As I write, I’ve just got back from Tanzania, visiting Masasi, one of our link dioceses. Accompanied by my wife, Kay, and Brian Chave, my chaplain, it was a great fortnight.
The visit was in response to an invitation from James, Bishop of Masasi, to take part in the 90th birthday celebrations of the diocese. We then travelled all over the diocese, to a wide range of churches, communities and projects. We were made enormously welcome and we participated in joyful worship, received generous hospitality, and met many hundreds of people.
It’s a bit soon for considered reflections on all that we experienced, but let me highlight three particular moments which are at the top of my mind.
• Attending the opening of a new church-sponsored clinic. It was encouraging that a government minister was present; less encouraging is all the political negotiating required for the clinic actually to be authorised to function. This was a reminder that “serving the common good” is complex, potentially compromising and inevitably political.
• Meeting at the same event the Chair of the local Muslim Council. He later gave a greeting at the 90th birthday service (which lasted five hours: the service, not the greeting).
In other places, relationships between Christians and Muslims are clearly more strained, but the welcome presence of the Muslim chair at a major Christian event was a positive sign of the mutual respect and peaceful relationships which are possible.
• Meeting a newly consecrated bishop from another part of Tanzania who had trained for ordination at St. Mark’s College, paid for by the Diocese of Hereford. He spoke of his deep gratitude to Hereford.
Then, on a brief visit to the diocese of Dar es Salaam on our way home, we met fifteen more priests who had been sponsored by Hereford for their ordination training at St. Mark’s.
Our link with Tanzania has been immensely mutually beneficial, and I am very appreciative of those who have developed it over the years. I hope that in the coming months we can consider ways in which it can be strengthened and enriched.
A letter from the Bishop of Hereford