I am writing in the aftermath of our recent Diocesan Synods which was held on 18th and 19th October last. There was very much a sense of change at these proceedings as it was the first time they were chaired by Archbishop Michael Jackson as president and a high percentage of those attending were doing so for the first time.
In his wide ranging presidential address, the Archbishop spoke of issues such as the relationship between individual and institution, and about the creation of a constructive society – ‘one which sets at the heart of its agenda the wellbeing and the flourishing of its members’ – and active participation in it. The Archbishop went on to say “Society, as it constantly and critically constructs itself afresh in each generation, needs to explore and to enact opportunities for living in ways which give hope to those whose experience of life gives them little ground for hope… Seismic flaws have led to societal bankruptcy. The new society needs to be built on mature explorations which construct communities of collective inclusion as well as communities of opportunity. We have lived through a period of unprecedented opportunity for a very small proportion of our society. It has resulted in profound alienation. A constructive society has to look very different for the future” The Archbishop’s address also covered current issues related to education and healthcare.
Before the main evening session on Wednesday, there was a presentation from Fr. Kevin Doran, who has been charged by the Dublin Roman Catholic archdioceses to organise the Eucharistic Congress to be held in June next year. The theme of the Congress is “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and one another”. As part of the preparation for the Congress, there will be a number of ecumenical events to which Archbishop Michael Jackson will be making a contribution. Liaison with the Church of Ireland will be through Rev. Ken Rue and Church of Ireland volunteers are currently being actively invited to apply for various roles in the planning and execution of the Congress.
At the end of the Synods, on Wednesday evening, there was a visit from Bishop Chad Gandyia from the Anglican diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe. He addressed the synod and fielded questions about the current difficulties in his diocese which made many of the issues we had debated over the two evenings pale into insignificance. With the backing of President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen, his predecessor (who was excommunicated in 2007), has confiscated all diocesan property (which incidentally belongs to the Province of Central Africa and not to the Harare Dioceses) locking congregations and clergy out of their churches and rectories, throwing out governors and staff from mission schools and hospitals, and nuns and brothers from convents and monasteries. The vast majority of Zimbabwean Anglicans now meet in schools, public halls and out in the open to worship. But no matter where they congregate, they are not safe as they have been repeatedly attacked by mobs backed by the corrupt police force. All diocesan funds have been confiscated and all current income is being spent challenging the situation in the courts – which is now in the Zimbabwean Supreme Court.
Despite all this, the Bishop, his clergy and people remain upbeat as their congregations continue to grow. They are still able to give thanks to God for his many blessings, to pray and to read and study God’s word together. Perhaps if we could try to imitate Bishop Chad and his flock we may be better equipped to deal with the many problems we face in our society and in our local communities.
With every blessing,
The Revd. John Tanner. Tel 289 3154 / 086 302 1376