The Healing of Memories

The Fifth week of the Bishop’s Lent Call for 2014 features the Institute for the Healing of Memories which is based in South Africa and which is led by Fr Michael Lapsley. 

As we travelled around Zimbabwe it was impossible not to be aware that many people had reason to feel that they carried with them situations and issues which had left them wounded.   The people in the churches in Zimbabwe are vibrant and full of faith and humour; of music and laughter and joy, but they are also a people who have suffered.

We heard stories of people who had lost their pensions and savings when the Zimbabwean dollar was replaced by the US dollar as the state currency.   They had had to go back to work – often doing menial tasks to survive.   We heard stories of unemployment as the uncertainty of the political situation meant that overseas employers were certainly not expanding their work there; often they were drastically reducing it.

Land that used to be farmed is now uncultivated

Land that used to be farmed is now uncultivated

As we visited the mission stations and clinics we saw whole areas of land that used to be farmed that had returned to scrub land because those who now owned it did not know how to farm it.   As a result people were hungry and often sick.  Those who were sick had to walk long distances to the nearest clinic and often, when they got there, the medicine that they needed was not available.

 

Of our Link Dioceses Manicaland and Masvingo were particularly affected by the ‘exile’ from their churches, as Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare diocese describes it.   People now have to learn how to live together again after a period when some from their congregation had followed a different church leader.  Sometimes the different ways of dealing with the churches being taken over meant that members of the same family found themselves on different sides of the dispute.   Families spilt over whether they stayed and worshipped in a church that was now run by someone else or left to worship away from the church with the priest who had been exiled.

Now that the churches and property have been given back it is important that people take the time to think about how they might be reconciled.   The Province made a decision that those priests who had been ordained by the deposed bishop Nolbert Kunonga or Elson Jakazi or had followed them would not be able to serve as priests for at least a period of three years but they remain part of the church and this is not an easy situation.   What happens with the members of the congregations who had followed them and now want to return the churches that remained loyal to the Province of Central Africa, how are people in this situation reconciled?

It is a complicated time and although for the most part those who had been affected are living side by side with those with whom they disagreed without apparent difficulty it is clear that much work needs to be done to help people to live with the past in new and creative ways.

Whilst we were visiting Bishop Gaul College in the Harare Diocese, I spent the Sunday morning in the parish of Avondale where Bishop Peter Hall, who subsequently became the Bishop of Woolwich, had been the much loved parish priest for many years.   After the service one of the congregation who remembered Peter Hall as a good friend spoke to me about the time in which many of the congregation had had to meet in various places including the Harare Racecourse whilst their church had been occupied by those loyal to Kunonga.   Few had stayed, he said, and those that had had been integrated back into the church community now that the parish has been returned.  The events, he said, were rarely spoken of between the members of the congregation.  Yet, people still spoke of what had happened to us and it is clear that if people are to move on work needs to be done.

The Cathedral in Harare is now beautifully restored but the Cathedral and many of the parishes had been left with huge amounts of debts following the occupation as the occupiers had not paid the utility and other bills and those who returned were liable for the debts.   This often amounted to thousands and thousands of dollars.  Life is complicated enough in Zimbabwe without the added burden of extra bills to pay and relationships to re-build.

That’s why the work that the Institute for the Healing of Memories has been able to do in training priests in the Harare Diocese to work for healing and reconciliation is so important.

Bishop Chad Gandiya spoke to us about the need for the healing of memories:

In supporting the Institute for the Healing of Memories and the work undertaken by Fr Michael Lapsley, who has been affected himself by conflict, we hope that the work of healing might be able to begin in other areas of Zimbabwe too.

Fourth Stop: Manicaland Diocese

The Diocese of Manicaland is linked with the Woolwich Episcopal Area and its Bishop is the Rt Revd Julius Makoni

The plan was that we would arrive in Manicaland Diocese by about 4pm on Thursday 20 February having travelled on from the Shearly Cripps Shrine and St Bernard’s Mission in the Diocese of Masvingo in the early afternoon.   But, despite Bishop Julius’ insistence that we should get there as early as we possibly could, it was 4pm by the time we actually left Masvingo.  So it was dark by the time we had travelled the 200km or so from St Bernard’s to Mutare in which the Cathedral of Manicaland Diocese is set.  We went straight to our hotel and it was there that we met Bishop Julius.

Sadly, our schedule and Bishop Julius’ didn’t coincide very well and as we were about to head out to tour places in his Diocese on Friday morning, he was boarding a plane to Cape Town where he was going to do some work with Archbishop Thabo.   So, it was good to be able to spend the evening with him and to hear about the way in which the Diocese has been dealing with the welcome return of its properties from those who had followed another of the deposed bishops Elson Jakazi.   He was the Bishop of Manicaland at the same time as Nolbert Kunonga was the Bishop in Harare.

Although Bishop Julius was not able to be with us as we journeyed around the Diocese of Manicaland he had arranged for us to be shown two places which feature in this year’s Lent Call by Revd Luke Chigwanda, who had, until recently, been the Diocesan Secretary.  He is now based in a parish and Acting Archdeacon for the Area.  Luke was trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, here in Britain and was ordained deacon here by letters dimissory (which means that Bishop ordaining is doing so with the permission of the Bishop in whose Diocese the person to be ordained lives).    We were also accompanied by Lazarus Nyatsanza who is the Diocesan Director of Education.  Both of them had visited the Diocese of Southwark in 2009 and Lazarus hopes to be part of the group of headteachers who are to visit later this year.

Friday 21 February

We left the hotel before they had even begun to serve breakfast in order to get to the Assembly at St Augustine’s Mission, Penhalonga.  The last time Bishop Christopher had tried  to visit Penhalonga, in 2012, he and Archbishop Rowan were not allowed in as it was occupied.

The wonderful church of St Augustine, Penhalgonga Mission

The wonderful church of St Augustine, Penhalonga Mission

This wonderful site shows its origins in the missionary work of the Mirfield Fathers who had come to minister to the area. The church is a magnificent red brick building of majestic proportions.   The Mission Station is a vast site with a primary and a secondary school as well as a clinic on the site.  In addition, the Sisters of the Holy Name look after an orphanage.

Pupils of the secondary school during assembly

Pupils of the secondary school during assembly

The site is teeming with people as we set off to join the secondary school pupils in the huge church for their assembly.   After the Assembly Bishop Christopher has an opportunity to speak with the staff of the school just before their meeting with Lazarus who is making good use of our visit to see teachers around the Diocese.

Bishop Christopher addresses the staff of the secondary school

Bishop Christopher addresses the staff of the secondary school

From there we set off on a tour of the site starting with the clinic.

Sadly the drugs cupbaird was nearly empty

Sadly the drugs cupboard was nearly empty

The senior nurse on duty at Penhalonga

The senior nurse on duty at Penhalonga

There has been a clinic at Penhalonga for many years but it has been tough recently to ensure that the facilities are in good condition and that there are enough medicines for those who come.  We were shown around by the senior nurse on duty who had clear plans for all that she wanted to do there.  But, she showed us the drugs cupboard which was nearly empty and it was obvious just how hard it is to ensure that local people get the treatment that they need.  One really important thing for the Mission is to see if they can find a way to replace the water tanks. These have been in place for some years and need now to be renewed with plastic ones which are healthier.  Following our visit to the Clinic we went via the orphanage to the primary school.

The Sister in charge of the orphanage

The Sister in charge of the orphanage

The orphanage

The orphanage

This provides a home for all ages from small babies to eighteen year olds.   One of the difficulties with the orphanage is that the children have nowhere to go when they leave school and so some keep returning.  They find it hard to settle outside of the Mission because so much of African culture is based on familial ties and, of course, they do not have anywhere to go or any group to feel a part of save those who have brought them up at the orphanage.  Whilst we were there we met one such young man who was helping with the garden at the orphanage and had lived there since he was quite small.   It is hard to see how this situation can ever be solved.

Bishop Chirstopher with one of the older children from the orphanage

Bishop Christopher with one of the older children from the orphanage

Pupils of Penhalonga Mission Primary School

Pupils of Penhalonga Mission Primary School

Bishop Christopher speaks to the parents at the meeting

Bishop Christopher speaks to the parents at the meeting

Our last stop at Penhalonga was the primary school and there they were holding a parents’ and teachers’ meeting to which we went for a few moments.   It was time then for a quick visit to the classrooms before moving on to our next stop, but not before the children had crowded around the Bishop in their eagerness to greet us.

Once we leave Penhalonga we make quite a long journey to Bonda Mission which is another huge Mission Station in the Diocese that had also been occupied.  It seems that taking control of such iconic places in the Diocese of Manicaland was a huge statement about the amount of power that those loyal to Elson Jakazi had.  So it was wonderful to see Bonda and Penhalonga fully restored to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Bonda Mission is a huge site with many different functions

Bonda Mission is a huge site with many different functions

Bonda has a hospital on site as well as secondary and primary schools.   The hospital is made up of good sturdy buildings but many of them are in need of some repair.

Peeling ceilings are not the best thing for a hospital

Peeling ceilings are not the best thing for a hospital

Some of the equipment is old and needs replacement or parts

Some of the equipment is old and needs replacement or parts

In addition it is not always possible to undertake all the treatments that they would like to be able to because of a lack of equipment or parts.  Nonetheless the doctors and nurses there provide a valuable service for the local community.The schools at Bonda are large and vibrant and the school choir is really wonderful to listen to.

Girls from the Bonda Girls High School

Girls from the Bonda Girls High School

Younger pupils on their way home

Younger pupils on their way home

Bishop Christopher address the primary school pupils

Bishop Christopher address the primary school pupils

But education is expensive and so part of what we are asked to fund through the Lent Call this year is the Manicaland education fund which will help pupils from poorer backgrounds to be able to go to school.

As well as education for young people and the clinics one of the priorities identified for Manicaland Diocese is training priests, and they do this through the Zimbabwean Theological Education by Extension Programme (ZIMTEE) and through Bishop Gaul College.   Whilst we were in Central Zimbabwe Diocese we had been able to meet up with the Revd Simbarashe Basvi who is the Director of ZIMTEE.

In an interview with me he told us a bit about the project.

One of the badges on a school shirt

One of the badges on a school shirt

No visit to any of the Dioceses in Zimbabwe is complete without a look at the Cathedral and a visit to the Mothers’ Union offices and the Diocese of Manicaland is no exception.  Just like Matabeleland they have capacity building projects and one is making schoolwear and badges. They have a large sewing room and a cutting room as well as a huge automatic embroidery machine.   Eventually there is the intention to try to make the project commercially viable.   The work is led by the Dean of Mutare’s wife who is the President of the Diocesan Mother’s union. As well as badges and shirts and skirts they have lots of other Mothers’ memorabilia which they shared with us.

Hats are always useful when it is hotl  Here are Bishop Christopher with MArk Steadman (in their MU hats) and the Dean's wife

Hats are always useful when it is hot! Here are Bishop Christopher with Mark Steadman (in their MU hats) and the Dean’s wife

The Diocese of Harare

Wevisited the Diocese of Harare, our last stop before coming home, at least in part in order to be able to visit Bishop Gaul College.  We were driven there by the Dean of Studies who also has the care of a nearby parish.IMG_4932

It’s an interesting place and we were pleased to meet a few of the students who had not yet left for their weekend placements.   There are 23 students at the College at present and some live in the Warden’s House which is also used as a teaching space, and others share rooms in one of the other buildings.  As a result the wardens cannot live on site and all the students ave to leave their wives and families behind.

Some of the students with the Dean of Studies

Some of the students with the Dean of Studies

The temporary chapel

The temporary chapel

The foundations and base for the new Chapel

The foundations and base for the new Chapel

These books are apparently sorted but need to be re-shelved

These books are apparently sorted but need to be re-shelved

In years gone by the library was one of the most up to date theological libraries in the continent.   But, it is now rather outdated and is in need of computerisation.   A trainee librarian is working on this but there is still much to do and it is likely to take longer than the trainee is on placement.  There are piles of sorted and unsorted books everywhere and very few on the shelves which must make studying hard. Other than the transformative effect of completing the chapel and sorting the library and building more accommodation, they are in desperate need of a borehole.There is one drilled to 75 metres deep and although the College was told that this was the necessary depth there is very little water. So they need to find another US$500 to drill another 20 feet where they will find water (they hope). Once they have done this they need to put in a submersible pump to get the water into the tanks which are quite new. This would make a huge difference to life at the College.

The borehole

The borehole

It was possible to see that there was a lot of potential at the College but a lot of work will need to be done in order for the College be able to fulfil this.  In addition, the training is quite expensive for the Dioceses and this means that fewer students are sent there than might be the case.

Once again as part of the Lent Call for 2014 we are asked to help to fund the training of ordinands on these courses and although it is in Harare Diocese it might be even that some of the money that we give can be used to help Bishop Gaul College to move forward.

Much needs to be done in the Diocese of Manicaland to help to heal the rifts which the recent past has brought but there is so much to give thanks to God for, especially the return of the property and the tremendously inspiring faith of those whom we met.

Second Stop: Central Zimbabwe Diocese

Central Zimbabwe Diocese is linked with the Croydon Episcopal Area.  Its Bishop is the Rt Revd Ishmael Mukuwanda. 

Monday 17 February

Our travels take us from Bulawayo, in Matabeleland Diocese, on the road to Gweru where the Cathedral for Central Zimbabwe Diocese is situated.  We are met at the Cathedral by Bishop Ishmael and Dean Austin July.   Dean July had only been in post a short time when we were last in Central Zimbabwe Diocese but is now well established and is often out and about in the Diocese with Bishop Ishmael as well as at the Cathedral.

From the Cathedral we head to the Diocesan offices for a welcome drink and some cakes.  Food and drink are staple welcomes to anywhere that we go.  People are very generous especially as they have so little.

Whilst at the Diocesan Offices Bishop Ishmael tells us about his experiences during the recent elections.  He was accredited as an observer and so was in Harare.  It is clear from all that he says that things have not been easy since the elections and continue not to be so.   There is a real worry that tax increases for overseas businesses are causing them to leave which is not helping employment in the country.

But amidst such despondency there is a bright spark in the Anglican churches in Central Zimbabwe Diocese.  Bishop Ishmael has a vision for the Diocese, a vibrant and clear one, and the people in the parishes, especially the rural ones, are catching it and doing amazing things.  We began to see this on our visits around the Diocese after we had settled in the Mpulumga Lodge which was to be our home for the next two nights.

We began our visits at the Harben Park Garden.  Here the Diocese owns a large plot of land which they are farming and they hope to sell the produce through the local parishes.

The wter tank which is large enough to irrigate the whole plot, but they need extra pipes

The water tank which is large enough to irrigate the whole plot, but they need extra pipes

They have a 500 litre water tank which is plenty to irrigate the land they have.  The 45 foot deep borehole which has been dug ensures that there is plenty of water for all they need.  The water tank and borehole were both partly funded by the Diocesan Link group.Progress has been slower than they might have hoped as some of the land had been encroached on by the people who lived in the large and well constructed house just beyond what is now the perimeter fence of the Diocesan land.  They had to be removed and the fence erected before further development could start.

Here are the irrigation pipes.  The project manager, Darlington is hopping to buy more in oreder to water more of the land.

Here are the irrigation pipes. The Development Worker, Darlington, is hoping to buy more in order to water more of the land.

But, all is now going well on this part of the land and crops are beginning to grow.  As well as maize, potatoes are grown in round white plastic sacks and in addition they are growing leafy vegetables organically.

Some of the land remains uncultivated and yet another piece of the land was taken over by a Pentecostal Group and they have built on it.  They are going to give the Diocese another piece of good land in exchange.  It is hard for those of us who come from rule bound England to quite understand the complexities of all that happens, but it is very clear that Bishop Ishmael and his Development Worker, Darlington, have their finger on the pulse of all that is happening.

From Harben Park we head back through Gweru to St Mark, Lozane.  Here there is a Primary school and the children are sitting under the trees waiting to welcome us.

Waiting for visitors - we were late!

Waiting for visitors – we were late!

Some come from villages very nearby but others walk up to fifteen kilometres each way to get to school.  The headmaster told us that there were only a few that came that far but it does seem an awfully long way.  Some, he told us, would run to and from school and later after the visit we saw some of them doing just that as we drove back to Gweru.  It made me very conscious of why African nations produce so many very good middle and long distance runners!

Sadly, the school roll is falling as people are leaving the local villages in order to find work.  But, here Bishop Ishmael’s passion for and ability to build things comes into play again as the school is hoping to completely renew its buildings, partly because they need improving but also in order to encourage parents to use the school.  Good buildings make a school an attractive proposition to parents the world over it would seem.

One of the new classrooms that are being built at St Mark's School, Lozane

One of the new classrooms that are being built at St Mark’s School, Lozane

This is just one of the many cracks on the 2003 Rectory

This is just one of the many cracks on the 2003 Rectory

Having looked around the school we went to see the priest and his wife.  They currently live in a rectory which was finished in 2003 and which is now so badly cracked that it cannot be repaired. Ten years doesn’t seem very long for a building to last and it tells us something about why Bishop Ishmael is so passionate about the way in which rectories are constructed.  A new rectory is being built next to the existing one and they hope to be able to move in some time this year.  They are retaining the traditional rondeval for cooking.

The Church of St Mark, Lozane the walls of which are also badly fissured

The Church of St Mark, Lozane the walls of which are also badly fissured

The new rectory which is being constructed alongside the old one

The new rectory which is being constructed alongside the old one

A traditional kitchen

A traditional kitchen

Sometimes this happens because it is good to ensure that the people who live in rural areas maintain the skill of traditional cooking because there is often no electricity.It is here that we begin to discover the extent of Bishop Ishmael’s involvement in the many building projects that are going on.   He insists on the rafters being of steel rather than wood because of the termites which quickly ruin wood.  Termites are wonderful for creating pure earth which makes brilliant bricks but they are a real menace to the rafters which hold up roofs.  The reality of their threat can be seen in the size of the termite mound which can be found just a few metres way from the church and vicarage and very near to the land which the priest and his wife have planted.

This is an impressive termite mound.  Sadly it is really near the rectory and the rafters will suffer!

This is an impressive termite mound. Sadly it is really near the rectory and the rafters will suffer!

When a rectory is to be built Bishop Ishmael not only insists that the rafters for the roof are metal, but, having come from an engineering background, he has designed the struts to be used in the rectories and even the layout of any new rectories himself. His vision for his Diocese is very ambitious and he is right in the forefront of ensuring that is happens.

We return from St Mark’s for a brief visit at our hotel before we head to St Matthew, Gweru for dinner.

Here we are greeted by Fr Caleb, his wife and members of the Church Council as well as some other clergy of the Diocese.  It is a beautiful big church which is linked with the Caterham team. Charles Bradshaw, the priest there, had brought a group out from the parish for a week at the beginning of 2013 and Fr Caleb was anxious that I should photograph the trees that they had planted to show that they are still alive.

Bishop Christopher with one of the trees planted by the visitors from the Link church in Croydon

Bishop Christopher with one of the trees planted by the visitors from the Link church in Croydon

Here is an example of where a parish Link works well.  It seems to me that for Links between parishes to work well there needs to be real person to person commitment.  Individuals need to want to get to know each other and maintain communication.  Where this happens the Link is real and vibrant and it can be a wonderfully enriching experience for everyone involved.

From there we return gratefully to our hotel as it is another early start the next day.

Tuesday 18 February

We begin our day – as we do most days – with another drive, this time to St Patrick’s Mission.  It’s not really all that far from Gweru but the journey is amazingly bumpy and we are grateful for the Bishop’s Land Rover.  Bishop Ishmael throws the Land Rover around on the unmade road with a practise and determination which belies the short time he has actually been in possession of the vehicle, which is less than a month.

St Patrick’s is an old-established Mission Station which has been in need of work and is recovering from some really hard times in the recent past.  When the group from the Croydon Area including Bishop Christopher and I had last visited in 2011, the one ward had been partially built and the bricks were being made for the maternity ward.  At that time the bedrooms for the conference facilities had just been finished.  Now there are partially completed wards and administration blocks everywhere. There is also a new refectory for those who are staying in the accommodation blocks.

Each parish adopts a room for their priest to stay in when he is visiting St Patrick's

Each parish adopts a room for their priest to stay in when he is visiting St Patrick’s

The new dining room opened last year

The new dining room opened last year

We are shown around the site and it is clear that people are excited by all that is happening and that they want to be a part of it.  Bishop Ishmael is really aiming to build a good healthcare complex and the ultimately the aim is, once again, to have a resident doctor.  The local Council is so impressed with what they see that they are talking to the Bishop about the possibility of it eventually becoming a training hospital eventually.

Some of the buildings are now finished

Some of the buildings are now finished

The clinic offers care for the members of the school communities based on the site and for people from the local villages.  There are also outreach programmes with women having been trained to go into the villages and help those who are sick to manage their disease or encourage them to come to the Clinic for vaccinations etc.

...and some are still being built

…and some are still being built

The catchment area for the clinic is huge and the work that they do is carefully documented to show the numbers of patients from each area and the vaccinations that are being given etc.  As with any hospital the number of patients and the number of births and deaths varies but this is a busy and productive medical facility which Bishop Ishmael and the staff of St Patrick’s are determined to make even better.

I was pleased that there were no bodies in the morgue when we visited!

I was pleased that there were no bodies in the morgue when we visited!

These are the foundations for the maternity ward and you can see that they are very badly waterlogged and this will need attention as they continue to build

The foundations for the maternity ward are badly waterlogged

The morgue, which we were shown very proudly, has made an enormous difference to the clinic and the local area as people now have the time to make proper arrangements for burial rather than having to do it very quickly because of the heat.  So, family and friends who are at a distance are enabled to come and grieving can be properly handled.

 
This is the early years class

This is the early years class

The day that we visited the school had a power cut and so the Sisters were cooking all the meals in the traditional way

The day that we visited the school had a power cut and so the Sisters were cooking all the meals in the traditional way

Whilst at the Mission we also visited the Primary and Secondary schools on the site.  Both are what we might call improving schools.   As in Britain the clearest measurement of this seems to be in the fact that the pupils’ results are improving year on year.    The facilities that they have might well be considered basic but the pupils are eager to improve their chances by learning and where possible going on to further study, quite often in other countries.   Most of them board as they come from distant parts of the area.

Whilst we were at St Patrick’s Mission, Bishop Christopher spoke to Bishop Ishmael about the progress being made there. Watch them here .

Once we have left St Patrick’s we journey on to visit three churches with rectories in different stages of development.  As Bishop Ishmael pointed out the three that we are to see have each taken the design that he has produced and used it differently, one is larger, one is smaller and one is as he has designed it.St Barnabas Church has built the Rectory almost half as big again as the Bishop would have planned as it was originally designed to be a hall.  The extra half of the building is going to be separate guest rooms with its own entrance.

This rectory is really large and has a separate entrance for guests!

This rectory is really large and has a separate entrance for guests!

This photo gives  you some idea of the size inside

This photo gives you some idea of the size inside

St Andrew’s is finished and is the size that it was meant to be.  The priest and his wife live there happily and look forward to the day when there will be a borehole on the site and they can have water and electricity in their house.  In the meantime they use solar panels to provide electricity and although they have a nice kitchen the priest’s wife still cooks outside in the traditional way.

The rectory at St Andrew's

The rectory at St Andrew’s

It has a good sized and equipped kitchen, but without water or electricity cooking traditionally is easiest

It has a good-sized and equipped kitchen, but without water or electricity cooking traditionally is easiest

The rectory at St Philemon’s is moving towards being finished and it has been beautifully made.  It is a little smaller than Bishop Ishmael’s plan but it will nonetheless make a really good home for the priest whom Bishop Ishmael has promised to the congregation if they can build their rectory.  It’s a remarkable story of a group of women who have worked really hard to fund raise and provide the materials for the house.   They have even made the bricks.

The rectory at St Philemon's is nearly finished

The rectory at St Philemon’s is nearly finished

here you can see that they are preaperd for when electricity arrives.  All the wiring is done and all they will have to do is connect it all up

Here you can see that they are prepared for when electricity arrives. All the wiring is done and all they will have to do is connect it all up

The remarkable enthusiasm that the congregation have for providing homes for their clergy must be at least in part inspired by Bishop Ishmael’s commitment to the building programme.   He is so committed than whenever he hears that a roof is to be raised he sets off (with Dean Austin) to go and help.  Bishop Ishmael is the first one atop the roof and says that he thinks others are encouraged by this to think, ‘if the Bishop can do this then so can we’. I am utterly convinced that it is his vision and commitment that spurs on the people in his diocese to do such remarkable things.

A typical roof before it is finished.  I can't help but imagine Bishop Ishameal and Dean Austin up on the top of it!

A typical roof before it is finished. I can’t help but imagine Bishop Ishmael and Dean Austin up on the top of it!

Tired but grateful for all that we have seen we head back to our hotel and a welcome shower before going to dinner with Bishop Ishmael, his wife Elizabeth and Dean Austin, but we are not out late as it is another early start and busy day next.

Third Stop Masvingo Diocese

The Diocese of Masvingo is linked to Southwark Cathedral and its Bishop is Godfrey Tawonezvi. It is the newest of the dioceses in Zimbabwe being just a little under twelve years old. It was carved out of bits of the other four dioceses and when Bishop Godfrey was appointed Bishop he had just two priests to cover the whole Diocese.

Our journey in Zimbabwe took us in a circle around the country and so we moved on from Matabeleland to Central Zimbabwe Diocese. I will post more about Central Zimbabwe Diocese next week as we feature it, along with Manicaland Diocese, in the third week of the Lent Call this year.

Masvingo was the third Diocese that we visited; we arrived there on Thursday 20 February and left at the end of the day on Friday 21st.

Thursday 20 February

As we travelled from Central Zimbabwe Diocese on to the Diocese of Masvingo we had hoped to be able to visit the nutritional garden, or the proposed site for it, at Shurugwi. But, just as in England, we were faced with the after effects of flooding in the area and were unable to go there. In fact our whole journey to Masvingo from Gweru took much longer than it would otherwise have done because a bridge had collapsed as a result of the rains and we had to take a much longer route.

This road to the Training Project at Chidzikwe was normally dry.  The rain made travelling very difficult

This road to the Training Project at Chidzikwe was normally dry. The rain made travelling very difficult

Whereever we went as we travelled around it was clear that there had been a lot of rain during this rainy season. This was, of course, good news as there had been little rain in the past few years. Unfortunately though nothing is ever all good news and some farmers who had planted early lost their crops and in some places the rains had caused damage which was making life difficult for people. Near Masvingo a dam which had been under construction for some while threatened to collapse and this was worrying many people. Fortunately, so far, this has not happened. I was struck that, like the British the Zimbabweans talk a lot about the weather and how things are. By the time we arrived in Zimbabwe towards the end of the rainy season they seemed to be grateful for the rain but to feel that enough was enough and now really (despite the drought for the last few rainy seasons) they had really got as much as they wanted or needed!

Our first stop in Masvingo Diocese was at St Michael and All Angels Cathedral where we were met by Bishop Godfrey.

We were able to look around the Cathedral which had been fully reclaimed from the deposed bishop, Kunonga, and had been cleansed. Whilst we are being shown the Diocesan and MU offices, which are also in the Cathedral complex, we meet the ordinands who are studying on the Zimbabwean Theological Education by Extension course, which is known locally as ZIMTEE and which features in our Lent Call this year. The ordinands meet with an experienced priest each day to study and undertake the work of formation and learning together. It is really exciting to see this group of young men preparing to serve God in Masvingo Diocese.

The Catedhral has been recaliimed and cleansed following its occupation by followers of Kunonga

The cathedral has been reclaimed and cleansed following its occupation by followers of Kunonga

Following this Bishop Godfrey introduced Artwell Sipinyu, who until his recent appointment to a national role had been the Development Worker in Masvingo Diocese, and Elizabeth Nyasha Munyati, a student who was working with the Diocese for a year. Artwell will continue to be based in Masvingo in his new role and so was still very much in touch with the projects that he spoke to us about, mainly the Chidzikwe Agricultural Youth Skills Training Centre and projects related to the containment of HIV/aids and malaria. Both presentations were informative and helpful but Artwell’s was especially good, really showcasing the work that is happening within the Diocese. Following the presentations and lunch we went to visit the Chidzikwe Training project about which we had heard in the morning.

Bishop Christopher and Bishop Godfrey on our visit to Chidzikwe.  They are both wearing Masvingo ten year celebration hats to keep off the sun!

Bishop Christopher and Bishop Godfrey on our visit to Chidzikwe. They are both wearing Masvingo ten year celebration hats to keep  the sun off!

This is a capacity building project in which six trainees are each given three months training in pig and chicken rearing, potato growing and market gardening. They stay on site for these three months and when they have learned their craft they are encouraged to return to their villages and to start working with one of the skills there. They are given help to decide which would be most appropriate for where they live and help to buy the first materials necessary. It is hoped through this that they will be able to share their skills and knowledge with others as well as begin to make a living.  Chickens play an important role in the economy and in people’s diet.   Rearing them from the moment of hatching brings an economic reward as they can be sold at any age onto others to take on to the next stage.   But, they are also good for providing food through their eggs and as a part of the staple diet.

Chickens are an incredibly important part of the diet and the economy

Chickens are an incredibly important part of the diet and the economy

These chicks will help to grow the economy and feed people

These chicks will help to grow the economy and feed people

The students that we saw were the second group of students to go through the training and they had only been there a few days. They were working with one man from a local village who was helping to give them the skills that they would need to be able to take this work forward. It was clear that what they were doing was hard work and that they were eager to learn.

They cook together each day in the traditional way

They cook together each day in the traditional way

This is where the students live whilst they are one the farm

This is where the students live whilst they are on the farm

Their living conditions were quite basic and it is this that stops the project registering as a training centre with the government.  Bishop Godfrey explained that he hoped that they would, in time, be able to raise the money to build the separate living blocks necessary for the students so that they could begin to enable the students to take part in a properly recognised training scheme.

Following the visit to the Agricultural project we travelled back to the Cathedral for evensong. Here the service is led by the priest who helps to train the ordinands and the ordinands are there with the sister who helps to cook for them each day and some of the others sisters too.

Bishop Godfrey’s wife, Albertina, who is the MU president, is also there. Bishop Godfrey makes it a priority to try to be there for morning and evening prayer with his ordinands everyday.

Bishop Christopher meets the ordinands with Bishop Godfrey

Bishop Christopher meets the ordinands with Bishop Godfrey

After evening prayer there is time to go to the hotel and even, for the brave amongst us, to have a very quick swim before we are taken out for dinner. Bishop Christopher and Ron enjoyed watching Mark Steadman and I swim – I’m not going to post that photo!

Dinner with the Diocesan staff was in a beautiful venue used for weddings and conferences. The food as always was plentiful, and it was good to be able to get to know Artwell and some of the others rather better.

Tempting though it was to go for another swim after dinner we knew that we had a very early start the next day and so I decided against it!

Friday 21 February

Leaving the hotel at 7am meant that we did not get breakfast before setting off first to Shearly Cripps Shrine at Shivu and then to the St Bernard’s Mission before journeying on to Manicaland Diocese.

We knew that it was going to be a very long day but hadn’t quite imagined how difficult the journey might be. We had got used to unmade and bumpy roads but it was a bit nerve-wracking to be faced with nearly flooded bridges and roads with puddles that were huge in diameter and where it was impossible to guess their depth. We were glad that we left the minibus at the church of St Cyril at Chivu and journeyed on in Bishop Godfrey’s ‘people carrier’ and grateful when we made it to the Shrine.

Here in Masvingo diocese church building continues as it does in Matabeleland.  Builders are working on an extension to St Cyril, Chivu

Here in Masvingo diocese church building continues as it does in Matabeleland. Builders are working on an extension to St Cyril, Chivu

The story of Arthur Shearly Cripps is an amazing one. He devoted his life to the people of the area and lived very simply among them. We were able to see the rondeval in which he had lived which looked to me to be incredibly small but which had apparently held all his belongings.

The inside of the rondeval in which Cripps lived

The inside of the rondeval in which Cripps lived

Once again I was forced to consider the number of possessions I have and whether they are really necessary. Like many of us, I suspect, I could live with far less and feel no deprivation, but having the nerve to try is something that I still need to work on! When Cripps became blind the people in the villages would act as his eyes and he stayed with them ministering to them until his death in 1952. He had lived in Mashonaland for fifty years. The shrine is an extraordinarily peaceful place and we were delighted not only to be able to visit but also to meet two men who were alive and remembered Arthur Shearly Cripps. One of them is the farmer who owns the land upon which the shrine is built and he was clearly enormously proud to be able to be involved in its preservation and development.

The farmer who owns the land upon which the Shrine is situated.   he remembers Cripps from when he was a boy

The farmer who owns the land upon which the Shrine is situated. He remembers Cripps from when he was a boy

Every year on the last weekend of July or the first weekend in August (near the date of Shearly Cripps death) people from all the dioceses in Zimbabwe gather at the Shrine to give thanks for and celebrate his life. But, there is no water supply there and so one of the things which Bishop Godfrey hopes it might be possible to do is to raise sufficient money for a bore hole and the pump and tank which will also be necessary. The pilgrims will be so much better looked after if there can be a source of water on the site. Eventually there are even hopes that it might be possible to build some accommodation so that the site could be used as a retreat centre. This again is one of the Lent Call projects for 2014. Before we leave we follow the route that Shearly Cripps used to follow up the hill to its crest every Good Friday where there is a cross. The local parish still do this each year.

The Altar at the Shrine with seating for a few.  Thousands more (literally) sit on the grass all round the shrine during the service

The Altar at the Shrine with seating for a few. Thousands more (literally) sit on the grass all round the shrine during the service

The cross to which Cripps ascended on Good Friday which is still used today by the local parish

The cross to which Cripps ascended on Good Friday which is still used today by the local parish

Shearly Cripps Grave which has become a place of Pilgrimage from all over Zimbabwe

Shearly Cripps Grave which has become a place of Pilgrimage from all over Zimbabwe

But, the plans for the site of the Shearly Cripps shrine pale into insignificance in comparison to Bishop Godfrey’s hopes and plans for St Bernard’s Mission at Chimumvuri.

IMG_1611Here there is a secondary and a primary school. The Mission owns a great deal of land here and Bishop Godfrey hopes eventually to be able to have a clinic such as the one that exists at St Patrick’s Mission in Central Zimbabwe Diocese or even a hospital such as at the Bonda Mission in Manicaland Diocese.

Bishop Christopher with some of the secondary school girls

Bishop Christopher with some of the secondary school girls

The Mission had been occupied by those loyal to the deposed bishop, Kunonga, and it is only in the last year or so that Bishop Godfrey has been able to take back full possession of it. Learning how to live in a situation where people’s loyalties have been tested is difficult. What is important now is that the Diocese of Masvingo gets on with ensuring that they work to provide the best education and health care possible for those in their care.

This store room contains the beginnings of the medical supplies for the clinic

This store room contains the beginnings of the medical supplies for the clinic

That’s why Bishop Godfrey has been gathering equipment and medical provisions for a clinic which he hopes to open later this year in the building on the site that used to be a farmhouse and then became a rectory. It is in need of some repair and the local people are working on that now but soon they hope it will provide a good place for local people to come to when they are unwell. They have to walk around 15 kilometres to the nearest clinic at present and so this will be a great boon to everyone around.

This is the former farmhouse and rectory which the local community are helping to restore so that it can become a clinic

This is the former farmhouse and rectory which the local community are helping to restore so that it can become a clinic

The schools too provide a really good opportunity for local parents to ensure that their children receive an education and those in the secondary school mostly board and so they come from much further afield.

The people from the church at the Mission are very welcoming and they dance and sing as we arrive.

The singing is always so joyful

The singing is always so joyful

Then when we get into the church I notice that there is a motorcycle propped up on the wall.   Apparently this is how the priest travels from village to village.   I remember that at one of the Masvingo gatherings at the Cathedral a motorbike was driven up the nave.   It was for Masvingo.  I can’t help but wonder if this is the very bike in front of us!

The priest at Chimumvuri looks after quite a few rural parishes and gets around by motor bike

The priest at Chimumvuri looks after quite a few rural parishes and gets around by motor bike

We were due to leave Masvingo to travel onto Manicaland in the early afternoon on Friday 21, but there was so much to see and do in Masvingo and those whom we visited were so generous with their time and food that we were very late in leaving. As we had suspected, wherever we were, the time that we had there seemed too short. The churches in Zimbabwe are so very busy helping people to find new ways to live in their situations and to change people’s circumstances that a short visit can only scratch the surface of all that is happening. What we give each year to the Lent Call helps to make such a difference to people’s lives it’s really humbling.

But, whilst those in our Link Dioceses may need our help to be able to develop some of the work that they want to undertake, our visits to Matabeleland and Masvingo Dioceses convinced me that we have so much to benefit from our Link. For the people in the churches in Zimbabwe seem to me to be living their faith in a way which is inspirational. We here in Southwark, it seems to me could learn so much from their commitment to the church and to working to ensure that they have the right plant and that they provide opportunities for those around them. I hope that I can hold on to some of this learning and challenge as I slip back into life here in London and that we, as a Diocese, can think about how best to use the things that we can learn from our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe.

First stop Matabeleland Diocese

Matabeleland Diocese is linked with the Kingston Episcopal Area.  Its Bishop is Rt Revd Cleophas Lunga.

We arrived at about noon on Saturday 15 February at Bulawayo Airport having flown overnight and spent a couple of hours in Johannesburg airport before transferring to a smaller plane for the last part of our journey.  We were able to say Morning Prayer together in Jo’burg airport although at one point we did rather get the giggles (or more precisely I did) before having to stop as we were unable to compete with the tannoy announcements of flight departures!

The first thing to say is that Bulawayo airport has changed beyond all recognition.  It is now a modern light building with carefully choreographed parking.  Each row of parking has impressive looking blue shades so that the cars do not get too warm.

New sculptures are a feature of the car park as are the canopies over the cars which you can see in the background

New sculptures are a feature of the car park as are the canopies over the cars which you can see in the background

Before, just two and a half years ago, it had been a tin hangar and the cars were parked on the surrounding scrub land. As we went through the airport it is noticeable that there is no haggling this time.  We simply pay what we are asked to for our visa, are given a receipt and off we go through customs without a hitch.  We are met by Bishop Cleophas who is his usual smiling and welcoming self and the heat hits us as we leave the building.   It is warm, really rather more than warm, almost hot and that’s such a lovely change from England where we have left cold and flooding.

We realise immediately that this journey is going to be pretty frantic as we don’t really have very much time in any place and so we go straight from the airport to the church building project at St Katherine’s in Bulawayo North.

The smaller church at St Katharine's which is still in use and will remain even when the new one is built

The smaller church at St Katharine’s which is still in use and will remain even when the new one is built

Here we see that the foundations of the new church have been laid.  When I visited in July 2011 the ablutions block had not been completely finished and they were developing plans for the church.  So, it was wonderful to see the foundations actually laid.

The foundations for St Kathatrine's new church

The foundations for St Katharine’s new church

It was extraordinary to be remembered by some of those who came to greet us and to revisit the existing little church which is still so well looked after.  It was good to know, too, that their plans had been agreed and that it was possible for them to preserve the old church as they had hoped.  The congregation had very much wanted to be able to do this because of its history as a church built for returning soldiers.  It will remain in use for Sunday School and meetings etc and will be linked to the new church, which will stand at a right angles to it, by a covered walkway. On from there to the Mother’s Union (MU) House which has been nicely repainted in MU blue and white as part of the Diocesan 60th anniversary celebrations last year.  The first MU Executive Meeting of the year was taking place with the Bishop’s wife, Soneni, who is MU president and Lydia Lumbiwa, the MU Development Worker for the Diocese.  Last time I had been there I had bought some MU mugs for the department and one had been recently broken so here was my opportunity to replace it and buy a couple more:  Mark Steadman wanted one too so I bought him a little present!  We get the chance to visit the store room and see the MU material and cases and other MU articles for sale.

The storeroom at MU House with material and other goodies for sale

The storeroom at MU House with material and other goodies for sale

From the MU house it is a short journey to St John’s Cathedral.  Our visit happened to coincide with the first bring and share lunch organised by the 7am congregation.  It was a really warm and friendly affair and was considered to be such a success that there are plans to repeat it.  Seeing the two Sunday congregations together reminded me that although they are very different – the 7am congregation is older and prefers the BCP service; the later congregation (8.30!) is full of younger people and families and with a more modern service – they can come together for the big and important things. I couldn’t help but reflect some things are the same no matter where you are in the world.

After Lunch at the Cathedral Ron Lumbiwa (Lydia’s husband and the Project Worker for the Diocese), my host and our driver, took me to his house via a MU/Diocesan sewing project at St Gabriel’s.  Here the plant is owned by the Diocese and one half of it is rented by a college. The building which the Diocese still uses is split into two.  In one part of the building there is residential accommodation for the Assistant Priest at  the Cathedral and his wife and child, and for two ordinands.  The other part of the building houses the sewing project  and there we met Bahle Ngangura who supervises the work of the volunteers there.

Bahle Ngangura and one of the sewing machines

Bahle Ngangura and one of the sewing machines

There are six sewing machines and at present there are six volunteers who work making school uniforms and other items of clothing.  Bahle used to teach home economics and so she has been able to teach the volunteers to cut and sew the garments. They hope soon to employ a qualified tailor who will help them to expand their market and maybe to become commercially viable in the fullness of time.  The project aims to provide skills and income for the workers so that they can begin to earn money to live on and with which they can educate their children. Seeing the patterns for the various projects hung on the wall or on the table carefully cut in cardboard brings the project to life. Bahle says that the cutting is the difficult task and that once the material is prepared the sewing is the easy bit!

Then it’s off to Lydia and Ron’s for a welcome shower and a snooze before dinner at Nesbitt’s Castle.  This is a Victorian Folly literally in the middle of nowhere.  It was renovated and opened as a hotel and restaurant in the 90’s and is a popular place for weddings and parties.

And so home to bed.

 

Sunday 16 February

The day started early as we went into Bulawayo for the 8.30 service at the Cathedral.  We were warmly welcomed and were delighted to be at the service at which the youth choir sang for the first time.  They are tremendous and a real indication of the vibrancy of the church.

The Youth Choir lead the worship at St John's Cathedral Bulawayo

The Youth Choir lead the worship at St John’s Cathedral Bulawayo

The other thing that was quite amazing was that there were hundreds of children all of whom had been in the Sunday School and who came up together for a blessing.  A great big long queue of them. Terrific.  I couldn’t help but think that I couldn’t recall ever seeing quite so many young children queueing for a blessing back in England.   If you have lots of children like this let me know I’d like to come and take a photo there too please!

The queue of children from the Sunday School for a blessing seemed never ending!

The queue of children from the Sunday School for a blessing seemed never ending!

We had lunch with the churchwardens and then it is off to visit projects in the Bulawayo area. St Paul, Cowdry Park is a vibrant community who are eagerly awaiting the connexion of their ablutions block to the main drainage supply.  This should have happened a few weeks ago but the rain has been so intense that the area in which this needs to happen is now flooded.  The building project manager is very hopeful that this will now happen in the next week.  They are very pleased to have a stand pipe now though so that they can much more easily clear up after offering hospitality, such as they  had to us.

The standpipe at St Paul's Cowdry Park

The standpipe at St Paul’s Cowdry Park

On the way to our next expected stop we make a brief visit to St Anne, Pumula South, which is another church building project where the congregation currently meet in a small structure with a corrugated iron roof.  They are working towards building their ablutions block before proceeding on to building the church.

We see St Clare, Nkulumane 12, a tiny church where the priest used to be an assistant priest at the Cathedral and then at St Columba’s school.  He has been at St Clare’s just a year and the congregation is small but in good heart.  They now have plans approved by the Diocese for the rectory which it is now seen needs to take precedence over the church.  It is necessary for them to get on with the rectory with some speed as their priest Fr Desmond Chibaya is living in a rented house and this is both expensive and very uncertain.

The next step is for them to get planning permission for the rectory.   The plans for the church had received planning permission, but this was over five years ago and so now both the church and the rectory plans need planning permission. It will cost US$1000 for the Church plans to be approved and a further $500 for the rectory plans.  Here, then, is a good example of how priorities change.

Site plans for St Clare's

Site plans for St Clare’s

Once the ablution block was finished it was planned to build a church but now that the parish has a rector a house for him is much more necessary.  The outgoing Chair of the Church Council told us, proudly, that the congregation had already managed to ensure that the rent for the house was paid for this year, thus saving the Rector the worry of this.  But they have to fundraise for the building work that they need to do as well and so it is a tremendously ambitious act of faith to aim for all these things.The Church of the Good Shepherd has a much more difficult story really.

The water tank at the Good Shepherd.  The first to be given by the Kingston Episcopal Area

The water tank at the Good Shepherd. One of the first to be given by the Kingston Episcopal Area

When I visited last the water tank – one of the first that the Kingston Episcopal Area helped to fund – was irrigating a small patch of land farmed by a couple of people.  The idea was to grow cash crops in order to help to provide a living for the farmers and to help with the expense of expanding the project.  But things have not gone to plan.  It transpires that the couple who were tending the land were in fact squatters.  They had not been invited to live and work there by Bishop Cleophas’ predecessor, Bishop Wilson Sitshebo, as Bishop Cleophas had been told.  They had to be evicted.  A new caretaker/farmer took over the garden but he is not growing the crops for sale that the Diocese wants but is rather growing maize, they too will need to leave.

It is hard to see a project facing such difficulties but it is clear that such things are hard to avoid.  So few people are available to work across the huge area that makes up the Diocese and so it becomes hard to keep the land safe and the projects doing just as they should.  Worse still, just like in England, there are politics in the church and in Zimbabwe these are made much worse by the effects of national politics too.  It is hard to navigate such difficulties but it’s also clear that Bishop Cleophas is determined that things will be put right and go as he wants them to.

The area in which the Good Shepherd is situated has a sparse population at the moment, but

As  you can see the Church of the Good Shepherd is in good condition and it can't be allowed to fall into disrepair

As you can see the Church of the Good Shepherd is in good condition and it can’t be allowed to fall into disrepair

it is expected that in the next two or three years the villages will expand out towards it. It is for this reason that Bishop Cleophas is determined to keep the church going even though the congregation is small.  It is a good building and it would take a great deal of money and energy to rebuild it should it fall into complete disrepair or be demolished.

Before the end of our trips for the day we make one last one to St Joseph, Enganwini.  Here Fr Climax, who also looks after St David’s and the Good Shepherd and two other churches, is working to build a new church.  It is one of the newer of the building projects, although I remember seeing the site three years ago.  Then they had one, not very substantial structure with a corrugated roof.  Now they have the remains of this, which the youth were using for a meeting when we went, and a much newer sturdier structure which they use as the church at the moment.

The temporary church structures may need to last a while and so Bishop Cleophas and Ron Lumbiwa insist that they are sturdy and able to withstand the weather whilst the congregation seek the funds to build the church

The temporary church structures may need to last a while and so Bishop Cleophas and Ron Lumbiwa insist that they are sturdy and able to withstand the weather whilst the congregation seek the funds to build the church

Then it is time for a shower and dinner at Bishop Cleophas’ house.