Dean’s Blog – Holy Week and Easter 2018

April 2, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Holy Week and Easter 2018

0001Through this Holy Week and Easter the central act of what we have done in our worship has been to retell the story of Jesus’ last week in a variety of different ways and it has struck me afresh how powerful story-telling is and in particular the transforming power of this particular story. I was taking a school assembly on Palm Sunday morning and as I was telling the story I felt that some of the children were hearing this story for the first time: the shock of Jesus betrayal by Judas, the sadness hearing how Jesus friends abandoning him and Peter denying him, the difficulty of understanding the brutality of the violence against Jesus. And I have been reminded that the original Greek often uses the historic present tense – which in English is translated as past – but for those reading or hearing the story in the original language the reader/hearer is present. 0003That is we are not just observers of events that have happened, but we are present. 0002In a very real way we are participants. And so the telling of the story and we have often done it though dramatic portrayal:  in the Station of the Cross; in the washing of feet at the Maundy Thursday service; and in the powerful journey to the cross that we make in the Good Friday service.  The whole congregation moves from the celebration of Passover in the Upper Room (Cathedral) to the Garden of Gethsemane (Deanery garden) to the place of judgement (Coffee room) to the place of crucifixion (back in the cathedral) and we make our own connection with the story by pinning our names to the large wooden cross.


0004In the Good Friday three hour service, we explored the experiences of six people who were there:  Mary of Bethany, Peter, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene and the Roman Centurion using what I think is a deeply insightful book At the Cross by Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart as the basis for the meditations. The service ended unexpectedly dramatically for as we were singing the final hymn a car was ablaze in the car park. There was some quick thinking and fire extinguishers and hoses were soon being used and the police and fire brigade were also soon on the scene, but the car was a right off and an adjacent one was badly damaged through the heat. Thankfully no-one was hurt, it was an electrical fault (not a terrorist act) and the petrol tank did not explode.    


On Easter Eve I had a final meditation on Nicodemus, who, with Joseph of Arimathea, had taken responsibility to get permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body and place it in a tomb. It shows the transformation from the Nicodemus of John 3, who comes under cover of darkness to meet with Jesus. Here he is publicly identifying with Jesus, which clearly demanded huge courage given his position as a Pharisee and on the Sanhedrin, the religious council and he gives Jesus a burial that was fit for a king with a huge quantity of myrrh and aloes. Had Nicodemus come “to see the Kingdom of God”, which were Jesus first recorded words to him in John 3: 3.

0005Easter for me began by delivering Jesus and the angel to the Easter garden in preparation for the joint Tamil service at 5am and it was good to meet the Salvation Army Major, Stewart Grinstead who was the preacher and visiting from Kuwait. I then headed up to the American Mission Hospital car park for the Ecumenical Sunrise service at 5.30am; it’s always striking how many people gather before heading off to work on a working day for many. returning to the Cathedral to greet the Tamil community who were having breakfast. Our main Easter service was at 10.30am in the Cathedral and the Rev’d Sujith Sugathan, from one of our Church of South India congregations, helped lead the service, while Canon Stephen led the 9.30am service at Awali. 0006Tricia and I managed a quick swim and fish and chip lunch at the British Club, which revived us for the final Easter Holy Communion at 6.15pm, the usual time for our regular Sunday service. I enjoyed the challenge of preaching on Mark 16:1-8, which ends not with Alleluias that Christ is risen, but the women, trembling and bewildered fled from the tomb and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Fear which paralyzed them into running away and silence, as fear does. But why does Mark end in this way?  – an ending that later scribes could not cope with so they added another for as our Bibles say: “the most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16: 9-20.” It is surely because he wants us, the hearers and readers of his gospel, to take up the responsibility of sharing the good news with others.


Dean’s Blog – March 2018

March 25, 2018 in Dean's Blog


Male and Female Models of Discipleship in John’s Gospel: Sunday 11th March 2018

001Anne Futcher’s final event of her busy month with us before returning to her parish in Exeter was to lead a Living Room Dialogue exploring Male and female roles of discipleship in John’s Gospel, particularly looking at the examples of Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in chapter 4. She gave an overview of John’s theology before looking at the particular examples in these two chapters and her conclusion that Jesus was more concerned about discipleship than gender specific roles. Anne had to be whisked off to the airport to catch her 23.00 Emirates plane via dubai to London Heathrow and I followed her carrying a parcel she’d left behind the following early morning at 02.15. I was able to meet her off the plane, hand over her parcel and have a quick cup of coffee before she caught the bus to Exeter and I caught the train via London to Gloucester.


Meeting Isla: 12th-17th March 2018

002It was exciting to spend five days with our daughter Alex and Dan and their newly born daughter Isla, my first meeting. The first two days were spent in Ross-on-Wye, where they were at the end of their holiday, which included a lovely 10kms walk out of Monmouth, up into the hills overlooking the city and back along the River Wye which after recent snow was in full flood with the meltwater.

003On the Wednesday we drove back to their home in Hitchin. Dan was back to work immediately, but as the weather was fine Alex and I got out and about on foot, meeting up with her fellow new mums for an ice cream one time and meeting a former colleague of Alex, a church youth worker, for a coffee. And it was lovely just to be able to relax and to read Isla stories.

The weather turned back to winter on leaving Heathrow, the snow beginning to fall and the plane needed to be de-iced before take-off.


Preparing for Holy Week and Easter

004Holy Week for us in the Middle East begins on the Friday before Palm Sunday, so really is a Holy Ten Days, but having decided on telling the Passion Story in a variety of different ways in our Palm Weekend services and using many people to be involved, especially for the crowd responses for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and Pilate’s interactions with the crowds when he tries to have Jesus released, it is sometimes a challenge to pin people down. This is especially so on Sunday evenings as the road in front of the Cathedral compound has been made one-way, creating longer journeys for most people at a time when the roads are already crowded, so people are anxious about making a commitment.

The Easter News is all prepared for emailing and distribution, as well as going onto our website. It has an Easter message, details of services though Holy Week and Easter Day and news of events coming up in our life together.


Palm Sunday weekend: 23rd-25th March 2018

005Telling the story in a variety of different ways seems to be the most important part of our worship through Holy week and Easter and in Greek this is often apparently done by using the historic present tense, which draws the readers or hearers into the text into the story, into the present time of the story as if we are there. 006This is surely the function of a well-told story that we become participants in it. I felt this was so both in the dramatic reading of the Passion from Susan Sayers’ simply but well told story of The Road to the Cross and the dramatization of the crucifixion and resurrection by our older Samaritans group. It was as if we were there, especially when Neha appeared from behind the big rock, alive following the crucifixion.



Remembering Camille Jones and her family: Saturday 24th March 2018

In response to the tragic death of Camille Jones, whose funeral was held yesterday in her home town in Canada, I had suggested keeping the cathedral open for those who would appreciate it as a place to come and pray for her and her family. This note went out to the St Christopher’s School community:

007Many of us in the St Christopher’s School and wider community have been touched by the death of Camille Jones.

Although St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama is regularly open in daylight hours for anyone to come and pray, on Saturday 24 March between 3:00pm and 5:00pm the Cathedral will be open for all who would like to come and pray for Camille and her family. There will be a book for messages of condolence and candles will be available to light for all who find that a helpful symbol.


About fifty people came to the Cathedral at different times over the two hours and it was clearly appreciated. In our frenetic society we rarely give ourselves time and quiet to sit still and reflect and as well as candles to light, a book of condolence for all who wanted to write a message, I’d prepared some prayers for a time of bereavement.



Dean’s Blog – February 2018

March 11, 2018 in Dean's Blog

A Varied Day-off: Tuesday 27th February 2018

001One of the joys of having visitors is going to places that we ourselves like to go and one of these is a visit to A’ali potteries. It is like winding the clock back many years to watch the hand-thrown, but mass-produced, pots by the skilled potters on their wheels, and the firing of the pots in the simple gas-fired kilns each one ‘closed’ with a clay/earth door.



002From A’ali we went to the British Club for a swim, something we are able to do twelve months of the year as the pool is warmed in the winter and chilled in the summer. We followed our swim with a delicious fish lunch, before heading to Seef Mall to see the latest Nick Park film Early Man, a must for Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run fans. 003And perhaps for football fans as well, for it features a Stone Age team taking on a Bronze Age team in ‘the beautiful game’ and winning back their peaceful valley which has huge mining potential, which been overrun by the Bronze Agers.

004Not content with that, after a walk along the Seef sea front and a cup of tea and cake at Le Chocolat, we attended the Son et Lumière at the Bahrain Fort, a magnificent presentation of the key events of Bahrain’s history in amazing technicolour and a very good sound track using one of the textured walls of the fort as a screen. It is magnificent and is well worth the BD3 that is charged for entry and very accessible to children too. It is still on in English at 6.00pm on Tuesdays Thursdays and Fridays and Arabic at 7.00pm.

Anne has had a very full on experience of Cathedral life and ministry doing in a month what might normally take a few months, so I hope these “days off” aren’t too exhausting in addition!

Wedding Blessing: Saturday 3rd March 2018

We held a simple service for a couple who were resident in Saudi Arabia, who’d been married in a civil ceremony but who were both wanting the blessing of God on their marriage. The Bible reading was read by the husband in Arabic and then Anne read the story of Ruth in English. It’s a story that resonates in the Middle East as so often people here have experienced uncertainty and insecurity in their family and working lives, but I like to point to two commitments: their own commitment to one another expressed in the Book of Ruth: Where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. And also God’s commitment to them, expressed in the book of Ruth by Boaz’ faithfulness to the laws of Israel and the outworking of God’s plan in Ruth’s life: the foreigner who becomes the great-grandmother of King David and in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew’s gospel.


Blessing of a home, an engagement and a bbq: Saturday 3rd March 2018

005It was lovely to meet Fred and Sandra’s friends and Sandra’s family for an amazing bbq of Alaskan crabs- the most meaty I have ever eaten- and a most amazing array of salads. And it was a special privilege to be asked not only to bless a home but also, with the Roman Catholic Arabic-speaking priest, a young couple who had recently got engaged. Anne’s gastronomic tour of Bahrain continues and is full of surprises. As she keeps saying: Is this work?



New Infant Headteacher at St Christopher’s: Monday 5th March 2018

006It was good to meet the new Infant Headteacher of St Christopher’s School, Natalie Dickinson, on her brief visit to Bahrain to see the school and to meet some of her new colleagues and to wish her well as she moves from Greater Manchester here over the summer months. It sounded as though she was happy with what she had experienced and was looking forward to all the new challenges.



South Indian Cuisine: a meal with Robert, Pushpa and family: Monday 5th March 2018

007Over these last few weeks I think Tricia and I have been riding on Anne’s coattails enjoying the hospitality of many of our community in welcoming Anne to our churches. So we thoroughly enjoyed exploring new Indian cuisine in a wonderful South Indian vegetarian meal with Robert and Pushpa. Our local restaurant is Vrindavan, similarly vegetarian, but we certainly had some very different dishes and it was good to catch up with them as a family.


Tree of Life: Tuesday 6th March 2018

008After a visit to the Craft Centre, just five minutes walk from the Cathedral, which is always a treat as there is such a warm community of craftsmen and women and coffee with Wahab, who works so creatively in so many different materials, we drove down to the Tree of Life. We missed the turn off, which I don’t think was signed heading down on the dual carriageway south, but saw a sign on our return. With the camping season and the amount of quarrying that has been done in the vicinity, it was almost unrecognizable from our memory of the area, but it was good to see that the tree itself looks healthy and the immediate area around was clean. As is usual on our day-off we headed back to the British Club for a simple lunch and swim.



Dean’s Blog – February 2018

February 26, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Dances for Flute and Piano: Thursday 22nd February 2018

001Two seasoned performers at the Cathedral – Ahmed Al Ghanem on flute accompanied by Nadia Lopchynska on our new piano played a lively programme of mostly dance music from a variety of different composers from across the centuries and across the nations of the world. The programme included a final piece composed by Ahmed and played in a world premiere performance at the Cathedral in 2013. It was a lovely way to begin a special weekend for our guests who’d arrived in time for the Installation of Canons service tomorrow.




Honorary Canons Installed in Bahrain: Friday 23rd February 2018

002The St Christopher’s Cathedral family were delighted to participate in welcoming and honouring those who have contributed so much to the life of the Diocese and the mission of the Church in their respective chaplaincies: Angela Murray, the Rev’d Stephen Thanapaul and the Rev’d Jebaraj Devasagayam as they were installed as Canons of St Christopher’s Cathedral in a special service at the Cathedral on Friday 23rd February.003The Church was full with members of the various Cathedral congregations coming together. Bishop Michael, in his sermon, highlighted that Canons were people of breadth and wisdom: Stephen for his combining role of ministry through Mission to Seafarers and his commitment to both Tamil and English-speaking congregations in St Christopher’s Cathedral; Jeberaj with his rich background in theological education as editor of a theological journal in India  and his wide involvement with Tamil and Marathi  speaking congregations at Epiphany Church, Doha; and Angela with her long service within the Diocese and Bahrain:  her charitable work Through the cathedral and in the community and her writing of a history of the Diocese.

004Following the service a celebration buffet lunch was held for over one hundred people at the BAPCO Club in Awali. The British Ambassador HE Simon Martin and his wife Sophie joined the celebrations there.





Anne speaks at Urdu language congregation of NEC: Friday 23rd February 2013      

005Grasping every opportunity to immerse herself in the richly varied pattern of ministry in Bahrain, at 4.30pm Anne was at the National Evangelical Church’s Urdu language congregation following the Celebration lunch at BAPCO. She was warmly welcomed by Pastor Isaac Inayat who is very supportive of women’s ministry having a sister who preaches regularly in the Church of Pakistan. Some words of greeting in Urdu at the start of her sermon were warmly applauded.




Three Clergy at Awali: Saturday 24th February 2018

An unusual number of clergy surprised the small congregation at Awali Church as numbers of clergy taking the service tripled from its normal number with both Anne and Archdeacon Bill, who kindly preached, joining me for our regular Saturday morning service.



Garden Show and Epic of Gilgamesh: Sunday 25th February 2018

006Between the morning and evening services we squeezed a visit to the International Garden Show in the Exhibition centre. It’s an event that we have always enjoyed and wanted Anne to see it. There were some very impressive exhibits and we returned with a large jar of mountain floral honey from Kirgyzstan.

007In the evening, following the 6,15pm service we headed for the National Theatre to experience the hugely impressive Epic of Gilgamesh, composed and narrated in Arabic by the Abed Azrie, a French Syrian born (Aleppo) artist who now lives in France. There was a blend of a western orchestra and the Mohammed Bin Faris Band on traditional Arabic instruments and the Notre Dame University Choir from Lebanon who were outstanding. It was a hugely impressive performance and even though we did not understand the Arabic, the beauty of the poetic language and the drama of the story was conveyed in the rich variety of scenes conveyed through the music. A wonderful evening!




Dean’s Blog January – February 2018

February 22, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Staff Lunch: Thursday 18th January 2018

01It has been difficult planning a Staff Lunch this year with various members of staff away for their holidays, so just before Renitha headed off to India we got together for a curry lunch, an opportunity to thank all our staff for their loyalty and hard work, which is especially demanding over the Christmas and New Year season, but is relentless throughout the year.

Tricia sadly was away this year visiting our first grandchild Isla Hope back in the UK, born a week before Christmas.




Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:  Saturday 20th January 2018

02Sacred Heart, the Roman Catholic Church, traditionally hosts the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service and this year the service had been prepared by churches in the Caribbean on the theme “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power.” Exodus 15:6. There is always a danger that ecumenical services are very wordy and this was no exception with three lengthy readings before the service  Bishop Camillo led the service and I was invited to preach, drawing the themes of liberation of the Exodus experience, the transforming impact of the Exodus story throughout history and our shared call as Christians to liberate people in our own time and place.


Gala Piano Recital: Thursday 25th January 2018

  Perhaps the biggest event in the Cathedral for a long time was the Gala Piano Recital, which seemed to catch peoples’ imagination – both performers and audience.  0304The Cathedral was packed for what was a very special event with ten of Bahrain’s finest pianists choosing some of their favourite pieces and performing on our new concert piano.  The concert concluded with a piece for one piano and eight hands. A wonderful Ukrainian quartet brought the house down as they clowned around: pushing one another off the piano stools, doing exercises in time with the music, taking selfies, fighting over the music and yet all the time keeping the music going. The children in the audience mostly students of the performers could not believe their eyes at this adult behavior!



Farewell to RN Chaplain Martin Evans: Friday 24th January 2018

05We said our farewells to Chaplain Martin Evans in our usual way at the Cathedral by gathering a few people to give thanks and pray for him at the conclusion of the Friday morning service and to present a print of the Cathedral to him. He goes on to be Chaplain to Royal Marine Commandos. Martin has really become a part of the Cathedral community and encouraged a fine team from the Royal Navy to share in our life in the six months that they are all here. He has spoken at our Living Room Dialogue, celebrated and preached occasionally, joined Stephen and I for Morning prayer on Mondays and shared in both a baptism and Confirmation service. Sadly many from this generation from the Royal Navy here are coming to the end of their time in Bahrain and soon we will also be saying good-bye to Eddie and Laura.





Ordination of Peijin Zhu: Saturday 27th January 2018

06It was an honour for us to attend the Ordination of Peijin Zhu as priest  in Kuwait. Peijin spent ten days staying with us about four or five years ago and encouraging the Chinese community in their faith while she was here as well as immersing herself in the life of the Cathedral.  We have a great admiration for her and give thanks for the way that she has been used in God’s service and that her call to ordained ministry has been recognized and encouraged. It was a very special service and it was good to meet up with the Senior Chaplain in Kuwait Canon Michael Mbona and his wife Christine. What a rich expression of Christ’s Church we have in our Diocese wher the two chaplains serving are from Zimbabwe and China. We are very grateful for the hospitality of the Kuwait community, who met us at the airport provided us with a resting-place, organised a wonderful reception following the service and took us back to the airport in the middle of the night!


Budapest Break: Sunday 28th January – Saturday 3rd February 2018

07We have built into the rhythm of our year a week’s break post-Christmas and pre-Synod and this year flew on to Budapest through the night with a stop in Istanbul arriving mid-morning in Budapest. It’s a magnificent city with the river Danube flowing through its two halves Buda and Pest. One highlight was being able to catch up with the former British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay and his wife Bridget and with our daughter Philippa, who joined us there for a few days, attended a Wee Burns supper at St Columba’s the Scottish/Hungarian Reformed Church, where we were warmly welcomed by the Minister and the community an joined in some Scottish dancing. Hungary has a deeply troubling history and has found it difficult to direct its own destiny, overrun by the Ottoman Empire, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more recently overrun by the Nazis and the Soviets.  This is reflected in Memento Park, which is full of huge Soviet propaganda statues including one statue which only has Stalin’s boots the rest destroyed. There is also the House of Horror, which was the place for interrogation for both Hungarian fascists and Soviets; it records the suffering experienced by so many at the hands of brutal regimes in its very recent history.

09Our youngest daughter, Philippa, joined for three days us, which was lovely. She and I ice-skated on Europe’s largest open air ice rink and then we all went and warmed up in an open air spa. We visited the main synagogue; the Jewish community experienced considerable suffering in the latter part of 10the Second World War and many were taken on trains to Auschwitz and some shot on the edge of the Danube – there’s a moving sculpture of their shoes and boots on the edge of the river to which people had added poppies and candles in memory of those who had been executed. There was a powerful and harrowing exhibition on Jewish life and the Hungarian Holocaust in the grounds of the synagogue. We attended a wonderful organ recital in St Stephen’s Cathedral – a huge reverberating sound in a magnificent space. We found our way around on the wonderful public transport system and walked as much as we could, enjoying Hungarian ghoulash soup and the Hungarian wines.

We enjoyed mostly fine and relatively mild weather in our time in Budapest, but the conditions were changing as we took the airport bus out to the airport to travel, courtesy of Wizz Air, on to the Diocesan Synod in Cyprus.


Doing God, Doing Good – Synod: 5-9th February 2018

The Diocesan Synod in Cyprus is always a good experience enabling clergy and laity from across the Diocese to meet together: to worship and receive thoughtful teaching on the theme for the week, to spend a quiet morning, to share food and do the necessary business of synod.

It was disappointing not to have our planned keynote speaker, Bishop Sarah Mullaly, who had recently been appointed the new Bishop of London and who was understandably preoccupied with her coming move, but the input we received from the three men taking her place – Christopher Futcher, Archdeacon of Exeter, Andy Bowerman, director of the Anglican Alliance and Robert Jones, Archdeacon of Worcester – was excellent.

As ever we came away encouraged by the experience of Synod, refreshed and not a little tired by the intensity of the week.


The Rev’d Anne Futcher: Bahrain for a month’s placement: Monday 12th February 2018 

11Link Dioceses sometimes find it hard to make a link tangible and worthwhile, so the arrival of Anne from Exeter diocese on a placement as part of her curate’s training has been something we have been looking forward to very much. We hope that it will be both an enlarging experience for her as surely it will be for us.

Sadly Anne missed her connection in Dubai, the Emirates flight from London arriving later than scheduled, and so she arrived several hours later than planned. But I had prepared a settling in and exploring Bahrain day to start her first full day in Bahrain and though our visit to the Bahrain Fort and archaeological museum was thwarted because of a large official gathering there we headed to Shaikh Isa’s House in Muharraq, one of our favourite destinations with visitors. We then headed to the British Club for a swim and lunch.





Ash Wednesday/ Valentine’s Day: Wednesday 14th February 2018

001There is quite a challenge linking together the themes of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday but in my address I recalled the sermon at our wedding when my theological college tutor, the saintly Professor CFD (Charlie) Moule, compared marriage to baptism and saying that “you need to become what you are. You have been made one; you need to become what you are.” I’d read earlier in the week of a small boy who was very excited by the coming Ash Wednesday service because he said: the baptism cross on his forehead would be made visible. In many ways then Lent is a season of becoming the child of God that we are and the traditional disciplines of Lent are ways of encouraging that becoming.






A Baptism and a Wedding and a Game of Cricket: Saturday 17th February 2017

12The baptism of Jonas at Awali church was a lovely occasion; he slept through the whole event very peacefully and was not even woken by water being poured over him, only emphasizing God’s initiative and grace in the whole event. 13It was made extra special for me as many of those attending I knew from a variety of different contexts. I selected Fiona to be the box office for this coming Thursday night’s concert tickets following the service and she managed to sell fifteen tickets, more than from the whole of the Cathedral congregation over the weekend.

From Awali Anne and I returned for an afternoon wedding between Petra, a Serbian Orthodox and Lawrence, a South African Anglican. It was good to see the bride who was clearly very nervous before the service relax and really enjoy the service.




1415From the wedding I headed down to a cricket pitch in the desert very near the National Stadium to join other Cathedral supporters of Haniel, playing in the final of an under-15 Schools Cricket tournament. As I arrived, the teams were just coming off, but it was good to be able to congratulate Haniel, whose team – The Indian school – had just won.





16Before Anne came, I’d suggested that members of the Cathedral and Awali communities might like to offer her hospitality and share their life journeys with her to enable her to get a grassroots feel for our life together. The invitations have not stopped coming in! On Tuesday she enjoyed two meals out….





The Theology of Reconciliation of Miroslav Volf: Wednesday 21st February 2018

17All of us are refreshed by the experiences and insights of visitors, so it was good to gather together both ministers and lay people, who have had some theological training, to sit under Anne and explore the radical theology of reconciliation of Miroslav Volf, a deep subject, but presented with great clarity by Anne. His understanding of reconciliation has been shaped deeply by his own personal experience of his parents’ reaction to the death of his brother, killed in an accidental shooting by a soldier and the experiences of living in Serbia during a very violent period.

We met in our living room and had ministers from the Church of South India, the Mar Thoma Church, the National Evangelical Church, the US Navy Base as well as our own community. We had refreshments first, then her presentation, which encouraged lively discussion and questions and then most of us went and had a meal at Vrindavan, our local Indian vegetarian restaurant, where the discussion continued. All of us felt that this is something that we should do more often, but it certainly is helped by having outside input.