Deans Blog – November 2016

November 14, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Marathon Relay: Friday 28th October 2016

nov-001It’s always good to go down to welcome our Marathon Relay team at the Bahrain International Circuit and there was a great team nov-002spirit this year thanks to the advance planning and organization of our non-running Captain, who would like to make return to running next year, Natasha Prince. So congratulations to her and to all the team for a great run.


Eleonora Stanevich Piano Recital: Thursday 3rd November 2016


The brilliant Belarusian pianist Eleonora Stanevich brought our cathedral piano to life with her playing at the first concert of the academic year. It was a very varied programme and included works by works by JS Bach, Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, and Franz Liszt. We had a very appreciative audience of over fifty people including a number of Eleonora’s students who had received a Masterclass from their teacher. I especially enjoyed the two pieces by Chopin.



Family service with St Chris’ Rockers: Friday 4th November 2016

 nov-004Our occasional band including three of our talented young musicians on piano, bass guitar and drums led our worship for the Friday Family Service. The theme of the service was based on the dramatic story Elijah and the prophets of Baal which three readers read dramatically from The Fount Children’s Bible with the congregation joining together with The Lord is God, The Lord alone is God as the Lord answers the prayer of Elijah with fire and the long-standing drought in Israel comes to an end. As the story concludes: it was a hard day for Ahab – caught by fire and water in the same afternoon.


Conversations with the Old Testament: Friday 4th November 2016

nov-006nov-007It seemed an opportunity that was too good to miss Friday 4th November 2016 as Archdeacon John Holdsworth was with us for the weekend, to meet together as our Exploring Faith group with the author of the textbook that we are using for the current module on the Old Testament. We made it an open meeting with John talking on the more general theme What is the point of the Old Testament? After a delicious lunch in Angela and Mick’s home John introduced the subject which was followed by some lively discussion. Everyone who was there found it really helpful to have the author present to respond to some of the challenges of studying his book over these past months. It was a very positive afternoon.

Selection Conference: 5-6th November 2015

Five selectors and three candidates (sadly one had visa problems and failed to get to Bahrain) came together for an intensive two days of worship, interviews (each candidate had five half hour interviews), group exercises, preaching, and a written exercise.

All is aimed at enabling candidates to articulate their vocation to ordained ministry and for selectors to listen deeply and seek to discern together God’s calling in relation to the candidates’ gifts and potential. Despite its intensity, it was a relaxed time together as the two days were punctuated by meals out and brought to The Deanery, where we met for every event except our worship. I have responsibility of chairing the selection panel, setting the various exercises and helping the group of selectors come to a consensus recommendation to the Bishop and Elizabeth George, as Secretary, writes up the reports and recommendation for the Bishop. It was a very positive experience for both candidates and selectors and as I said at the beginning of the two days, it is not about success and failure, but about discerning God’s will for both individuals and the Church. 

Visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to Bahrain: November 9-11th 2016

nov-008St Christopher’s Cathedral was invited to send an international delegation to meet with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at an interfaith gathering at the Hindu Temple in the Manama Souq. There has been a Hindu community here for more than 200 years, so five of us representing nov-10five Commonwealth countries and all Cathedral Council members – Robert from India, Jacquie from Kenya, Sulo from Sri Lanka, Fozia from South Africa and I from the United Kingdom walked in to the nov-009

souq from the cathedral, having been warned that roads would be closed down. We were placed in different clusters around tables and I was asked to take the lead at our table when the Duchess came. I had a challenging protocol issue as just before the Duchess came to our cluster, the Bahrain Foreign Minister asked me to come and speak to the Crown Prince as he had been at St Christopher’s School, when it was sited next to the Cathedral; so I was not present when the Duchess came to our table, but nov-11
managed to slip back into the cluster. On his way out the Prince stopped and asked if I was the Anglican priest and had a brief conversation.

Later that day I attended a reception at the British Embassy and had a good time talking to students at both Nadeem School and the British School of Bahrain. Both schools had excellent displays on recycling and were very articulate about the importance of care for the environment. I have since sent information about the Arab Youth Climate Change movement, a group of Bahraini young people, who also have a passion for the environment. I was placed in an Education and Cultural cluster around table 13 – that seems to be the way the Royals meet everyone – including the principals of St Christopher’s School and the British School of Bahrain, who’d both chosen hymns for last week’s Songs of Praise. Again the Duchess came to our cluster and talked to each of us in turn around the horseshoe. It must require the gift of attending and really listening to people given the constant presence of entourage with them and the need to give only a short time to each person.

nov-12nov-13On Friday I was responsible for being the lead minister at the Service of Remembrance, this year at the British Embassy, with my colleagues Stephen and the Royal Navy Chaplain, Nigel Beardsley. We met the Prince of Wales at the back garden gate and had the opportunity to talk before moving to the front of the Embassy for the Act of Remembrance. W

We began the Friday morning service a quarter of an hour earlier – only a few people arrived surprised at 9.30am – and were finished by 10.00am, which enabled both Stephen and I nov-14nov-15and a large number of the congregation to be at the Embassy in good time. Ambassadors, senior military officers from several navies and a broad cross-section of the community were present and very sensibly this year, and I hope to be repeated in future, following the laying of wreaths by the Prince, in the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, and one by the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, clusters of three brought their wreaths forward rather than each one doing it singly.

As there was no PA system, and there must have been nearly 200 people present, we had to throw our voices, but those who were at the back said that we could be heard clearly, but my voice is a little ragged this morning.


Three-Dioceses Link Gathering in Thika – October 2016

November 12, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Three-Dioceses Link Gathering in Thika: Monday 17th – Wednesday 26th October 2016

Tricia and I were invited by Bishop Michael to join the Cyprus and Gulf delegation to meet with oct-001groups from our link Dioceses of Exeter and Thika, in Thika, Kenya. We flew out arriving in the early hours of Monday morning, staying in the heart of Nairobi for a couple of nights thanks to the gracious hospitality of Catherine and Rob here in Bahrain and Catherine’s sister Rahab in Nairobi. One of the joys of this trip was the possibility of connecting with family members of our congregation here. Rahab took us to both the oct-003David Sheldrick orphanage for elephants, who had been mostly orphaned as a result of the scourge of poachers hunting elephants for ivory and also to sanctuary for giraffes. oct-002We had a late lunch at Carnivore, not a place for vegetarians (!), having visited her home and met her new baby. In the evening we met Grace, Sam’s wife and his father Nelson who joined us for tea at the hotel we were staying at; Sam is one of our Sunday morning congregation.

oct-004We met up with the arriving group from our Diocese on Tuesday afternoon at Nairobi Airport and were entertained by the arrival of Daniel Wanjiru, the winner of the Amsterdam Marathon, that had taken place two days earlier. The fact that Kenyans had won the first eight places of this race demonstrates the depth of their running!

From the airport we were taken to Thika Cathedral oct-oo6and were met by our dear hosts for the next ten days Fred and Margaret Gathatwa, who not only took us into their homes but into their hearts. We were overwhelmed by the graciousness of their hospitality and we had to learn afresh the preciousness of water, especially when the rains had not yet come. Over the ten days both their daughter and son came up from Nairobi to meet us; it was a joy to meet with them. We had a few expeditions together to meet up with Lucy and William’s two children (more Sunday 10.30am congregation), who are looked after by Lucy’s mother Christine, and another visit to have a meal with a fellow PhD student of Tricia’s at octo-007Birmingham, Mary and her husband George, who is the National Director of FOCUS (the Fellowship of Christian Unions). Mary and Fred knew one another from University days, but had long since lost touch, so it was good to be able to reconnect them. We joined with Fred and Mary at their weekly cell group and joined them for worship at oct-010Kenyatta Road Church on the Sunday. It was here after the service, that a former student of mine, Bethuel Chege, from forty one years earlier in Form 1 in Koimbi Secondary School, came up after the service and introduced himself. He is now a Librarian in the University of Nairobi Architecture Faculty and we had our final evening in Kenya in their home. It was a wonderful reunion.

The Diocesan Link experience was an amazing one, a mixture of the formal – the renewal of the oct-011Covenant by the three Diocesan Bishops – and the much more informal, usually taking place over the never-ending stream of meals that host parishes would provide whenever there was an opportunity. We visited several parishes in different areas of the Diocese. The story of the Diocese in Thika is a story of growth and transformation. Since its formation in 1998, the Diocese has grown from 9000 members to 33,000; 26 parishes to 72 parishes; 26 clergy to 107 clergy 115 congregations to 187 congregations. Of course that growth is not easy to manage and this was apparent in the Sunday School classes we attended 250 oct-012children in about four classes without the opportunity to do anything very imaginative with their limited resources. But perhaps the most impressive examples of transformation were in the testimonies of individuals, often women through the Church Community Mobilization Process that the Diocese of Thika has adopted. It has the motto Where God has placed his people, He has provided enough resources if the people there look carefully. The process begins with studying the Bible, encourages individuals reflect on the change that they want to see in themselves and in the life of their congregations and leads on to the change they want to see in their community. It oct-013is occasionally primed through small loans to enable people to start something new and we saw several examples: a young man who had been able to build a metal workshop and buy the necessary tools, a woman who had been able to expand her poultry business. All this enabled them to feed their families more nutritionally and pay for their children’s school fees and, they almost invariably said, from their tithing to give more to their church communities.

oct-008One other feature, of both individual, family and church life in Kenya, is the rhythm of prayer that is part and parcel of their lives: the gratitude to God expressed for a cup of tea, the prayer together in every place for parishes, for poultry farms, for the metal workshop, for a newly opened auto parts shop, for a market stall selling textiles, for a water harvesting project, a micro- finance bank…. Haven’t we lost that sense of God imbuing all things with his presence and blessing that such a rhythm helps restore?

The Diocese of Thika’s vision is to be a caring Diocese holistically transforming society with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From what we saw it is doing that and both the groups from Exeter and Cyprus and the Gulf felt energized by what we had seen and that we had much to learn from their experience, though recognizing the very different histories and contexts each of our Dioceses is working in.

oct-009On our last day we paid a visit to the newly elected Archbishop of Kenya the Most Rev’d Jackson Nasoore Ole Sapit in the Provincial Office in Nairobi. He outlined his vision for the Province which included not just the transformation of individual lives and the renewal of the Church but also the transformation of the structures of society and in the coming years he highlighted a variety of areas that he would be encouraging the church nationally to focus on, each year addressing one. These included education, health and the environment. While in Nairobi, we shared in the regular Eucharist at all Saints Cathedral, and after all the busy days it was good to be experience a quieter service gently led by a woman priest. As a group we also had the opportunity to reflect on the experience of the ten days. There was huge gratitude for the hospitality that we had received, and for those who’d worked so hard on the programme and given us so much time, not least Bishop Julius, but also Archdeacon David and Provost Joseph, but there was clearly a felt need for more time to reflect and discuss together on our experiences and how they might be related to our different contexts.



Dean’s Blog October 2016

October 12, 2016 in Dean's Blog

A Harvest Festival Weekend: Friday 31st September – Sunday 2nd October 2016
001A big thank you for all your gifts for the Harvest Festival – a wonderful response- which will be directed to those who are needy through the work of ECC (Ecumenical Conference of Charity) volunteers and through Stephen and his ministry to seafarers with Mission to Seafarers.



002On the Saturday evening of the weekend we held our usual World Harvest Supper and Barn Dance, which is always such an enjoyable event as we are such an international church family and barn dancing particularly has an uncanny knack of mixing everybody up without anyone noticing. The food from different parts of the globe is always an amazing experience too.


Visit of Chaplain of the Fleet : Friday 7th October 2016

003It was good to welcome the Chaplain of the Fleet and Archdeacon of the Royal Navy, the Venerable Ian Wheatley, to our Friday morning all-age Family Service with the relatively newly arrived Bahrain-based Royal Navy Chaplain, the Rev’d Nigel Beardsley, who has befriended our Sunday evening congregation especially. After coffee we were able to talk and I was able to highlight that we were able to provide the continuity in the rapidly turning over military community and to provide a homely community where those who are away from their families can find family.

004I was particularly struck on Friday afternoon of the desperate need for dedicated space for the childrenof church communities on our compound when I came across one group meeting in a storeroom.

005Another group was in the Gerald Green room – 12 young people and two adults. It makes me realize that the launch of our new Building Project in November cannot come too soon.

Living Room Dialogue: Sunday 9th October 2016

006Nearly thirty people came together for a Living Room Dialogue in The Deanery to hear Vicky Honar, a nurse, midwife and consultant lactologist speak about her experiences of volunteering in refugee camps in Greece encouraging and giving support to mothers in breastfeeding their babies. Breast feeding she said was her passion and she has led several groups in Bahrain. She has been to Greece twice with the charity Nurture Project International and plans to go again in 2017.

It was especially encouraging to have several new people join us, who clearly felt that such a forum to engage with a variety of issues is very valuable.




Dean’s Blog September 2016

September 27, 2016 in Dean's Blog

It has been the strangest starts to the new academic year which always feels like the beginning of the Church year after the long summer break. As soon as children went back to school, they were off again some for a whole week with Eid and it no doubt it will be the same at Ashura. It has meant a rather 001bitty start, but it has been good over the past few weeks to welcome several individuals and families and only time will tell if they will remain with us at the Cathedral/Awali or find another church community that suits them better. All we can do is be ourselves and welcome people warmly and be as supportive as we can to those starting life in a new place.

On the final Wednesday evening get-together of the summer we showed Chariots of Fire, a suitable post-Olympic choice of movie. About thirty crowded into The Deanery for biryani, and ice cream and to watch the 1981 Oscar winning movie.

002Over Eid we held a picnic, kindly hosted by David and Sara, George and Charlie, in the Layla Gardens compound. More than double the numbers came than signed up – nearly 70 – but as people brought their own picnics and shared them, there was plenty to go round and there was a lovely mix of people from both our English-speaking and Tamil- speaking congregations and we were able to welcome and integrate

some who are new to our community.

Autumn clean: Saturday 24th September 2016

003A big thank you to our cleaning team who volunteered to do a special autumn clean of the cathedral for all their hard work. I had to use the excuse of going to the service at Awali, but we are grateful for all that was accomplished.

Monday 26th September 2016

A very varied day that included meeting with someone new to Bahrain willing and with the skills to take on running the concert programme, which I am delighted about. Watch this space!

In the afternoon, at the Salmabad Cemetery, I took the funeral of Ken Foxall who had lived in Bahrain for 62 years, for much of his working life in BAPCO, where he was a great encourager of training and

enabling Bahrainis to take on responsibilities in the company. He had adopted a Bahraini family and they had clearly adopted him as honorary godfather to the children and grandchildren.

004In the evening I had a Skype conference with a professor, Alvin Lingenfelter and five students doing a course on Global Christianity. What an enlightened way of using the technology to engage with the worldwide Church! It was a very stimulating conversation covering a range of topics and it may be followed up with email correspondence if further issues need teasing out further.


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.