Dean’s Blog – January 2018

January 24, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Full moon over the Cathedral:  3rd January 2018

001The Cathedral is a very photogenic at all times, but occasionally when there is a full moon rising from the East, it looks especially spectacular.  Not that a photograph will never do justice to the real thing – well not mine anyway.

On Friday 5th January, the Tamil congregation visited our home following their service. They brought their own tea and refreshments and I was glad to offer them a supply of Christmas chocolates, which seemed to be very popular.


Visit to Year 2’s St Christopher’s School: Monday 8th January, 2018

Thank you Year Two children and parents  for your wonderfully generous gift of  BD 370- 430  from your production of  The Mousehole Cat.

002Stephen and I made an early morning trip down to St Christopher’s  School  to  meet with Year 2 Council members and to receive generous cheque for Mission to Seafarer, the proceeds from their production of The Mousehole Cat, set in the village of Mousehole in Cornwall and one of my favourite children’s stories.




Going the Second Mile: Tuesday 9th January 2018

003Stephanie says Darshan is known for “going the second mile” but I jumped at the opportunity of going for a bike ride. I’d actually brought a bike to Bahrain, but sadly have never felt I could use it around here with the pressures of traffic. The tires have perished in the heat and after eight years it has rusted away – it was piled onto the back of a lorry this week along with other junk around the compound. We set out from their home near the Camel Farm and headed south and after lunch at Zallaq beach we continued past the Formula One track and the Horse riding Endurance trail and arrived at our destination Al Jazira public beach before heading back. Checking the distance on our return we’d done about 60kms! No wonder the thighs were somewhat tight and  we were both more than a little saddlesore, as we arrived back in the dark to have a very welcome hot bath… but it felt a good achievement.


The Season of Palm Cross making

004Two weekends in two gardens and some hard work by a number of volunteers during the week has enabled us to fulfil our quota of 2000 palm crosses to take to the Diocesan Synod. 005Thank you so much for all who have            taken part and to Grant and Angela for cutting down the palm fronds and preparing them for the workshops. I think we will continue to have a Friday morning event as we can clearly pull in a greater number of people attending worship and there was a good buzz over refreshments and learning how to make them.


Three Weddings and an Engagement Party

006Appropriate to a week leading up to the Third Sunday of Epiphany and the reading of John 2 – the wedding at Cana in Galilee- has been three weddings in the Cathedral and an engagement party at Al Areen. I had been warned that when the invitation said from 7.30pm, it was unlikely to start much before 9pm, which indeed is when the young couple arrived and when Nithin on bended knee made a very public proposal asking Sharlin to marry him and presenting her with a ring. I was invited to lead some prayers for them and there were several speeches before food. A happy occasion, which I suspect lasted much longer after I made for home at 10.15pm knowing Friday was going to be a busy day.









Dean’s Blog – December 2017

January 8, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Two shows in two days: Tuesday 5th December and Wednesday 6th December 2017

01Bahrain is like a small town in many ways. 02
We went to the outstanding St Christopher’s School production of West Side Story on Tuesday and Luke Bennett and Ethan Welch are in leading roles. I had not seen West Side Story before so I was amazed at how many of the songs I knew and this was a very professional show, the choreography of the gang fighting scenes particularly notable. 03And then the following day we were at the British Club watching Neha Mani and Alice Bennett in the wonderful Christmas pantomime – Cinderella – complete with the usual outrageous ugly stepsisters and the evil stepmother with the opportunity to boo and cheer at the appropriate moments.

Thank you to all who give their time and energy to producing these shows and for all the actors, old and young who work so hard to make them happen.


Quick visit to Jerusalem: Saturday 9th December – Monday 10th December 2017

04I was invited to join an inter faith delegation to Jerusalem. It was part of the This is Bahrain programme of visits which have taken place to many different cities – London, Paris, Rome, Washington, New York and Los Angeles – in recent years, each one of which has had an interfaith component.05 Its timing was unfortunate, a few days after President Donald Trump’s announcement of the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which has understandably upset the Palestinians and all who support them and it made any formal programme with our hosts for a group from Bahrain impossible. But I was able to use the short time I had profitably, attending the Eucharist at St George’s Cathedral on Sunday morning and exploring the Old City of Jerusalem and several of its holy sites, which I found fascinating. On the Monday morning I visited the garden tomb outside the old city, early enough to avoid the bustling crowds. It is a beautiful place and certainly how you might imagine the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection to have been. I found the Church of the Holy Sepulchre did not have the same impact. The two day experience was sufficient a taster to know that one day we must go back. 


Farewell to Hatun Demirer: Thursday 7th December 2017

06We were glad to have the opportunity to say farewell to Hatun Demirer, who has served as the Turkish Ambassador in Bahrain for the past four years, one of the longest serving ambassadors in the Kingdom. She came to speak at one of our Living Room Dialogues, at the time when Turkey was at the forefront of the Syrian refugee crisis, and we have always enjoyed conversations with her. Her husband has been the Turkish Ambassador in Saudi Arabia and they were both finishing their overseas tours of duty on the same day and returning to Ankara. So while her children were having a final martial arts lesson, we met at the British Club for a drink and chat. We wish her and her family well and thank her for her friendship.


Gifts for Seafarers: Saturday 16th December 2017

09While I was taking the service up at Awali, a great team came to our home to wrap up and prepare paper packages for Christmas gifts for seafarers. It was heartwarming to see how many gifts had been bought by congregation members and groups such as the American Womens Association, which enabled more than 250 packages to be made which will be distributed to the seafarers on board ships over the Christmas season. It was good to see this was featured in a large photo in the Gulf Daily News this morning.



Birth of Isla Hope: Monday 18th December 2017

08Advent has had a special feel of tip-toe expectancy this year as we awaited the birth of our first grandchild to Alex and Dan. Isla Hope was born on Monday 18th December, a solid 8lbs 11oz after a lengthy labour, but both mother and baby are doing well. As we had held back sending Christmas letters until we’d received this news, many of them will arrive a little late this year.


Christingle Workshop: Friday 22nd December 2017
09As we did last year, we had a shortened Advent service with the focus on the annunciation and then nearly all the congregation came over to The Deanery and garden to make Christingles. Thankfully we were all prepared with supplies and Kumar and
Nazir had set up the tables in the garden so everyone set to making them and the work was completed in record time. It was Michael and Jacqueline’s last Friday with us before returning to the US and so in our usual way we prayed for them and gave them a print of the Cathedral and they expressed their thanks for the friendship of the congregation.


Tamil Nativity: Friday 22nd December 2017
10In the evening we attended the Tamil congregation’s Nativity with Robert and Tryphena taking lead roles setting the scene for the presentation of the first Christmas.11 Congratulations to all who took part, both adults and children and to Pushpa who I gather developed an imaginative script.   We enjoyed some wonderful hospitality afterwards with a wonderful biryani.



Christmas Eve or the Fourth Sunday of Advent?: Sunday 24th December 2017

12I gather there has been quite a bit of discussion in church circles about what to do on this Sunday… Should it be a marking of the Annunciation, the theme of the Fourth Sunday of Advent or should we be celebrating Christmas Eve. 13Well we did both. On Sunday morning we were in Advent though bringing out some mulled wine for refreshments after the service, but by the evening we were definitely into Christmas Eve with our Christingle Service in the Alun Morris Hall and Crib Service at Awali. We were certainly crowded for the Christingle service, but there was a lovely calm attentive atmosphere and I think it was helped by turning off the main lights and sitting in candlelight at the beginning of the service. It is a service both for old and young and as usual the offertory will go to the Dorothy Menzies Care Home for Children in Belize: BD430 was given.

The 11.30pm First Communion of Christmas service was rather quieter than recent years, but of couse both Christmas Eve (Sunday) and Christmas Day (Monday) are working days here so many were probably conserving their sleep.


Christmas Day: Monday 25th December 2017

14On Christmas morning we were once again blessed by the greetings and music of the Husseini Processions Band, who for the third year running joined us for part of our service, this year at the beginning of the service. They received a warm reception from a full congregation and the members of the band clearly appreciated the genuine warmth of welcome that they received.

15We had an enjoyable Christmas late lunch for those who might otherwise have been on their own: India, Japan, Sri Lanka, America, Kenya were the countries represented around the table to add to our own UK/Australia links. 16We had a quiz game half way through the meal: one side of the table against the other that brought out the competitive streak in several of us.

After the very busy run-up to Christmas, as well as the busy Christmas weekend, it was good to have a few days with a rather different rhythm: a Boxing Day meal with the Hanson-Singhs, a game of tennis with the men in the Roberts family on the Wednesday, an evening party on Thursday at the home of George and Barbie Williams. It was good to meet Stephanie, the arts page editor of the Gulf Daily News, for the first time having sent her many emails about concerts at the Cathedral. 17And a relaxed afternoon tea with Mockbul Ali and Sajeda, the most extensive afternoon tea I’ve ever had, when the conversation flowed.  And on Saturday we joined Arvind and Anthea, Abital and Apphia for an evening meal…. The diet begins in the New Year.



Blog – December 2017

December 7, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Advent Service: Friday 1st December 2018

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

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

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

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

Awali: Saturday 2nd December 2017

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


British MPs’ visit: Saturday 2nd December 2017

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


Blog – November 2017

December 7, 2017 in Dean's Blog

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

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

Tour of Recycling Plant: Tuesday 21st November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marathon Relay: Saturday 24th November 2017

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

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

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

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

Day Two of Chaplaincy Visit: Wednesday 29th November 2017

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

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

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

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


Blog – 30th October 2017

November 16, 2017 in Dean's Blog

Homeschoolers visit: Monday 30th October 2017

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


All Saints Family Service: Friday 3rd November 2018

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

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

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


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

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

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


Two more adult baptisms: Sunday 12th November 2018

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

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