vestry rather than through the main door. Andrew Petty kindly directed traffic round to the back of the cathedral to park in the road there , which was moderately dry and remarkably by the time the service started the Cathedral was full and people had managed to get in without getting soaked. Somehow the weather brought people together in a special way; these are events we will not forget and it helped all who attended to somehow identify with the horrific conditions of trench warfare in often very grim circumstances.

I’m especially grateful to our staff and to Mary who worked so hard in the afternoon to successfully lower the water level to enable the evening service to go ahead.


Christians Aware Visit: 13-21st November 2018

We were pleased to welcome a group of four – Susan Cooper, Norma Hayward, Richard and Christine Stainer – from Christians Aware, UK for a week,  immersing themselves in the life of the Cathedral and learning about its context in Bahrain.

“Christians Aware is an international and interdenominational educational charity working to develop multicultural and interfaith understanding and friendship locally, nationally and internationally.  Its aim is to work for justice, peace and development.  The focus is on listening to encourage awareness and action.

The words of Ronald Wynne are important:  Do not try to teach anyone anything until you have learnt something from them.  They lead to our motto:

Peace is born of Love.
Love is born of Understanding.
Understanding is born of Listening.
Listening leads to Justice and Peace.”

006It was a busy week involving visits to the Base and time with both US and Royal Navy Chaplains, to the Grand Mosque, to the Bahrain Fort and Museum,  to the Seafarers Centre in the port with Stephen to see his work as a Mission to Seafarers Chaplain and the Craft Centre, just up the road from the Cathedral,  with the opportunity to chat with the craftspeople and Camel farm; separate meetings with Mockbul Ali, the deputy British Ambassador, and  Angelo Maestas, Political Officer at the US Embassy; attendance at various services – English and Tamil-speaking  – and the Living Room Dialogue on Sunday evening;  008a parish lunch at BAPCO Club and several meals out mostly in simple Indian vegetarian restaurants. The visit concluded by going to see the wonderful son et lumière at the Bahrain Fort, that tells the story of Bahrain’s history so beautifully. In a week I am sure they visited places and met people that others might have taken a year to do, so went away with an impression of Bahrain that no tourist visit staying in a hotel could have done.


Return visit of the Rev’d Anne Futcher and husband Christopher: 15-18th November 2018

009It was lovely to welcome back Anne Futcher, who’d spent a month in Bahrain earlier in the year, with her husband, Christopher Futcher, Archdeacon of Exeter. Anne presided at three Holy Communion services including the Tamil service over the weekend and Christopher preached on both Friday morning and Sunday evening services. At the BAPCO lunch on the Friday Christopher gave us an insight of the priorities the new Bishop had set for the Diocese of Exeter and how these were working out in the life of parishes and Anne gave an update of her life and ministry since leaving Bahrain.



A More Sustainable Future: Sunday 18th November 2018

010Dr Aizhan Sharshenova, who has a PhD from the University of Leeds and is the Communications Officer at Sustainable Energy Centre, United Nations Development Programme, was the speaker at this month’s Living Room Dialogue on the subject of Sustainable Energy in Bahrain. She defined sustainable energy as that which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and went on to highlight the policies in Bahrain that were beginning to address sustainable energy goals. She also highlighted some simple ways in which individual households and institutions could help save electricity and reduce electricity bills and contribute to a more sustainable future. It led to some lively discussion.







Dean’s Blog – 4th – 6th November 2018

November 7, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Quick trip to Rome: 4-6th November 2018

Just over a fortnight ago I wrote of the experience of a group of Italian students with their Professor, Alessandro Saggioro, arriving at the Cathedral totally unexpectedly and the special half hour that I had with them.

001I had the rather late opportunity to join a delegation, made up of academics, students from the University of Bahrain, and clergy and leaders from different faith communities, and headed by the Minister of Education, representing His Majesty the King, making a two day visit to Rome for the inauguration of the King Hamad Chair in Inter-Faith Dialogue Global Peaceful Coexistence, which was being established at Sapienza University in Rome on Monday 5th November. There were two parts: the first were the formal events in the main hall of the University in the morning, which involved several speeches, all in Italian, including the President of the Sapienza, University and the Head of the History of Religions Department and concluding with a lecture from Professor Saggioro also in Italian, but thankfully with an English translation and a helpful powerpoint, that illustrated his themes. He reflected on the study of religions, explored peace and religious freedom in different times and contexts and finally explored some key words that underpin the idea of peaceful coexistence among religions and suggested some directions for future research. It all took place in the shadow of a huge painting that clearly came out of the fascist era in Italy and it was interesting talking with students about that afterwards over lunch. 002The second part of the evening was a Gala Dinner at the elegant Rome Cavalieri Hotel, in their huge banquet hall. Several hundred people were present. Speeches were confined to professional presentations on the big screen prior to dinner. I found myself sitting between the Ambassador of Yemen to Italy, a very interesting lady in a hugely demanding role with the current situation in Yemen. Her father was a diplomat – but she had started her professional life as a teacher of English. I was able to talk about the work of the Diocese’s Ras Morbat Clinic in Aden On my other side was the priest of the Coptic Church in Rome, with whom I had to converse in French! It was lovely to catch up with an old friend, Tim King, from the Focolare Movement whose central office is in Rome and whom I’d sent an email about the dinner. Nancy Habib, who also has long-standing links with the Focolare Movement, and I were able to introduce Tim to Dr Shaikh Khalid, who heads up the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence and Bettsy Mathieson, who heads up This is Bahrain, as we had already talked with them about the spirituality of unity that is integral to the movement, possibly having a significant contribution to make in the context of Bahrain. I was also able to introduce the Chargé d’Affaires of the Arab League in Rome to Professor Saggioro, as she was interested in pursuing a PhD in interfaith studies and already had a prepared proposal. He was very interested in following this up.

The appointment of Professor Saggioro brings all sorts of new possibilities to bring a new depth to relationships between faith communities in Bahrain and to move from warm feelings to deeper understanding.

It was a privilege to be there for the launch of this new phase and particularly encouraging to see the generation of students from Bahrain and Sapienza clearly making friendships that will have a lasting impact in widening their horizons and building trust for the future.

003There was very little time to see much of Rome in the busy schedule, especially as it was raining for much of the time, but I did manage to walk down to St Peter’s Square on the first Sunday evening and with occasional glimpses of sun and dark rain clouds, the light was very beautiful, especially when the lights came on in St Peter’s.