Jon Lavelle

Dean’s Blog – 29th December to 4th January

January 13, 2016 in Dean's Blog

Reception on board Charles de Gaulle: Tuesday 29th December 2016

We were privileged to be invited on board the French flagship Charles de Gaulle visiting Bahrain as part of operations in the region and the largest Western European warship currently. It was good to meet up with Shaikh Abdulla, who had organized the recent interfaith group to the United Nations. Judging from the banter from the Royal Navy, I think the competition between navies is not dissimilar to competitions between schools here in Bahrain; it’s a relatively small community and everyone knows everyone else, at least at senior officer level, but the French certainly lived up to expectations for their food (and drink) and

we were given a couple of baguettes, freshly baked on board, as we left. Both the French Admiral and the French Ambassador spoke and affirmed the importance of Bahrain and their allies and expressed gratitude for the support given to France following the two terrorist attacks in Paris.


New Year’s Eve Watchnight Service and Holy Communion

It was good to hear that the Watchnight Service and Communion, which had to be in Awali this year because of a double booking, was such a success and that eighty people – mostly from our Tamil and Kenyan communities found their way to the church. It would have been much quieter and certainly much freer car parking space. The New Year’s day service on Friday morning was a considerably thinner, but I have to say that was not a surprise. Some were still away on holiday; for others it was the morning after the night before.


Launching 200 years of friendship between Bahrain and the UK: Monday 4th January 2016

A reception on board HMS Defender, an extremely high tech warship was the setting for the launch of a year of celebrations marking 200 years of friendship between two kingdoms. The Crown Prince was the Guest of Honour and there were a mix of both British, Bahraini and International guests in the relatively small space of the Defender’s hanger. We were given

brief tour of the ship and two demonstrations: the first by Royal Marines dealing with the threat of boarding pirates; the second in the Ops Room of a simulated missile attack by a hostile plane. Our daughter, Hannah, stood in as Captain for three minutes for this exercise and gave the order for the missile to be intercepted and shot down. The evening ended with a parade and the lowering of the flag at sunset.


Christmas Celebrations

December 26, 2015 in Dean's Blog

Carols on Ice: Monday 21st December 2015

An imaginative afternoon event took place at Funland on the ice rink – carols on ice and many families came down to enjoy a feeling of being in the cooler climes of the northern hemisphere with some ice skating and carols played in the background. I donned a pair of skates and joined the party and at the end of the event gratefully received BD120 from David Axtell who’d organized the event. Sadly early in the afternoon Stephanie had a nasty fall and broke her wrist.


Christingle Workshop: Wednesday 23rd December, 2015

Rather fewer families joined us for the making of Christingles than in previous years, indicative that many are away making use of

public holidays and weekends for a pre-Christmas break or away for Bahrain for Christmas, but all was completed within the hour. I had forgotten that I had ordered candles from the UK brought out by our daughter Alex but in the meantime I managed to find some German candles in the supermarket here that were one third of the cost of the British ones! Red tape, which two years ago was in big supply here, was the challenge this year. In the end I bought a much wider red masking tape and a Stanley knife to cut it into thinner strips, which worked… We are all set for tomorrow.

Christmas Eve: Thursday 24th December 2015

The Christmas Eve Christingle service is always a special one, but this year was enriched by a two families – Holmans and Marshalls –

professional band and a professional dancer – Maya, who is learning her art at a dance school in the UK and has danced in Billy Elliot, who danced as we sang Longing for Light. A tradition of the Christingle Service has been to watch An Unexpected Christmas – ‘they won’t be expecting that’ – which has become something of a classic: a children’s Nativity performed by children in a Church in Auckland (stpaul’s artsandmedia), New Zealand. Both at Christingle and at the midnight First Communion of Christmas in a more extended way I reflected on the fact that God comes to us in Jesus in a

particular place at a particular time and that Luke, a careful historian is concerned to root the incarnation into our history and geography in his listing of people and places. But that this is a message for all people – of every tribe, tongue people and nation – and in every age. I am reminded of this every time I lead worship in our cathedral and it was very apparent at our services over Christmas. It was a joy to have a group from the Royal Navy at the midnight and to welcome the Royal Navy Chaplain at the Base, Mark Davidson to share in leading the worship at both midnight and Christmas morning services.

In the past few years Nader Berdestani from the Hussaini Processions has brought flowers on Christmas morning. This year it was

more than flowers, he brought a band who joined us at the end of the Christmas morning service, brought greetings to the whole congregation and graciously played Amazing Grace. The congregation responded wonderfully with warm applause as they arrived and with a standing ovation at the conclusion. Reuters were present and within a few hours I found this photo among others of ‘worldwide celebrations of Christmas’. As people said when they were leaving, this was a Christmas service that they would never forget. Also accompanying worship for the first time was the Japanese pianist, Mina Iwahashi, who did her piano studies in St Petersburg. She joined our family for Christmas lunch afterwards.

Christmas at Awaliawali_1

Sometimes it’s a sadness that you cannot be in two places at the same time, but Jon Lavelle who was at Awali both for the Crib service and the Christmas morning Family Communion reported full churches, children caught up in the wonder of the Christmas story and a very positive response in worship.





Baptism at Awali Church: Saturday 19th December

December 22, 2015 in Dean's Blog


Baptism of Andrew Bell at the Awali Church

It was a privilege to be present for Andy Bell’s baptism by Jon on Saturday morning. About a year before Andy’s younger brother, Justin, was baptized, but he decided that he wanted to wait till after his 13th birthday. As Jon said, one of the key messages in the Christian faith is that there is no compunction in Christian discipleship. God is ready to wait for our response, when we are ready.

He linked this in with the powerful message of the Fourth Sunday of Advent: Mary’s willing Yes to God and the challenge for us all to follow her example.


Dean’s Blog – Sunday 20th December 2015

December 22, 2015 in Dean's Blog

Nine Lessons and Carols: Sunday 20th December 2015

The Nine Lessons and Carols was once again a lovely service. The Manama singers joined us for a couple of carols from their repertoire: A little child there is ybore, from the 16th century and the Huron Carol Twas in the time of wintertime the oldest Canadian carol written probably in 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary. The readers who represented the variety of countries that make up our congregation, read the lessons very well, but undoubtedly the star, just peeping over the top of the pulpit, was Neha Mani. The telling of the Christmas story within the overall story of redemption in the whole of the Biblical story is always a very powerful one and I hope touches the hearts of all who attend.

Thames Remembers: Sunday 20th December 2015

It was a joy to welcome Adrian and Anne Dite from Thame at the morning service who were visiting Bahrain to lay a special cross on the grave of Warrant Officer Joseph Castle from Thame who died in Bahrain, having served with the Royal Engineers in the Cyprus

Emergency. Thame Remembers is commemorating the centenary of the First World War by researching all the names on Thame War Memorials – from all conflicts – to discover more about their lives, to identify the location of their grave or memorial, and place a “Thame Remembers” cross on each resting place, wherever in the world that may be. Most of our small Sunday morning congregation came to the Old Cemetery after the service, where we were joined by three member of the crew of HMS Penzance, who had volunteered to be present for this act of recognition of Joseph castle’s service and to remember him.

After the brief ceremony and an interview from Mai Al Khatab of the Gulf Weekly who have shown great interest in the Thame Remembers project we took Adrian and Anne to lunch at the British Club before they got on their plane back to Doha where they are spending Christmas with their son. For more information on this worldwide project do explore

Presents for Seafarers and Syrian Refugee Appeal: Saturday 19th December 2015

Each year the Cathedral community initiates an appeal with Stephen, the Mission to Seafarers Chaplain, to give gifts for seafarers visiting Bahrain over the Christmas season. This year a workparty

wrapped more than 300 Christmas parcels with donations from both the US Base and The American Women’s Associaton. All this has been in addition to the support of the Gulf Weekly/ DHL Christmas Appeal of blankets and socks for Syrian refugees which has produced a wonderfully generous response both within and beyond the Cathedral community.

National Day Celebrations: Wednesday 16th December 2015

Jon and I were invited to join the National Day celebrations in the courtyard / parade ground of Sakhir Palace

and were given a front row seat in the shade, which was an added bonus. There was a 21 gun salute, a military parade with a military band, a speech from His Majesty King Hamad and the presentation of awards and medals, recognizing varieties of service. After the event we met a couple of the ladies given awards; one was an aircraft engineer captain and another worked in the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Following the pres entation of awardnational_day_Bishops

His Majesty did a tour of the parade ground and, as we were in the front row sitting with the Roman Catholic Bishop Camillo, he came to shake our hands and we were able to give him our congratulations on the occasion of National Day on behalf of the St Christopher’s Cathedral community.

CATS and St Christopher’s School Winter Concert

Two events outside the Cathedral, but involving several of our Cathedral community, have been the performance

of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical CATS by MASK and St Christopher’s School Winter concert. CATS was a very professional production held at the rugby club: the set the voices, the acting and the chorography all came together in a wonderful production by both children and adults.

And then we thoroughly enjoyed St Christopher’s School Winter concert and in particular the Cantata, whose singing was crisp and clear, and the music, the narration and the beautiful animation on screen of Raymond Briggs delightful story of The Snowman


ECC Christmas Party: Saturday 12th December 2015

We were glad to attend the ECC Christmas party at the Al Saffir Hotel. These folk, who give their time as volunteers to serving the needy, also know how to party and as well as excellent food there were carols, a quiz, games and a home written sketch about the true joy of Christmas in giving. Claude, a long-standing member of the ECC was honoured with gifts and speeches from several volunteers as he and his wife will be returning home to Goa.


Children of the World: 11th December 2015

The final presentation of the Nativity Play is always something of an anxiety in The Deanery as it is usually the only ‘dress’ performance with the whole cast present. There had been a run through with many of the young people present

on the Wednesday, which had gone well, but the anxiety remains…. In the end, as always, they rose to the occasion and did brilliantly! The theme of the play was how children

in different countries celebrate the birth of Christ, a theme which is clearly so appropriate for an international congregation such as ours. The countries chosen for the play were India, China, the Czech Republic, Kenya, Columbia and South Africa. In our congregation several other countries could have been chosen too. Each country group gave a gift from their country to Jesus and sang a song from that country.

Carols in The British Embassy Garden: Thursday 10th December, 2015

This is an annual British community event hosted by the Ambassador and his wife, so this was the first occasion for our new Ambassador, Simon Martin and his wife Sophie and it wasa very happy occasion. The singing was led by a choir and small brass group from St Christopher’s School. Unfortunately, it clashed with the 40th day of Muharram, so some of the roads leading to the Embassy were closed. Tricia and I walked from the Cathedral, very pleasant at this time of the year (especially when the streets are closed!) and only taking 25 minutes, but others travelling from further afield got caught up in the traffic jams. However, it was a very happy evening and appreciated by all who attended.






Deans Blog – December

December 17, 2015 in Dean's Blog

To New York: Wednesday 2nd – Friday 4th December 2015

I got up early in order to catch the mid-morning flight from Heathrow to New York (two changes on the underground) to catch the Heathrow Express from Paddington. I arrived in New York in the early afternoon and caught the Air Train and subway into Manhattan to the hotel. Having seen Elf the previous night, I paid a quick visit to Macy’s to see the Christmas decorations and stretch my legs following the flight before meeting fellow delegates for tomorrow’s U.N. workshop for dinner: Shaikh Abdulla, Undersecretary for International Affairs in Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Nancy Khedouri, a Jewish Member of the Shura Council, who has written a history of the Jewish community in Bahrain and Dr Al Khalafalla, who has initiated tomorrow’s workshop, believing that Bahrain has a model attitude to different faith communities.

UN workshop on Religious Pluralism and Tolerance: The Bahrain Model: Thursday 3rd December 2015

The workshop has been sponsored by the intriguingly named Humpty Dumpty Institute (putting the pieces together again in a broken world) and working closely with the U.N. The delegates were mostly religious leaders from different faith traditions: Christian, Jewish, (a female rabbi working in Italy) Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu, as well as people connected with the Humpty Dumpty Institute. Sadly, neither Nancy Khedouri nor I were able to use the powerpoint presentations that we’d prepared. Apparently union rules require three people to operate the projector! The presentations were well received, despite this, and there were some interesting responses. I was particularly impressed by Daisy Khan from WISE (the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality) whose organization is addressing, very publicly, Islamic extremism. I had a good conversation with Major Jim Betts from the Salvation Army, who was delighted to hear that the Salvation Army meet in the Cathedral compound and also with a thoughtful Buddhist nun, originally from Taiwan but who had studied marketing in Perth, Australia.

In the evening we went to dinner in the home of Mark Epstein, on the board of the Humpty Dumpty Institute and met a great variety of people: Congressional representatives, Ambassadors to the UN and others connected to the HDI. The home was the roof space on the top floor of an apartment block with an amazing view of the lit up Empire State Building, a large room with collections of grand pianos, hats, paintings and hunting trophies (moose and deer).

Humpty Dumpty Institute’s 50th Congressional Delegation: Friday 4th December 2015

Once again the Bahrain delegation was picked up by the faithful Bahrain Embassy driver, who was from Kinkiizi in south-west Uganda. He was delighted to see photos on my camera of his home area and of Bishop Dan Zoreka, whom he knew. We returned as observers this time of a meeting of representatives of Congress, all Democrats I think, and their legislative assistants, most of whom had

been at last night’s dinner. Talking to Ralph Cwerman, the President and Chief Executive Officer of HDI, many Republicans regard the UN with deep distrust, despite its headquarters being in New York, because they believe it undermines US sovereignty. We began by visiting the memorial to the slave trade, opened earlier this year. A number of presentations were given on conflict resolution by Christopher Coleman, and peace keeping by Herve Ladsous, the Head of Peacekeeping Operations, and a wide ranging and very impressive presentation was given by the Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, a former Swedish Foreign Minister, highlighting the importance of addressing so many issues with an international perspective: climate change, the refugee crisis, and organized crime – just three examples.

We were given a tour of the UN: where the General Assembly meet and the Security Council chamber both the private room behind closed doors, where issues are hammered out, and the public chamber, where statements for public consumption are made. We finally had lunch with the group before returning to the hotel and for me, a quick change, final pack and heading to the airport to return to Bahrain, via London.


To Elf, the musical: Tuesday 1st December, 2015

Philippa, our youngest daughter, had organized a family and friends party -eighteen of us – for an outing to see the musical Elf at the Dominion Theatre. It is the story of Buddy, whose mother had died, who’d found his way into Santa’s sack and taken back to the North Pole, where he grew up thinking that he was an elf, but soon outgrowing his fellow elves and not nearly as nimble in Santa’s workshop. Eventually he returns to New York to find his father, who has remarried, is a workaholic and doesn’t spend any time with his new family. He refuses to accept Buddy into his home. But Buddy brings the true spirit of Christmas, not least into Macy’s, the New York department store, and in the end even his father’s heart is warmed and he is welcomed back into his home.

Commissioning of Youthscape: Sunday 29th December, 2015
It was a very proud moment to be present for the commissioning of Youthscape in a special service at St Mary’s Church, Luton for the

newly converted, and not quite completed, flour mill, Bute Mills, in the heart of the town centre. Luton is often in the news for all the the wrong reasons. Only a couple of days after, the news headlines were full of the arrests in Luton of a number of people connected with plans for a Paris-style terrorist attack in the UK. But this makes the work of Youthscape all the more important, creative youth work responding to the needs of many alienated young people and to bring some good news about Luton to national attention. So it was wonderful that the Archbishop of Canterbury,

Justin Welby, came to be interviewed and to preach at the commissioning, to affirm his support and encouragement for this imaginative and visionary project. About five hundred people were at the service, the orchestra of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, under the evergreen Noel Tredinnick, led the worship and our daughter Alex, who is Director of Youthscape, spoke about the

significance of the work and how the building would be used. After the service I was able to give a three fish plate, created by the Bahraini artist Wahab Taqi, and based on the design of his consecration robes, to the Archbishop as a gift from St Christopher’s Cathedral.

The following day Tricia and I returned to Luton on the bus to see Bute Mills for ourselves, a personal tour from Alex and Chris Curtis, the Chief Executive of Youthscape, whose vision has really brought the project to fruition. The place was a hive of building activity but,trying not to get in the way, we could see what an imaginative conversion it is. The brick creates a very warm environment, the lighting is very sympathetic for the varieties of uses that the rooms will be used for, and the huge portraits of some of the young people are very striking.

I am so glad that we made the effort to go back for this special occasion.