Deans Blog – Holy Week and Easter Day – March 27th 2016

March 29, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Easter Day: March 27th 2016

Easter morning began with an alarm at 4.45am in order to get dressed and ready for the Ecumenical Sunrise Service at the American Mission Hospital, an occasion that draws nearly a thousand people. The choir were in better voice than the congregation, most of whom are clearly not used to liturgical responses, except the occasional Alleluia, Amen. Christ is risen. He has risen indeed! falls a little flat and my attempt at introducing a responsive intercession – God of hope, fill us with joy and peace in believing – was also very muted. But it is a good thing for different churches to get together in this way on Easter morning and I am grateful to the National Evangelical Church for this initiative. Certainly we do not have the space to host such a service ourselves.

It was good to be able to get back to greet the Tamil congregation at the conclusion of their service, celebrating their second birthday as a congregation and this year rather than trying to lead both Awali and the Cathedral morning services, Jon went to Awali and I stayed back at the Cathedral, which enabled me to hide Easter eggs around the garden before 10am. We had good congregations at both Awali and the Cathedral which vindicated that decision and certainly it reduced the rush.  On Easter Sunday night we fly out to the UK, attending a nephew’s wedding tomorrow at 1.00pm in Kent and then spending a week’s houseparty celebrating our eldest’s 30th birthday in Ross-on-Wye with family and friends coming and going.

Easter Eve: Saturday 26th March 2016

In the first part of the service we continued The Nail, with Elizabeth taking the part of Pilate’s wife haunted by her dreams and reflecting on the blame attributed to Pilate for his weakness and lack of integrity and leading into a reflection on the forgiveness that is offered through all that Jesus has done on the cross.

At 9.15am I was picked up and taken to St Paul’s Mar Thoma Church, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a congregation. As they had begun their life in the cathedral, they had invited me as the “honoured guest” to open their souvenir book and say a few words. I arrived towards the end of their Communion service and ushered into the sanctuary.

Following the service there were a few speeches, but not too wordy and some kind words from Dr Zechariah, who is their priest but who returns to Kerala at the end of April to continue a ministry as a counselor there. Dr Zechariah took part in Jon’s ordination to the priesthood and has felt a part of the cathedral community.


Holy Week

Good Friday: 25th March 2016

As in the previous two years, we used as a basis for the Good Friday Family service one prepared by Barnabas in Churches –  – which, I think, is very

well thought through and is able to respond to the needs of both children and adults on this solemn day. The service journeys through Jesus last 24 hours: beginning in

the Upper Room, moving to the Garden of Gethsemane, going on to the Court Room and finishing at the place of crucifixion. At each place there is an introduction, a Bible reading, an explanation and a symbolic action. The Courtroom scene this year was particularly powerful with “the crowds” really getting into role in their demands that Jesus should be crucified and Barabbas set free. Bible readings were taken from The Lion Bible for Children by

Murray Watts who is a playwright and has a gift at getting to the heart of the story in a powerful way. I can certainly commend it for use on Good Friday in all age services. In fact I would use nothing else. Like the Nine Lessons and Carols it bears regular repeating.

The Three Hour 12 noon service was based on Stephen Cottrell’s book The Nail: six different people reflecting on the crucifixion and their part in it – Peter, the Centurion, Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas and Mary Magdalene. Most justify their actions and pass on the blame for what they did to others. It is almost a relay of blame and a sizeable nail is passed from one to

another. Judas blames everyone and the congregation through him are made to feel their part in the hammering in of the nails. I’d had some crosses made out of old nails by a local welder and these were given to each member of the congregation at this point. Only Mary Magdalene accepts her responsibility for her part in the crucifixion, but discovers there both conviction and release: somehow by the tenacity of his loving, I am free to love again. Sulo has kindly sent this collage of photos and images from the Three Hour service.


Maundy Thursday: 24th March 2016

I find the Maundy Thursday one of the most moving services of the year: the reading from John 13 describes Jesus

making a very conscious deliberate act as he takes off his outer garment and takes a towel and proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet. Bishop James Jones, at an address at the Diocesan Synod, pointed out that this is the only occasion that Jesus takes the title ‘Lord’ for himself, that is he is very deliberately associating Lordship with humble service. There are other models that the disciples would have preferred: Peter armed with a sword when the temple guard come to arrest him is one, or James and John seeking positions of authority and power at Jesus right and left hand is another, but Jesus could not have made it plainer in his actions that he calls us to love one another in humble service. But the invitation to come forward for the footwashing still largely falls on embarrassed ears. As one person said afterwards, ‘I wanted to come, but couldn’t overcome my cultural understanding of a priest being a honoured person, who should not be doing this’.

‘But what about Jesus?’ I asked. She promised to come forward next year!

 United Bible Societies and the International Book Fair

It was a pleasure to welcome a good friend, Dr Hrayr Jebejian, representing United Bible Societies at the Bahrain

International Book Fair, to the Cathedral compound with two of his regional colleagues. When he was here last, we had coffee with Daniel and this was their vision. As well as Bibles in many different languages they have brought with them an interactive computer exhibition on the Bible. On Saturday we went to visit the stall in the huge marquee erected behind the National Museum – a stunning site and met a few friends doing the same or manning other stalls. The Book Fair is continuing until 3rd April in what is a stunning setting: you have to cross a bridge to reach it and the United Bible Societies’ stall is in Row L, near the waterfront.

Stations of the Cross: Monday to Wednesday in Holy Week, 21st -23rd March 2016

Our three Readers led the three evenings following the Stations of the Cross which Jon had very imaginatively put together and to which never less than 28 people came, mostly

returning each night to continue the painful journey. The reflections and prayers made a very strong connection between the traditional Stations and contemporary concerns and events that reflect walking the path of the cross. The final station in the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid was very realistic and gave some visiting gardeners quite a shock when they came earlier in the day.



Dean’s Blog – 20th March, 2016

March 21, 2016 in Dean's Blog

St Christopher’s School assembly: Palm Sunday 20th March 2016

At the assembly I told the story of Holy Week and Easter in the light of God’s freeing of the people of Israel from Egypt using a little Palm Tree Press booklet and throwing the illustrations up on the screen. In the front of the booklet it had 1987, so Alex must have received it as a Sunday Club prize when we were in Hong Kong. I highlighted that this was another celebration of Passover, that the people this time were under the oppressive power of the Romans and there was an expectation that God might send another leader like Moses; but Jesus is revealed as a very different King: by his actions in riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, in washing his disciples’ feet at the Thursday night meal, in not resisting his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and in dying on the cross…. But today there are many followers, who declare that Jesus rose from the dead and who today acknowledge him as King.

Booking flights to Dubai: Saturday 19th March

On Thursday evening I was trying to book a flight to Dubai for the Licensing of Jon Lavelle as Chaplain to Ras Al

Khaimah and Fujairah but the Fly Dubai sight would not accept my billing address as a valid address, so I shortened it and then the banks wouldn’t accept it, so the only other possibility was booking through the Fly Dubai Office, which I had to do within 24 hours or lose the booking. So I went in on Friday afternoon to find the office closed, and then walked into town on Saturday morning at 8am to be there when the Office opened. As the staff turned their computers on, they were receiving the dreadful news of the Fly Dubai flight crash with total loss of life in Rostov-on-Don. So no booking was made, but I reassured the staff who were very apologetic to me that my problems were nothing compared with the unfolding tragedy for those on the flight and their families.

The Story of the Passion: Palm Friday, 18th March 2016

The re-telling of the Passion story with the children and young people miming it out has become a tradition for the Friday nearest to Palm Sunday. Angel

Afolabi was the narrator this year and she has a wonderfully rich voice that held everyone’s attention and the children caught the poignancy and solemnity of Jesus’ last 24 hours. Brigida Martino’s script, written in the present tense, draws everyone present into the unfolding drama. It was a moving beginning to Holy Week for all who attended. Jack did very well as Jesus, but all the children contributed in small ways to the powerful impact of the presentation.

Water will gush forth and streams in the desert: 16th March 2016

Another morning to wake to overnight rain. It has seemed a particularly wet ‘winter’ this year, not coming in great storms, but much milder temperate showers. It certainly freshens up the garden and washes down some of the dusty rooves. Perhaps the desert will be blossoming in the coming days. One of my childhood memories is seeing a speeded up film of the flowering of the Australian Lake Eyre, following the rains, which I gather has flooded again this year.


Dean’s Blog – 13th March, 2016

March 16, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Transforming Bahrain’s Public Transport System: Sunday 13th March 2016

This was the subject of our Living Room Dialogue this month with Tim Woodward, the Network Manager of Bahrain Public Transport. He first put the expansion of the bus network in the broader context of the vision for public transport in the 2030 Vision for Bahrain and then spoke about the challenges of introducing a transformed bus network into Bahrain, including the loss of several buses in Southampton harbour! But the results are hugely impressive and the growth in passenger numbers using the buses must be very encouraging for all involved. If it can help drive down the numbers of cars on the roads, it will be very worthwhile. As an icon of change in Bahrain, the red buses are certainly the most significant development in our six and a half years here. Tricia and I took our first journeys on the red buses on our day off, the previous Tuesday, and, though as novices it took a little while to find our way around some of the network, it was a comfortable and clean ride.

Christmas Gift to Belize: Friday 11th March 2016

Each year, at our Christmas Eve Christingle Service, the collection goes to an orphanage in Belize, which has a poignant link with Yvonne Trueman, whose son, Captain Julian Pooley died in a car accident in September 1994 in Belize, while serving with the British Army. Yvonne, who celebrates her 80th birthday this week, wants to emphasize the children-to-children link between Bahrain and Belize and so it was especially appropriate that the BD444 collected at that service was presented with our children present.

Trio Concert and World Premiere at the Cathedral: Thursday 10th March 2016

Ahmed Al Ghanem, the Bahraini flautist, has performed three concerts at the cathedral over the last few

years and it was once again a delight to welcome him back with two musicians, who are new to the Cathedral: Nadia Lopchynska (piano) and Irinya Ulrikh (cello) both from the Ukraine and teaching here. They played a varied programme of Melodies and Harmonies from East to West. The climax of the programme was a world premiere piece of Ahmed’s –Don’t go – which received sustained applause at the end.

Early Wedding: Thursday 10th March 2016

Nine o’clock was an unusually early start for a wedding, especially one with such elegant dress –

both men and ladies – and it could not have been a more dramatic entance into the Cathedral compound for the bride and her entourage than the stretch Hummer limo. Jon thought this might be a suitable vehicle for him to pick up people to come to Cathedral services and was soon circulating this picture advertizing his services to his homegroup

Gregory Porter Concert at Arad Fort: Saturday 5th March

It was a treat to go and hear 2014 Grammy Award winner for the best Jazz Vocal Album , Gregory Porter, in a concert at Arad Fort and the staging, with an open view onto the lit up fort behind, was especially effective. Many of his lyrics are clearly deeply influenced by his faith or heritage. I particularly enjoyed his, yet to be released, song Take me to the Alley a song awaiting for the King in the crowded shiny streets “They will be surprised when they hear him say: ‘take me to the alley, take me to the afflicted ones, take me to the lonely ones, that somehow lost their way… I am your friend… Come to my table.’ ” His band members playing piano, double bass, saxophone and percussion were exceptional too and each had the opportunity to demonstrate their individual skills.

Women’s World Day of Prayer: Friday 4th March 2014                

I sneaked in the back of the Women’s World Day of Prayer service along with a few brave men and helped with refreshments and photography afterwards. The service was prepared by women in Cuba, particularly timely with the recent visit of Pope Francis and the restoration of relations with the United States of America. Maria Khoury was the speaker; she is the Head of Complaints, Monitoring and Follow-up in the National Institution for Human Rights, involved as a Prison Visitor and is Chair of the Board of Governors at Al Rajah School, so has a breadth of experience in a variety of fields. She preached simply, but wisely on the theme. She said that she had attended this service many years ago, brought by her mother, but now she was doing the same, except this time she was bringing her mother.


Dean’s Blog – 27th February 2016

March 1, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Welcoming back old friends on Sunday morning

It was a special joy over two weeks on the last two Sunday mornings to welcome back Yvonne and Uwe Stein and on their return they wrote with greetings from a rather cold and damp Wales!
During our visit to church yesterday, Uwe and I were reminded of the warm, heart-felt welcome that was extended to us and our friend Geetha (from Sri Lanka) on our recent visit to Bahrain.  Being asked to participate during the morning service, was such a joy and privilege for Uwe and I and memories of days gone by came flooding back to us. We were made to feel so ‘special’ and so ‘loved’ by all of you.  It left our hearts over-flowing with joy. Attending your services, was the highlight of our visit to the little island we still call ‘home’.

Sakura – Spring Concert: Monday 29th February 2016

On Monday evening we were privileged to attend a concert – Sakura (Spring Concert) – by two outstanding Japanese musicians: Mika Nishimura on violin accompanied on piano by Mina Iwahashi. Mina gave a solo recital in the Cathedral over a year ago and she spent

last Christmas Day with our family, having played at the Christmas morning service, so we wanted to support her. It was held in the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, which is a lovely setting, though it was soon overflowing with people. Car parking was also a challenge in Muharraq at night and after a few hazardous treks down narrow streets, I eventually found a place to park by moving a waste bin. The programme was a wonderful mix of very familiar classics –Massanet, Rachmanininoff, Saens-Saens and Bartok – and sets of both Japanese and Bahraini songs which were received with delight by the largely Bahraini audience. We recognized the Japanese Song of the Shore from a cassette tape played by the flautist James Galway that we have had for a long time. We are grateful to the Embassy of Japan for organizing a very special evening.

Imran returns to Pakistan – Saturday 27th February

With Francis I took Imran to the airport for his flight home to Lahore, Pakistan to return to his wife and family including a new baby. After several years in Bahrain this will be a big change. Imran has been a faithful servant of the Cathedral, finding varieties of ways to serve, using his gifts to the full. He attended all the English-speaking services, both at the Cathedral and Awali, often being on the sound system and on a Saturday morning helping to prepare the church for worship. As clergy we will miss him not only for his service, but his friendship. In his last weeks, after his work finished and before receiving his final settlement, he made the most of his time using his tailoring skills to make a new altar cloth and several clerical shirts for the clergy including some for our son-in-law Dan, who will be ordained in St Alban’s Cathedral in July.

An Evening of Group Therapy – Thursday 25th February 2016


A small, but very appreciative, audience enjoyed an Evening of group Therapy, a band formed by those living in Saudi Arabia who played an eclectic mix of folk, light rock, blues and jazz as well as music with Cajun and Bluegrass influences. Their last appearance in the Cathedral was for a Gospel service led by Graham and Cathy Roberts.


Week beginning 21st February 2016

Sometimes it is good to have a week when I am not preaching to enable getting ahead with some of the preparation for the coming weeks, and especially looking ahead to Holy Week and Easter; so this week I have chosen hymns for the next three months, prepared

liturgies for the family service on Mothering Friday/Saturday and an Easter litugy for the first weekend in April and the insides of the noticesheets until the end of April and prepared a press release and some publicity for the next Cathedral Concert on Thursday 10th March: the return of the Bahraini flautist, Ahmed Al Ghanem with Nadia Lopchynska on piano and Iryna Ulrikh on cello. The British Embassy are keen to include it as part of the programme for the 200 year friendship between Bahrain and the UK, so hopefully their Facebook network will encourage some others to attend. I was also able to find a welder to make a nail for the Three Hour Service on Good Friday when we will be basing reflections on Stephen Cottrell’s The NailBeing part of the Passion. The Nail is an important visual to the drama of those who find themselves caught up in the drama of Jesus’ Passion.

Dinner with Ricardo and his mother – Saturday 20th February 2016

It was a joy to meet Ricardo’s mother, Bernadette, for a dinner at the British Club. She and Ricardo’s father had been very much in the Cathedral family’s prayers at the time when he was very ill and eventually died; Bernadette wanted to say how much she valued the support of the cathedral at that time. We all too often underestimate the importance of prayer, the sense of solidarity with her and Ricardo through a painful time and of being strengthened by God with hope at a time of loss.


Dean’s Blog – February 2016 – Part 2

February 18, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Dr Edward Kessler, Founding Director of the Woolf Institute: Thursday 18th February 2016

Another interesting person passing through Bahrain and exploring possibilities for encouraging interfaith relations and dialogue was Dr Ed Kessler. Ed had recently been in Doha for an interfaith conference and public lecture by

former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. He is the Founding Director of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, UK, which is dedicated to Interfaith Research, Teaching and Dialogue. I passionately believe that education is key to better understanding between faiths. The Woolf Institute has already made a significant contribution to teaching, research and dialogue in the encounter between Jews and Christians and a similar model is being applied to the encounter between Muslims and Jews. The learning environment is both dynamic and challenging – on academic and practical levels. In today’s unsettled world, an understanding of the inter-religious encounter is both necessary and urgent. The Woolf Institute is making an important contribution.  He was wanting to get a flavour of the context of interfaith relationships in Bahrain, so Jon and I met him for an hour over coffee in the Regency Intercontinental Hotel and we were able to relate our experiences here.

Living Room Dialogue with Royal Navy Chaplain Mark Davidson: Sunday 14th May 2014

Royal Navy Chaplain Dr Mark Davidson has been a good friend of the Cathedral since his arrival six months ago. He preached at the Remembrance Sunday Service, joined us to help lead our Christmas morning service and has linked us up with ships that are in Bahrain with crew members keen to do some community service. So it was a joy to have him speak at our Valentine’s Day Living Room Dialogue on the subject of Shame. He has long had a concern that shame is at the root of very many pastoral issues from his experience as a parish minister, as a Chaplain in Aberdeen University and now as a Chaplain in the Royal Navy and he did his PhD thesis on the subject – A biopsychosocial and ecclesiastical exploration of the place of shame in the lives of Christians with moderate intellectual disabilities. He said that shame was an issue that affected our whole being, contrasting it with guilt, which is usually associated with actions and which is more easily dealt with the words “I’m sorry”. And he highlighted the part that the Christian congregation can play in being a community of acceptance, hospitality and healing, enabling people to accept themselves and move on in their lives. It was good to have Mark round for a meal a couple of days later to talk further and to hear of his next move back to the UK and of his successor here as Chaplain and we gathered that he would be returning to Bahrain in June for a few weeks to cover a leave period.

Pancake races: Friday 12th February 2016

Perhaps a week late, but we were caught up in the Diocesan Synod this year was the annual pancake races after the Friday morning service, this year falling on the first Friday of Lent. But great fun was had by all, both participants and spectators and it took a little persuasion to prevent some of the children from eating their pancake despite dropping to the ground several times in the race.



Dinner at Zoe’s: Thursday 11th February 2016

We were wonderfully well looked after by two of our cathedral members, Milcah and Jade, who were delighted when we turned up a the restaurant that they work at, to celebrate Tricia’s birthday. It was a marvelous meal, but the bank manager won’t allow too many returns.