Dean’s Blog – 27th November

November 27, 2015 in Dean's Blog

The Challenge of keeping Cool

coolThe air conditioning units after many years of service have been increasingly unreliable and in what has been, apparently, the hottest summer on record the need to change them increasingly urgent. So the Cathedral Council (BACC) eventually had to bite the bullet and replace them and a crane was required to get the old units down and put the new ones up. Hopefully these new ones will be more efficient and last many more years. In a week or two there will be no need for air conditioning , but at least we will be better prepared for next spring and our tenant congregations will be happy.

Artist in residence: 17-22nd November 2015

It has been fun having Deborah Chapman as artist in residence in the cathedral compound,working on what in frontaldue time will be a stunning altar frontal for the Cathedral frontal2and as you can see it is a stunning work of art – painted silk with all sorts of intricate designs. Deborah, who is a priest married to John, who was at St Martin’s Sharjah in the diocese and is now the Chaplain in Barcelona. She has beavered away all hours through the week and generally had an evening meal with us. It is not quite finished and Deborah wants to provide a full set of vestments, but she plans to be back, perhaps with John and the hope might be to dedicate it at Easter.

American Women’s Association Fayre: Saturday 21st November2015

fairI was delighted to hear that the Freedom Ties, which I have had made up in the souq, were in high demand at the AWA Fayre on Saturday and good to hear that Bahrainis and not just westerners are intrigued by them. Twenty-nine were apparently sold at the Freedom Doll and tie stall and the golfing dolls were more popular than the pirates this Saturday, whereas the previous week the pirates were the best seller!

Visiting the Christian Cemetery: Saturday 21st November

Sometimes out of the blue comes a request to visit a grave, and to take a photograph of it – this time that of a soldier Melville Harry Jones who had died after injuries in Aden at the age of eighteen. He had served with the cemeterySouth Wales Borderers and his cousin, also a serving soldier was present for the burial wanted to see the site of the grave. I sent some photos of the Remembrance Day service and was able to reassure him that his cousin’s grave was well cared for and that we had the occasional workparty from the royal Navy, but it was only on Saturday that I was able to photograph the grave and send it off. I got this lovely response from his nephew:

I cannot thank you enough for doing this for us and taking time out of your busy day and work life. I would say that I have shown my uncle the other pictures and he was over the moon to see them. This will be the icing on the cake. Again thank you and I wish you a very merry Christmas


I stand with Akeem: Friday 20th November 2015

Congratakeemulations to the African community in Bahrain and Jon Lavelle for all their efforts to support Akeem Lawal in raising sufficient funds for a kidney transplant. It was fun to join the group if all too briefly for a Fundraiser brunch at Russo’s restaurant and lounge. The party was set to start at 12noon and for those with the energy to finish at 2.00am! I gather it finished before that but a good time was had by all who attended and over BD1000 was raised.


The Taming of the Queen


I enjoy historical novels and I have really appreciated Philippa Gregory’s The Taming of the Queen, the story of Kateryn Parr, a birthday present from my three daughters. Kateryn was the final wife of Henry VIII, an intelligent woman, who was very supportive of the reformers, a friend of Thomas Cranmer, who wro

te her own translations of prayers and the Psalms. She managed to survive as the wife of the increasingly sick and irrational King. Philippa Gregory has made the period of the Tudors her specialty and though a novel, you sense the characters are true to history.










Jon Lavelle

Dean’s Blog – November 2015

November 22, 2015 in Dean's Blog

New Courses: Christian Foundations and Exploring Faith

foundationsFollowing the weekend with Archdeacon John Holdsworth, two courses have been launched this week; A Christian Foundations course exploring the foundations of our faith and we began on Monday with What can we know about God? Sadly I had failed to put the apartment number on the publicity and also left my phone behind, so one couple were stranded outside the apartment block not knowing where to go! That ha261112_onversations with the New Testaments been sorted out now.

The second course – Exploring Faith – a rather more academic course with the possibility of formal assessment and accreditation started on Saturday using the book Conversations with the New Testament by john Holdsworth. We began by exploring the multi-faceted nature of Good News, beginning with our own experience and seeing how the answers to that question shapes the whole structure of the book beginning with the message of health and healing.

Awali Fair: Saturday 14th November 2015

The first awali_fairof the seasonal fairs took place at Awali and the stall of Freedom Dolls and Freedom Ties looked very colourful and I enjoyed my hour on the stall talking about the work of Freedom Dolls in Cyprus. The number of people visiting the fair seemed a little down on previous years but there was some lovely craft work exhibited and I bought on birthday present and three small gifts for Christmas as well as a cake for the Living Room Dialogue on Sunday.


TGIF: Friday 13th November 2015exodus

It was good to get together with our young people at the Bennett family home for the showing of Exodus and pizza, salad and ice cream. It is a lengthy Biblical epic with some interesting interpretations and particularly the presentation of God as a young child. Of course it is always hard to present God on screen and for many even to attempt to is almost blasphemous, but it certainly makes you think how did God reveal himself, how does God reveal himself? The plagues were very dramatic and the return of the waters following the crossing of the Red Sea seemed to be like a tsunami. We are very grateful to the Bennett family for hosting us all so graciously.


Visit of Deputy Chaplain of the Fleet, the Rev’d Martyn Gough: Friday 13th February 2015

One of the joys and frustrations of ministry at the cathedral has been the links with the US Navy and British Royal Navy. Joys in seafarersthat it is always good to welcome those who are serving here in Bahrain who want to be part of the wider community into the life of the Cathedral; several have, and they have been a huge enrichment to our lives in the time that they are here. Frustrations, in that there is so little continuity and that it all seems to depend on the particular interests or affiliations of the chaplaincy team. With the arrival of the Rev’d Dr Mark Davidson, the Royal Navy Chaplain, who is here on a six month term, rather than three months, that relationship seems to have changed with the Brits so that connectivity will remain even if the affiliations of the Chaplain may not be Anglican – indeed Mark is a Church of Scotland minister. This is especially important with the establishment of a British base here and a larger Royal Navy presence. So it was good that he brought the Rev’d Martyn Gough, the Deputy Chaplain of the Fleet, round to meet me on Friday afternoon to help both foster and cement those relationships and we had a good hour talking together.


Dean’s Blog – November, 2015

November 9, 2015 in Dean's Blog

St Barnabas’ Limassol Centenary Cyprus: Saturday 31st October 2015limmassol

Needing to go to Cyprus for a Bishop’s Council/Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday I flew a few days early, bags full of Diocesan calendars and the newly produced Remembering Trees book to spend a few days with Derek and Sue Smith to join with them in celebrating their Centenary. It was an occasion of great joy and celebration, with many people working very hard to make it happen. I arrived on the Saturday and was kindly picked up at the airport by Archdeacon John and Sue Holdsworth and taken down to Limassol.   Already there had been a very successful Songs of Praise on the Friday night, but there was a centenary exhibition in a hall adjacent to the church and lunch outside in the lovely space between the church and the chaplaincy house. Food was very much a theme of the weekend as there was another lunch the following day in the same area following the Centenary Eucharist at which Bishop Michael presided and preached – a packed church. It was lovely being among the people meeting such a rich cross-section of people without on-going pastoLimassol Promenade (1)ral responsibility. As well as several Brits I talked to people from Nigeria, Kenya, China, South Africa, Romania and Sri Lanka. On the Monday night Derek and Sue had kindly invited several people with bahrani-connections in their past including Angela and Grant Murray – Angela in Cyprus for Bishop’s Council too. It was good to explore Limassol on foot – I especially liked the seafront area where I walked for an hour each day and one day had a swim from the beach at the eastern end, the water surprisingly warm.

The day of the Bishop’s Council was a long one: lots to hear about and discuss in our very diverse diocese and all the plans for the coming Synod in February 2016.

Remembrance Sunday weekend: 6-8th November 2015

I returned on Thurfamily_servicesday night to help lead a lively All-age family service on Friday morning, enlivened especially by a band that Graham Roberts had pulled together and with the young people from Friday Club helping to lead in the singing, songs they had practiced over the past few weeks. It was good to revisit a couple of songs from Godspell. Some of our young people led a dramatic reading of the Jonah story from the Lion Bible for Children and Jon had prepared a liturgy for the occasion. Lots of positive feedback, but as I said in the notices it can’t be like this every week!

On the Saturday I was invited out to sea on HMS Bangor, one of the mine hunters basenavyd in Bahrain with a number of youngsters from St Christopher’s School and two staff, a group from the Naval Base who are normally office-based, and a few individuals like me. We were given a demonstration of the operations to hunt for mines and once locating them with the use of a Sea Fox, the sending out of divers to do the necessary to blow it up. I remained on bridge while the ship was brought into port and I found it fascinating to sea the constant activity watching and responding to the moves of other ships and small craft.

On Sunday evenchelsea_remembranceing was the Cathedral’s Remembrance Sunday Service, probably the best attended in my time in Bahrain with seven Ambassadors present (UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Brunei) the Greek Consul and the wife of the Dutch Consul and several representatives from the US Navy, French Navy and British Royal Navy, including three Captains from each of these navies, who participated by taking speaking roles. As ever it was good to welcome the Chelsea Pensioners who, by their presence link us, with earlier conflicts and are a living reminder of the cost of war. Our preacher was the Rev’d Dr Mark Davidson, a Church of Scotland minister who is the Royal Navy Chaplain here. He spoke very thoughtfully on the subject of war. In a brief time that he has been here, it has been good to get to know him and he has been instrumental in linking us with the Royal Navy, which resulted in organizing the recent workparty to paint the outsides of the Alun Morris Hall and Coffee Room. He is lined up as a Living Room Dialogue speaker in February 2016. It was a joy to welcome the new British Ambassador, HE Simon Martin and his wife Sophie to our community and he read the first lesson in the service.


Dean’s Blog – Return to Normality: 18th October -23rd October 2015

October 24, 2015 in Dean's Blog

Return to Normality: 18th October -23rd October 2015

It has been with some relief that I have come to this week: a return to some normality, whatever normal is in Bahrain:  no trips to the airport (last week I to’d and fro’d six times); no visitors, as much as I like the stimulus and fresh insights that visitors bring; no overseas travel as much as I enjoy occasionally getting off this small island to see and experience the wider world… So what has this normal week opened up?

  • The follow-up of the meeting last Friday with Archdeacon John to plan when our Exploring Faith group will meet: Saturday afternoon, letting those who have expressed interest know and ordering the textbooks.
  • A wedding on Monday afternoon, organized at rather short notice, but for good pastoral reasons.
  • Preparing for Remembrance Sunday and the Act of Remembrance on Remembrance Day, writing to Ambassadors and having a meeting at the British Embassy with the Assistant Defence Attache. The Royal Navy Chaplain here, Dr Mark Davidson, has agreed to preach and to lead a Living Room Dialogue next year.
  • Leading a Memorial Service for Jason Bresler, David Giles and Mohammed Shafiq, all working with DHL, murdered by a colleague in Afghanistan seven years ago. This is the sixth service I have led and it was good to have Jon to preach this year.
  • Writing up a brief two page “history” and providing photos of the Cathedral for the Isa Cultural Centre, which is working on a project entitled Bahrain’s Tolerance to all religions.
  • Visiting one of our new families in their home and, following that, preparing a Christian Foundations group flier to begin on a Monday evening.
  • And on Tuesday Tricia and I enjoyed our day-off, going to see the movie The Martian: how, after a manned-flight (the commander was a woman!) to Mars, one of the crew was abandoned presumed dead, and his response to his circumstances and how a rescue mission is launched by the returning crew. The spectacular Martian scenery is Wadi Rum in Jordan, where we were earlier in the year.

In general life in the Cathedral is encouraging and there seems a purposeful buzz about the community at the moment. Long may it remain!


Deans Blog September-October, 2015

October 23, 2015 in Dean's Blog

Lunch with some of our Kenyan community: Friday 11th September 2015

One of the joys of St Christopher’s at present is to see the growth in both numbers and confidence of our Kenyan community, so it was a pleasure to have lunch with Catherine, who is a flight attendant with Emirates, and Rob and several of our Kenyan friends.  This growth is particularly apparent in our Sunday morning service, a very small group. Two weeks ago two new Kenyan friends came and the following week each brought three friends which more than doubled the congregation! It makes me think that we should explore the possibility of hosting a theological student from Thika for a month as it is clear that the Kenyan community is growing.



Wedding Blessing: Saturday 12th September 2015  

A particularly happy occasion was the Wedding Blessing of Pascal and Anna. They had been married in a civil ceremony in France, but wanted to have a blessing in the cathedral, where their engagement had been blessed and a very imaginative service and reception at Upstairs, Downstairs was created for friends from Bahrain where Anna has lived for many years, including in the service their weaving together a three cord rope, symbolic of God enfolding their love and commitment in His love and commitment to them.


HE Abdullah Gul, former President of Turkey: Tuesday 15th September

Jon and I were both invited to attend a speech by HE Abdullah Gul, the former President of Turkey, at the International Peace Institute on the subject of Peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately it was very difficult to hear his speech due to the acoustics of the room or the inadequacy of the PA system. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was much clearer and spoke particularly of the challenges posed by Iran in the region: “The nuclear deal is only dealing with one aspect of the problems coming from Iran.”

In the evening, as it was my birthday, I met up with Ricardo, who took me out for an amazing meal high up in the new Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Manama – Peking Duck, cooked in an exquisite way. We met Hatun Demirer the Turkish Ambassador going out, a former Living Room Dialogue speaker, who had been busy looking after her former President.

Finnish Bible Society in Bahrain: Wednesday 16th September

You never know who is going to come to Bahrain from overseas and an interesting delegation from the Finnish Bible Society came with Dr Hrayr Jebejian, Regional Secretary of the Bible Society of the Middle East, to understand more fully the nature of religious freedom here, the acceptance of the Christian and other faith communities in the Kingdom and the respect for the Scriptures.

Welcome World Supper and Barn Dance: Saturday 19th September 2015

Normally we have a World Supper and Barn dance at Harvest time, but this year we held it earlier as a welcome back after the long summer away and a welcome to St Christopher’s and Awali. It proved a popular event: the variety of food was amazing and, if I go on calling each year, I am going to have to learn a few more dances!



This is Bahrain visit to Washington and New York 22nd– 30th September 2015

I was given forty–eight hours warning for an inter-faith visit to Washington and New York in a This is Bahrain religious, political, trade delegation. By rearranging some events in my diary, and negotiating with my colleagues, I left on the overflow flight on Tuesday 22nd evening – just three of us; the rest (70+) had flown out on Tuesday morning. There were two exhibitions- one in each city – visits to places of worship, meetings with religious leaders, meetings with members of NGO think tanks that had an interest in the Middle East and visits to significant places in each city: the hugely impressive Holocaust museum in Washington and Ground Zero in New York. The Pope was also in Washington for the few days that we were there and our paths crossed twice.

There were many good things about the visit: meeting a variety of interesting people, both on the delegation and in both cities; engagement with interesting organizations, particularly the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) seeking to bridge the language and cultural gap between the Middle East and the West and doing critical