Dean’s Blog – Remembrance Weekend

November 25, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Remembrance weekend: Saturday 10th – Sunday 11th November 2018

001The services over Remembrance weekend this year had a special poignancy marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. On Saturday at 12.30pm about fifty gathered at the Old Christian Cemetery, where there are several servicemen’s graves and where there is a memorial to all who died in the two World Wars. 002Sailors from HMS Ledbury, who’d helped with a final tidy-up of the cemetery in the morning, joined with the Chelsea Pensioners, several veterans and members of the community for a simple service at which the Last Post and Reveille were played on a trombone by a former army musician.

On Sunday we cancelled the 10.30am service at the Cathedral to attend the service at the British Embassy. At 10.20am the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour and, as usually happens in Bahrain, the floodwaters rose! But by 10.45am the  rain had stopped and the decision to hold the service outside was taken with ambassadors, senior military and members of the wider community presented wreaths on the table in front of the Cathedral’s rough wooden cross that we use during holy Week for Stations of the Cross and on Good Friday.

004At 3.30pm those who could, gathered in the thoroughly flooded Cathedral car park, having been delivered to islands in front of the Cathedral and Alun Morris Hall for Bells for Peace, coinciding with the bells of Westminster Abbey, churches throughout the UK and ships here and throughout the world ringing out at 12.30pm GMT.  Five minutes before I was in shorts and a tee shirt and barefooted; robes cover a mukltitude of sins. 003Here it was an interfaith event and as well as Christian representatives from various churches we had Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh ringing the ship’s bell presented to the cathedral in 1954. Once again the irrepressible Chelsea Pensioners were with us, as was the British Ambassador and his wife and at the conclusion of 100 rings, everyone played whatever instrument they could lay their hands on.


005Following Bells for peace it was all hands to deck to try and reduce the water level a few inches to enable people to come to the Sunday Evening Remembrance Service, approaching the Cathedral from the side entrance through the vestry rather than through the main door. Andrew Petty kindly directed traffic round to the back of the cathedral to park in the road there , which was moderately dry and remarkably by the time the service started the Cathedral was full and people had managed to get in without getting soaked. Somehow the weather brought people together in a special way; these are events we will not forget and it helped all who attended to somehow identify with the horrific conditions of trench warfare in often very grim circumstances.

I’m especially grateful to our staff and to Mary who worked so hard in the afternoon to successfully lower the water level to enable the evening service to go ahead.


Christians Aware Visit: 13-21st November 2018

We were pleased to welcome a group of four – Susan Cooper, Norma Hayward, Richard and Christine Stainer – from Christians Aware, UK for a week,  immersing themselves in the life of the Cathedral and learning about its context in Bahrain.

“Christians Aware is an international and interdenominational educational charity working to develop multicultural and interfaith understanding and friendship locally, nationally and internationally.  Its aim is to work for justice, peace and development.  The focus is on listening to encourage awareness and action.

The words of Ronald Wynne are important:  Do not try to teach anyone anything until you have learnt something from them.  They lead to our motto:

Peace is born of Love.
Love is born of Understanding.
Understanding is born of Listening.
Listening leads to Justice and Peace.”

006It was a busy week involving visits to the Base and time with both US and Royal Navy Chaplains, to the Grand Mosque, to the Bahrain Fort and Museum,  to the Seafarers Centre in the port with Stephen to see his work as a Mission to Seafarers Chaplain and the Craft Centre, just up the road from the Cathedral,  with the opportunity to chat with the craftspeople and Camel farm; separate meetings with Mockbul Ali, the deputy British Ambassador, and  Angelo Maestas, Political Officer at the US Embassy; attendance at various services – English and Tamil-speaking  – and the Living Room Dialogue on Sunday evening;  008a parish lunch at BAPCO Club and several meals out mostly in simple Indian vegetarian restaurants. The visit concluded by going to see the wonderful son et lumière at the Bahrain Fort, that tells the story of Bahrain’s history so beautifully. In a week I am sure they visited places and met people that others might have taken a year to do, so went away with an impression of Bahrain that no tourist visit staying in a hotel could have done.


Return visit of the Rev’d Anne Futcher and husband Christopher: 15-18th November 2018

009It was lovely to welcome back Anne Futcher, who’d spent a month in Bahrain earlier in the year, with her husband, Christopher Futcher, Archdeacon of Exeter. Anne presided at three Holy Communion services including the Tamil service over the weekend and Christopher preached on both Friday morning and Sunday evening services. At the BAPCO lunch on the Friday Christopher gave us an insight of the priorities the new Bishop had set for the Diocese of Exeter and how these were working out in the life of parishes and Anne gave an update of her life and ministry since leaving Bahrain.



A More Sustainable Future: Sunday 18th November 2018

010Dr Aizhan Sharshenova, who has a PhD from the University of Leeds and is the Communications Officer at Sustainable Energy Centre, United Nations Development Programme, was the speaker at this month’s Living Room Dialogue on the subject of Sustainable Energy in Bahrain. She defined sustainable energy as that which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and went on to highlight the policies in Bahrain that were beginning to address sustainable energy goals. She also highlighted some simple ways in which individual households and institutions could help save electricity and reduce electricity bills and contribute to a more sustainable future. It led to some lively discussion.







Dean’s Blog – 4th – 6th November 2018

November 7, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Quick trip to Rome: 4-6th November 2018

Just over a fortnight ago I wrote of the experience of a group of Italian students with their Professor, Alessandro Saggioro, arriving at the Cathedral totally unexpectedly and the special half hour that I had with them.

001I had the rather late opportunity to join a delegation, made up of academics, students from the University of Bahrain, and clergy and leaders from different faith communities, and headed by the Minister of Education, representing His Majesty the King, making a two day visit to Rome for the inauguration of the King Hamad Chair in Inter-Faith Dialogue Global Peaceful Coexistence, which was being established at Sapienza University in Rome on Monday 5th November. There were two parts: the first were the formal events in the main hall of the University in the morning, which involved several speeches, all in Italian, including the President of the Sapienza, University and the Head of the History of Religions Department and concluding with a lecture from Professor Saggioro also in Italian, but thankfully with an English translation and a helpful powerpoint, that illustrated his themes. He reflected on the study of religions, explored peace and religious freedom in different times and contexts and finally explored some key words that underpin the idea of peaceful coexistence among religions and suggested some directions for future research. It all took place in the shadow of a huge painting that clearly came out of the fascist era in Italy and it was interesting talking with students about that afterwards over lunch. 002The second part of the evening was a Gala Dinner at the elegant Rome Cavalieri Hotel, in their huge banquet hall. Several hundred people were present. Speeches were confined to professional presentations on the big screen prior to dinner. I found myself sitting between the Ambassador of Yemen to Italy, a very interesting lady in a hugely demanding role with the current situation in Yemen. Her father was a diplomat – but she had started her professional life as a teacher of English. I was able to talk about the work of the Diocese’s Ras Morbat Clinic in Aden On my other side was the priest of the Coptic Church in Rome, with whom I had to converse in French! It was lovely to catch up with an old friend, Tim King, from the Focolare Movement whose central office is in Rome and whom I’d sent an email about the dinner. Nancy Habib, who also has long-standing links with the Focolare Movement, and I were able to introduce Tim to Dr Shaikh Khalid, who heads up the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence and Bettsy Mathieson, who heads up This is Bahrain, as we had already talked with them about the spirituality of unity that is integral to the movement, possibly having a significant contribution to make in the context of Bahrain. I was also able to introduce the Chargé d’Affaires of the Arab League in Rome to Professor Saggioro, as she was interested in pursuing a PhD in interfaith studies and already had a prepared proposal. He was very interested in following this up.

The appointment of Professor Saggioro brings all sorts of new possibilities to bring a new depth to relationships between faith communities in Bahrain and to move from warm feelings to deeper understanding.

It was a privilege to be there for the launch of this new phase and particularly encouraging to see the generation of students from Bahrain and Sapienza clearly making friendships that will have a lasting impact in widening their horizons and building trust for the future.

003There was very little time to see much of Rome in the busy schedule, especially as it was raining for much of the time, but I did manage to walk down to St Peter’s Square on the first Sunday evening and with occasional glimpses of sun and dark rain clouds, the light was very beautiful, especially when the lights came on in St Peter’s.


Dean’s Blog – October 2018

October 28, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Celebration of German Unity: Friday 5th October 2018

001Tricia and I were privileged to attend a joint concert of the German Air Force Band and the Bahrain Public Security Band of the Ministry of Interior at the Isa bin Salman Cultural Hall in Adliya, a lovely setting for such an event. 002The bands mostly played separately but for a grand finale the two came together for the Radetzky  March which had the audience clapping along and you could imagine that you were in Vienna for the New Year’s Eve concert or the Albert Hall in London for the Last Night of the Proms.



World Harvest Supper and Barn Dance: Saturday 6th October 2018

003One of the biggest social events of the year in the Cathedral’s life is the world harvest supper and barn dance which we hold in the Alun Morris Hall. It was beautifully decorate with the ever growing number of world flags by our wonderful Caretaking team and especially Kumar and Kalam, willing to climb up ladders, but it is very special seeing our very international church family mixed up with invited guests throwing themselves into the dances and enjoying the homemade international cuisine brought by our members. It was lovely to see a Muslim family from India thoroughly enjoying being part of the celebrations.004

As well as celebrations there was giving of food which will be directed to those who are needy through the ECC and Mission to seafarers and a cash appeal raised BD621 which will be directed through the Diocese to support the work of the Ras Morbat Clinic, which continues to do its good work, despite the war, in Aden.

Intercultural Ethics – Professor David MIsselbrook: Sunday 14th October, 2018

005Professor David Misselbrook, Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was the latest speaker at the first Living Room Dialogue of the new academic year. He spoke on the subject of Intercultural Ethics, reviewing the history of medical ethics in both the West and in Islam and reflecting on the common principles underlying ethical decisions. It was lovely to welcome four students at RCSI and several people who were new to Living room Dialogues who were attending for the first time He had recently given the John Locke 2018 Lecture at The Society of Apothecaries in London, which has a 400 year old history, and is now a postgraduate medical education institution. The title of his lecture was Arabian Knots: Tales of moral misunderstandings from East and West, focussing on intercultural ethics.


Unexpected visitors: Saturday 20th October 2018

006Returned from Awali and seeing a swarm of young people getting out of big black government cars. They happened to be a group of students from Sapienza University, Rome with their Professor, Alessandro Saggioro, who is to be the first King Hamad Chair in Inter-Faith Dialogue and Peaceful Co-Existence.  I welcomed them in to the cathedral and for the next half an hour had a wonderful dialogue with them about Bahrain, the history of the church in Bahrain, inter faith issues, and how they could contribute to encouraging a deeper dialogue between faith communities here. I gather that they would be meeting with His Majesty, a meeting that I had been invited to, but I will be in Ras Al Khaimah tomorrow to chair the Bishop’s Advisory Panel which begins on Monday.


Bishop’s Advisory Panel at St Luke’s, Ras Al Khaimah: October 21st– 25th 2018

007One of the most rewarding and most demanding roles that I have taken on has been as Chair of the Bishop’s Advisory Panel for those exploring a vocation to Ordained or Reader ministry. For the first time we have had potential Readers attending the conference and altogether we had eight candidates. So, forty half-an-hour interviews, eight homilies, three group exercises and a written project, quite apart from four Selectors meetings and all done within a regular rhythm of prayer and worship: morning, midday and evening. For the two full days of the Conference the selectors were working a fourteen hour day.

008Preparing for the Conference is also very demanding as each exercise has to be prepared and printed off with observation and marking sheets all colour-coded, eight orders of service have to be prepared and there are several communications with both candidates and selectors prior to the conference.  In addition there is the  reading up of candidates’ registration forms and references and preparing questions for each of their interviews.

Each conference creates a wonderful supportive atmosphere and I feel that the sense of community created has had a transforming impact on the life of the Diocese. Each of the candidates came from a different Chaplaincy and from seven different countries. It really is a remarkable and wonderful snapshot of the Church in this part of the world.

 Martin Luther and Bahrain Jazz Fest: Friday26th October 2018

009At the morning service US Navy Chaplain Christina Mauntel spoke about the importance of Martin Luther in her own tradition (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). I was able to reassure her that  even Anglicans remember Luther on Wednesday 31st October, when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Castle Church and last year we had a service marking 500 years of reformation! And she recalled moving celebrations marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in her previous parish in Alaska when Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans came together to celebrate.  I enjoyed a conversation with one of our Roman Catholic members after the service, who found it very moving that a woman preacher should be reflecting on reformation in this way.

010After coffee, after the service, I met with the newly formed Exploring Faith group who met in my study in The Deanery with Simon leading us and then, after a quick bite, 011we headed for the Bahrain Jazz fest at the Royal Golf Club. We’d invited Christina to join us but a friend who has recently come to Bahrain and a former US Army Chaplain, Jennifer, now in a role leading retreats for service personnel, but outside military ranks. Jennifer joined us for the afternoon. It had rained heavily earlier in the day, so rugs and cushions put out on the lovely green grass of the Golf Club, a rare treat in Bahrain, were soaking wet and the music was delayed somewhat, but it was a lovely day and we met up with several friends. We didn’t stay late, but particularly enjoyed the gentle jazz of Avalon Jazz band from France.



Dean’s Blog – 13th – 19th September 2018

September 24, 2018 in Dean's Blog

Katherine Lyddon, Children’s Work Adviser from Exeter Diocese: 13-19th September 2018 

From the 13th to 19th  September, St Christopher’s Cathedral  hosted the Exeter Diocese Children’s Work Adviser, Katherine Lyddon, at the beginning of the school year. Katherine has trained as a Primary teacher and, as well as working throughout the County of Devon in the United Kingdom as an adviser to churches in her present role, she has also taught in Uganda.

001She arrived in Bahrain on Thursday morning and in the evening there was a meal in a local Indian Restaurant, which gave Katherine an informal opportunity to meet the Friday Club team individually as she moved around the table between courses.

002On Friday morning she spent time with the Friday Club children and young people, on what was their first session of the new school year, telling the story of creation.

On Friday evening she led the team in some retreat time and then moved on to exploring our vision and encouraged team-building, drawing in those who were new to the Friday Club team.

003On Saturday from 10am till 3pm she led workshops, inspiring, encouraging and resourcing the Cathedral’s growing Friday Club team of volunteers. Eighteen people came, both from the English-speaking and Tamil-speaking congregations, an indication of the growth of our ministry to children and young people. Sessions included subjects such as children and young people as key members of the church community, child development, different learning styles, providing a safe environment, and exploring varieties of ways in which faith grows.

She also led a session Growing a family of faith for mothers on Monday morning, 17th September, in the home of one of the Cathedral members as well as telling a Bible story to the young children present.

004Tuesday gave an opportunity to explore a little of Bahrain’s history and continuing rich culture with visits to the Bahrain Fort with its fine archaeological museum and the Craft Centre near the Cathedral, meeting several of the craftspeople there.

It was wonderful having Katherine with us and an inspiration to our Friday Club leaders. We are grateful to the Diocese of Exeter for releasing her for these two weeks, both here in Bahrain and moving on for a week in Abu Dhabi, and believe such purposeful visits are a very significant way of expressing the partnership between our dioceses.

Opening of Confluence: Saturday 15th September 2018

 005We were honoured to be invited to the opening of an exhibition which was in the heart of the Bahrain’s financial heart: Harbour Gate. 006It was an imaginative fusion of poetry and art and much of the work to pull it together was given by two Cathedral members, Rohini Sunderam, Director of the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, and Shereen Abraham, who together had combined their gifts  in several displays as well as being the chief organizers of many of the practical details to pull the exhibition together.

 Friday Mornings in the Cathedral: Friday 21st September 2018

These continue to be very encouraging. This morning there were apparently 85 adults and in one children’s group alone – the Samaritans – there were twenty-one, which sounds as if it needs to split into two! May the plans for the building project, now with the Urban Planners, quickly be passed so we can get on with the provision of adequate space for Friday Clubbers. It was good to have two occasional visitors to Friday morning Chaplain Christina Mauntel as celebrant and our Reader Simon Phillips as preacher; Simon is better known on Sunday evenings and is a gifted preacher.

 Meeting up with Christine Mauntel: Saturday 22nd September 2018

008It was good to have US Navy Chaplain Christina Mauntel presiding at our Holy Communion service yesterday. Bishop Michael gave her permission to officiate after connecting with her Bishop in Alaska. Her background is Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, but she appreciates being in a community who are rooted in a liturgy. We had a lovely meal in her apartment and she showed us photos of Alaska, her previous parish: stunningly beautiful landscapes (though bitterly cold and dark in winter), the northern lights, fast flowing rivers filled with salmon and brown bears fishing for salmon! I dropped an emai to her Bishop in Alaska to say how much we appreciated Christina’s support and friendship in the cathedral and by next morning there was a nice reply Thank you for sharing this photo.  I am so grateful for your hospitality toward Christina and for your ecumenical partnership.

Size isn’t everything! Sunday 23rd September 2018

We have a small group, usually less than ten, meeting on a Sunday morning for our regular Holy Communion service, and generally meeting over tea or coffee afterwards when the conversation flows as we sit around a table. This morning a young doctor from India working in a Christian Medical College joined us. His wife’s parents live here and their first baby was born in Bahrain. But he wanted to talk about a persistent sense of vocation to ministry but maintaining his work as a doctor. So this afternoon I copied of an initial reading list and also sent links to useful youtubes by some of the authors that I’d suggested: David Ford, Rowan Williams, Tom Wright, Alister McGrath and Walter Brueggemann.  And we said we’d try and keep in touch.




Dean’s Blog – August/September 2018

September 13, 2018 in Dean's Blog


Return to Bahrain and start of the new academic year: August/September 2018

001After a break away the return to work I guess for all of us feels a little bit like that return to school after the summer holidays: butterflies in the stomach, not helped by the nearly twenty hours of travelling back from Sydney through Hong Kong and Dubai and with five hours in HK airport in the middle of the night. But it is never as bad as one imagines, and after one day back I was looking forward to the coming months. It was helped by seeing the congregation in good voice and spirit on the Friday morning, meeting new people who’d joined the congregation over the summer months and an exciting programme lined up for the next few months.


002The last of the weekly summer events was held at the Beijing restaurant, organized by Fozia, a wonderful Chinese meal interspersed by karaoke on a screen. I was a little uncertain how the karaoke would turn out, but it was embraced by all who came – younger and older and in between – and from the very varied national backgrounds that people come from in our community. Everybody seemed to really enjoy themselves and a contingent from the Royal Navy with their Chaplain Mark Mander clearly had a great evening too Mark kindly wrote I was encouraged when I returned back to camp that the small group had such a wonderful time. I believe it is vitally important that our sailors are able to interact with Christians and understand that our life with Christ is filled with purpose and fun.  Last night certainly proved that.

003Two of our regular Royal Navy contingent Spender and Emma – on a Friday morning were involved in a sketch Don’t interrupt me Lord, I’m praying. 004The service was structured around the Lord’s Prayer, exploring each phrase through a Bible reading, an image thrown up on the screen, a reflection from a wonderful book by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Sister Wendy Beckett – simple but profound – and a prayer. The sketch was of a person (Emma) saying the Lord’s Prayer in a routine way, hoping to get on with life, but constantly being interrupted by God (Spender), who was only heard. It was very effective and people responded very positively to the whole service saying how helpful it had been.


005A RAF Memorial service was held on Wednesday 5th September by the regional chaplain Wing Commander Ruth Hake as part of commemorations all over the world remembering those who have died on RAF duty as part of the centenary celebrations of the RAF. She moved from the War graves of Salmabad with the appropriate red and blue stripe on the industrial wall behind to the Old Cemetery in Salmabad. As ever Kalam had prepared the Cemetery for this occasion with care, but the next naval workparty looking for opportunities for voluntary service could give the walls around the service graves a scrub and a new paint.

Diocesan Forum on the Constitution: Wednesday 12th September 2018

006It was good to welcome Bishop Michael and a senior management team from the Diocese – Executive Archdeacon John Holdsworth, Honorary Finance Officer John Banfield and Dr Helen Perry from the Diocesan Office for the first of a tour of forums on the Diocesan constitution. 007We had three representatives including two priests from the Canterbury group and there were twenty Cathedral members, both from the Bahrain Anglican Church Council and those who were interested from the congregation. An excellent three-course meal in the British Club, served very efficiently, was followed by a meeting in what was the Exercise room, all sitting round a large table. Bishop Michael outlined the key Anglican fundamentals underlining the constitution and Archdeacon John followed it up by outlining the lengthy process that the revision of the Constitution had gone through. It was then open to the floor for questions and dialogue. Hopefully this process will enable a revised Diocesan Constitution to be brought to the next Synod for final ratification. We are grateful that the grassroots of Diocesan life in the Chaplaincies have had the opportunity to engage with a senior team from the Diocese in this process.

Interview on the religious tolerance in Bahrain:  Thursday 13th September 2018                             

009In a very busy week of three weddings and three visits to the airport to collect guests – this morning Katherine Lyddon, the Children’s Work Adviser in the Diocese of Exeter 008– I wondered how I was going to fit in an interview with Dana Humaidan from the National Communications Centre in Bahrain for a youtube production on religious tolerance that they are working on. But it was good to meet and talk with her and Ammar Ahmed, Managing Director of Amart Media Productions. I always feel that tolerance is too weak a word to describe the acceptance of the Christian community in Bahrain; honour and respect are more adequate words that reflect the reality. She was especially interested in both the history of the cathedral and its place in the Diocese and also the Living Room Dialogues, so I suggested that, when she has finished her project, she comes to speak about it in a future Living Room Dialogue.