Saturday, 6 August 2011

Looking back - Saturday 6 August

I’ve been back from Zimbabwe for a week now and have spent the time between my arrival in the UK and today (when I am due to go off on annual leave) sorting the photographs that I took whilst in Zimbabwe and writing the centrespread of the Bridge (the Diocesan newspaper) on it. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t even made a start yet on the audio and video clips I made.

Already there is a real danger that it feels as if the whole of my trip to Zimbabwe was a unreal. I have pictures of the sights and sounds and people in my head but the whole trip was so extraordinary that  I worry that I have misrememebered things.  That’s why our continued links are so important because as I e-mail Ronald, the Diocesan Project Manager in Matabeleland and Simba and his wife, with whom I stayed in Central Zimbabwe Diocese, I know that these are real people, living real lives, which I was privileged to be a part of however briefly.

The Links between our Episcopal Areas and the Diocese in Zimbabwe provide the focus for continued relationships which help us to grow in understanding of each other and of our experiences of the importance of the work of the church where we are.

I have come back knowing that it must be possible to simplify my life, to live with less and to seek God more.   I have returned with a real desire to see how we, in the churches here in Southwark, can begin to be more obviously joyful in our faith and more grateful for all that God has done for us.   But, I have also come back knowing that there is so much more to know about Zimbabwe and its people and that I want to continue to find out about them and to be able to watch and where possible, help as the country recovers from the difficulties of the past decades.

As I head off on holiday I know that part of what I shall do as I sit by the Lake is try to process, more effectively, all that I saw and heard and the many things which I experienced.   I know that I will keep trying to work out how people manage to survive and provide for themselves and their families without any obvious means of income.  I will remember the faces of the smallest children at St Martin’s school on my last morning in Central Zimbabwe Diocese and how they hung out of the window smiling wanting their photographs taken too – I am sure I unwittingly caused chaos in the school that morning.  I can still feel my body wanting to move to the music of the songs and hymns of praise and sense the effect (at the confirmation on the first Sunday) of trying to get my tongue around the long Ndebele words which meant nothing to me but obviously spoke of the wonder of God.

The people have left a strong impression on me but so has the countryside.   Vast swathes of land which no longer produce the food which used to make Zimbabwe (as I was told frequently) ‘the bread basket of Africa’; the long straight roads that we hurtled down from Gweru to Kwe Kwe or Bulawayo; the potholes on the long straight roads and on the smaller roads where Norman, with whom Deirdre and I stayed (with his wife Sippho) whilst in Matabeleland Diocese, would swerve onto the other side of the road so as to avoid the worst of the bumps and then there is the simple vastness of the land and its wildlife.

Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and the people whom we met were gracious, kind, generous, hopeful and full of energy.  But, their lives are not easy and the work that they are trying to do within the churches and the MU is demanding.  There is much still to do and I shall go on thinking about what we here in Southwark can most helpfully do to help to sustain those who are working so hard.   Clearly the resources we send are important but more than that I am convinced that our prayers and concern; the knowledge that we are thinking of them and willing them on helps to ensure that even when times are really hard and things begin to feel impossible the people in the Anglican church in Zimbabwe find the strength to continue to serve God and love one another.  I shall continue to ponder all that we saw and might come back and share some of those thoughts in due course but for now....

God Bless Zimbabwe and let us thank God for the people in Central Zimbabwe and Matabeleland Diocese whom we have meet in the last few weeks and pray for them and all those in the churches throughout Zimbabwe particularly those with whom we have direct Links.

Friday, 5 August 2011

St James Day celebrations - Sunday 24 July

This post got lost between Zimbabwe and here so I am just adding it - thanks to Alison who was on the Matabeleland trip and pointed out that it was missing - but I can't get it into the  right place chronologically as they appear by the date they get onto the blog - not the date you are writing about...

Tomorrow is St James’ Day and so it is fitting that we have spent much of the day at St James School.   We set off early to make it to the school for their big St James’ Day Service.  I’ve seen a number of schools since arriving here in Zimbabwe and on Tuesday will see the third of the Secondary schools here in Matabeleland Diocese.  St James’ is an all girls boarding school and like the other boarding schools we have seen the site is huge and this one is hugely sandy too.   It felt as if I carried around half of the sand on the site with me in my shoes for most of the day which made walking around it enormously tiring.   But, that having been said, it was a great place to visit.

The celebratory Eucharist took place in the sports hall – not that you would have known that this was what it was.  In fact if I am honest it took me a few minutes to grasp that this is what it was.  It was completely full of chairs and there was a wonderful backdrop behind the altar.
The seats gradually filled up as parents and groups from surrounding churches arrived after long and often hard journeys.  As the guests we were given front row seats just in front of the choir which was made up from the local Mothers’ Union.   There was another school choir on the opposite side of the hall and the music reached the very high standards which we had come to expect. Soon after the service began Bishop Richard was invited to introduce us.
The service was full of wonderful music and in his sermon Bishop Cleophas recalled that he had been pleased to be at St James’ last year too.   It is obvious that he enjoys visiting the schools and speaking, as he did today, about the opportunities that education can bring.
Gradually the viewing gallery behind the sports hall filled with more students many of whom carried umbrellas to protect them from the sun (I couldn’t help but grin to myself at the thought that we rarely have the luxury here in England of using an umbrella to keep the sun off us!).
Once the service was over the girls were basically free to spend the rest of the day with their families or relaxing.   We went off on a tour around the school seeing the chapel, classrooms, dormitories, clinic an kitchens.   We saw the loaves of bread which would be used in the school in one day.   I didn’t quite get time to count them to see how many there were but the entire table was absolutely full.  Lunch followed and we were treated to a view of the largest victoria sponge cake I have ever seen, made in the Bishop's honour in the shape of the Diocesan Crest with the Bishop’s mitre on the top.  Once we had finished eating our lunch the two Bishops cut the cake together and pieces of it were served to us and just about everybody else.
After lunch we were able to talk with some of the girls about establishing a link between their school and St Mark’s School in Mitcham and they asked some interesting questions about how the link would work and its benefits.
Wandering around the site it was good to see the girls relaxing with their visitors or listening to music and chatting.  We were all a bit gobsmacked to hear that they get up everyday at 4.30am.  I spent quite a lot of the rest of our tour wondering what could take them so long to do that they needed to get up so early! But, whatever they need to do, they all seemed to be thriving on the 7 and a half hours sleep that they get each night.

Then it was off to the Sisters House for tea.  These are the same order that the Croydon Group had spent time with at St Patrick’s Mission.  It was good to be with them and to say Evening Prayer with them in their little chapel which also gets used by the girls from the school for private prayer.
After evening prayer a group of the girls came to sing for us and then it was dinner time.   I can honestly say that I have rarely been so frequently and well fed!  Full and tired after a long day we said our goodbye’s and thank you’s to the Sisters and to the Headteacher of the school who had shown us around all day and made our way back for the journey home.  I’m looking forward to a really good rest ready for our rest day tomorrow when we are going to the Matopo Hills.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

My last day - Wednesday 27 July

It is hard to imagine that I have already been here so many days that it is already time for me to come home.  Today has been my last day and so it was time to do some more interviews for the materials that I shall be putting together when I get home.   So, I took the opportunity to interview Bishop Cleophas, his wife Soneni, who is President of the Mother’s Union in Matabeleland and Lazarus Mwanza, the Diocesan Secretary.  That’s six people that I have interviewed now whilst here in Zimbabwe and all of them are clear that the biggest challenge for them all in the work that they do is the lack of resources. 

The interviews took place after the group had assembled at the Mothers’ Union Centre to participate in their weekly Wednesday morning service.   The service was led by Fr Issels Ngweyna, the priest of Holy Family St Clare’s, Nkulumene, whom we had met when we visited St Clare’s where he is also priest.

Bishop Richard delivered the homily on the gospel reading, which was the parable of the Prodigal Son.    He said that this was many people’s favourite parable because it speaks of the fact that God never gives up on us and how important it is for us all to know this.

Following the service we had tea – as Soneni said – it isn’t possible to leave a Mother’s Union event without a cup of tea.   It was accompanied by a piece of chocolate cake.   Now, I love chocolate although I am not a lover of chocolate cake.   Amazingly, I have not eaten a single piece of chocolate in the last two weeks and so I was really looking forward to this.   But, I wasn’t quite expecting the cake experience that Felicity’s cake brings.   Felicity and her husband Clyde are Annie Kurk’s hosts and Felicity makes wedding and birthday cakes to help to supplement their income.   Having eaten a slice of her cake I can understand why people come to her!

Resisting a second slice and interviews completed I joined the others in looking at various things that were for sale in the Centre.   I now have to see how to get a very beautiful, but rather large, round basket for bread; a new table cloth for our dining room table and four mugs commemorating the Diocesan Mother’s Union.  (These are one each for members of my Department - Communications and Resources … sorry folks it won’t be a surprise now but I thought I’d tell you about them just in case they don’t make it home!)

After we had all bought the things that we wanted, but probably can’t carry home, we got back into the minibus and were off to St Aidan’s Farm.  The farm was given to the Diocese of Matabeleland in c 1952.  There was a church and a school on the site which moved closer to the village during the years in which there was fighting for independence.  The farm has not been used to raise crops in over fifty years and we were able to photograph the first crop of maize that was grown last year.  The farm has been re-fenced and the two workers now employed on the farm patrol the perimeter to protect the land from squatters.  Last year they planted 4 hectacres of land to begin with and then a further 4 and this year they hope to plant double this amount.

We were able to see a large water tank now filling with water from a bore hole powered by a national pump which USPG provided.   The tank is on a piece of land which was beginning to be prepared for cultivation.  Once a second bore hole is working the land will be further prepared and irrigated so that it can be used to grow vegetables. 

We saw the fields in which the maize grew and will grow again.  Then it was lunch time and we were treated to some traditional food.  There was maize and beans and goat’s meat and liver with sadza.  This was followed by maize and watermelon boiled together which was really nice. 

After lunch we went to see the bore hole which works with the national pump powered by diesel. This is the pump which sends water into the water barrel.   Then onto another bore hole which the Kingston Area Link has helped to fund.   This is the bore hole which Bishop Richard and the late Bishop Wilson Sitshebo spent a great deal of time searching for in one of Bishop Richard’s earlier visits.    Sadly, it is blocked and so the water cannot be pumped up yet.  The Diocese is working on unblocking the hole and, if that fails, it will drill another bore hole right next to it as they know that there is a great water table full of water there. 

It was amazing to see how they were looking down the bore hole using a mirror to reflect the light in order to peer down to see what was causing the blockage about 12 metres down.  It is a very sensible and logical way to bring extra light to the hole but it was extraordinary to see someone carrying a large framed house mirror across the open land far away from any sort of house!

The drive back to the Cathedral was my last one on the bumpy back seat of the mini bus.  I have enjoyed the company of Les Wells and Annie Kurk on the back seat of the bus but I really won’t missed the constant jolts and bone juddering.   Still it was a better place to sit than the seat in front.   You see there is something to lean against in the corner at the back of the bus unlike the seat I occupied briefly one day.  When I fell asleep there I also fell off the seat and slid gracefully to the floor before waking up and trying to get back onto my chair before anyone noticed.   But, they did of course, and so I returned to the back row the next day – which was better for taking photographs anyway!

Dinner was at the Cattleman restaurant and it was good to spend a last evening with the entire group and our hosts and to be able to thank them for the help and support and fellowship that they had offered in the last few days. 

My trip to the two Dioceses in Zimbabwe has been tiring and informative, fascinating and challenging and I am sad to be leaving.  The people here have been so welcoming and helpful and they have an important story of faith and hope which I hope to be able to tell when I get back home.

I’ll post another blog when I make it home and have had time to reflect a bit on the whole experience.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Another school - Tuesday 26 July

This morning began with a visit to St Columba’s school.  Some pupils and staff from the other two Diocesan schools, St James’ and the Cyrene School had come to St Columba’s to join in the service.  Here was our chance to see the size of church that St Clare, Nkulumane, was proposing to build.  I guess the best way to help you to get a sense of the size is to say that it is almost impossible to see the back of the church when you stand at the front.  It seats around 500 people and Bishop Cleophas’ consecration took place there because it seats so many more people than the Cathedral. 

During the service the members of the Kingston Team were again introduced and they gave gifts to the head teachers of the school and the pupils.   The Head boys and girls from each school were asked to come forward and each were given some ‘Kingston Episcopal Area’ pencils and a tube of tennis balls which had been used at the Wimbledon Tournament.  Once again we were treated to some wonderful singing from each of the schools, who took it in turn to lead part of the singing in the service.

After the service, members of the Link Team meet with representatives of classes from the school to discuss the link between St Columba’s and St Cecilia’s school in Wandsworth.  The Revd Annie Kurk presented the Headteacher of the school with a book of various photographs of the school and the classrooms and activities.  She also gave the Headteacher a framed photograph of the building to be put on display and then went on to tell the students something of life at St Cecilia’s.  

The students asked questions about the school and how the link might work before we went onto a tour of the school. It is very different from the two other Diocesan schools that we have seen for a number of reasons.   The site upon which it is set is much smaller than that of St James or Cyrene School.   This may be that this is in part due to St Columba’s being the only day school that we have seen and possibly because of this it is also co-educational.  In a sense it would be true to say that St Columba’s is more like schools which we are used to seeing in Southwark Diocese and elsewhere in the UK, but whatever the reason it was more familiar to us as a building and seemed to be in extremely good condition.   Unlike the other schools St Columba’s also has broadband internet connexion (probably because the site is so much smaller and more urban and thus easier to set up with broadband) and that means that the link between St Cecilia’s and St Columba’s will be easier to get going.  

There are about 800 pupils at St Columba’s with approximately 40 pupils in each class.   There are less than 30 teachers. St Cecilia’s has nearly 900 pupils with around 125 teachers!  Whilst we were meeting with the students concerning the link we were fortunate to meet one pupil who had achieved the highest number of a passes at ‘O’ last year – 10.  We saw science labs and technical drawing rooms which were well equipped, even if the equipment was quite old.

We have now seen all three Diocesan schools in the Matabeleland Diocese and have been impressed in all of them by the commitment and enthusiasm of staff and pupils alike and by the results that they achieve.  Education is incredibly important to the young people that we have seen.   Education has to be paid for here in Zimbabwe and families make sacrifices to ensure that their children get the education that will help them to achieve in the future. 

It was a privilege to see the school and to meet the Headteacher there who runs the school with great authority and good humour.   The discipline at the school is obviously very good and the pupils – as in all the schools that we have seen – are polite and respectful.  They are also full of energy and enthusiasm and joy, as far as we have seen. Their singing, as I have said repeatedly, is without parallel in any school that I have heard in schools in the Southwark Diocese or elsewhere.

 After St Columba’s, we went to the Mother’s Union Centre for lunch and from there back to the Cathedral where the Link Committees from Matabeleland and the Kingston Area met together.   These meetings of both Link Committees (such as the one that Croydon also had with the members of the Committee from the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe) are an important part of Link visits as it gives the Committees the only chances that they have to meet together in person.  Unlike the Croydon Link Group, which met first without the two Bishops and then subsequently with them, the Kingston meeting was with the Bishops and (again unlike the Croydon Team visit) included members of the visit team who are not members of the Link Committee. 

The meeting over we went to Said Evensong in the Cathedral after which I interviewed the Diocesan Projects Officer, Ronald Lumbiwa, who has been helping us to show us around the Diocese and then it was off home to our respective hosts.

Tomorrow is my last full day here and I am looking forward to worship at the Mother’s Union Centre (and one last chance to hear some wonderful singing) and St Aidan’s Farm - one of the Diocesan projects which Ronald, who is trained as an agriculturalist, is helping to manage.

And we saw hippos - Monday 25 July

This was billed as a day of rest and in a way it was.   We haven't seen many churches, just the one where we had dinner, but we have seen hippos and a bit of a giraffe and some impala.  Today we have been in the Matopo Hills and have climbed up to the view of the world where Cecil Rhodes’ grave is.   He had apparently loved the spot so much that he put into his will that he wished to be buried there.  

Cecil Rhodes was an English-born businessman and mining magnate who started the diamond company De Beers, and founded the state of Rhodesia, which was named after him. After independence, Rhodesia separated into the nations of Northern and Southern Rhodesia, later renamed Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively. He set up the provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate. 

On the hillside are also the graves of Leander Starr Jameson (Rhodes’ right-hand man), Southern Rhodesia's first Prime Minister Charles Coghlan and several leading early white settlers. There is also a large memorial to the 34 men who died in the Shangani River massacre of 1893.  The Ndebele tribe crossed the river when the tide was low and the British soldiers who were fighting them tried to cross at another point when the river was high and the Ndebele tribe picked then off one by one.

This high place has a wonderful view over the surrounding countryside and it is easy to understand why Rhodes loved the place as much as he did.   The Matopo Hills is a beautiful spot and although it is not so well organised for tourists as the Gweru Antelope Park had been last week it is another indication of the possibilities for the opening up once aging of the Zimbabwean tourist industry.

From the site of Rhodes grave we went to visit one of the caves with drawings by the San people, dating back between 8 – 12,000 years, and from there following lunch we visited the game park.  We saw five very sleepy hippos by the dammed water and a giraffe and the legs of another.   There were some impala too. The viewing point gave us a splendid view of the park and the possibility of seeing more animals. We didn’t manage to spot any more but that really didn’t matter because the views were awesome once more and we were able to enjoy looking out over the magnificent treetops and across the plains.

Following a brief stop at our hosts for a cup of tea and freshen up we went to St David, Nketa for dinner.  St David’s Church has been complete for a number of years now.   Founded in 1997, the foundation stone for the church was laid in August 1999 by Rt Revd Peter Price when he was Bishop of Kingston.   Consecrated in December 2000 the congregation has been gradually furnishing and have settled on the pews that they now want to have for the church.  These are very nice but very expensive and it will take them a long time to get the fifty that they want but they are making plans for doing this.

At the back of the church was a pile of bags of concrete which are to help to complete the church hall in which we were to have dinner.  It is mostly made but there are things that need to be finished and the church is busily working to achieve this.

Bishop Cleophas invited Bishop Richard to introduce the group from the Kingston Episcopal Area and then we were given a splendid meal.  After this the people from St David’s were introduced and a special round of applause was given to those had cooked dinner.   Bishop Cleophas’ wife, Soneni, encouraged them to sing and sing they did! Hospitality and singing have characterised this trip and the singing at St David’s was no exception.

St David’s priest asked if either of the churchwardens would like to say anything and one of them rose to thank the members of the Kingston team for their visit and went on to assure Bishop Cleophas of their continued support for him and all that he is trying to do in the Diocese of Matabeleland.  He said that with Bishop Cleophas’ leadership he felt sure that success in all their endeavours was assured.  Bishop Cleophas was obviously moved by this speech and thanked the churchwarden warmly speaking of the special place that St David’s has in his heart as some of his early ministry as a Bishop in Matabeleland had been in St David’s.  Bishop Richard, in closing the evening in prayer, said that he had presided at the Eucharist for the first time in Africa at St David’s Church and so it held special memories for him too.    

The rest of the group visiting from Kingston had not yet had the chance to see the church and so as we were leaving they too went inside to have a look.   Pleased by all they saw we all went off home with our hosts to prepare for another day.

Church buildings – but not as we know them! - Saturday 23 July

During our meal together on Friday night Bishop Cleophas had been joking with us about how long it was going to take to get to Binga where we were due to commission a grinding mill at St John’s Mulindi.  We were to leave from Bishop’s House at 7am and travel for four hours on bumpy roads to get there.   It is probably true to say that most of us were not especially looking forward to the trip which while worthwhile felt as if it was going to be very tiring on top of what had already been a very tiring first day.

But it soon became clear that plans had changed, not least because Bishop Cleophas and Bishop Richard had realised how tiring the trip would be as so we were told on Friday evening that we would in fact be meeting at the Cathedral at 10am and visiting some of the churches that we were to have visited the following Sunday.   The idea of this being that we would be able to have a slightly less busy day the following Sunday and that those who were here from parishes which were to have links with parishes in Matabeleland Diocese would have the chance not only to go to their link churches but to spend some real time with them getting to know them.

So, today we have visited: St Joseph, Emganwini, St Clare, Nkulumane, St Katharine and Kingsdale.  All these churches have building projects and are projects which will be supported by the 2011 Bishop’s Lent Call which was for Zimbabwe.  Other building projects to be supported include St Anne’s, Pumula South and St Paul’s, Cowdray, which will be visited by Link members on Sunday 31 July.  Sadly, I leave this group (having travelled for two weeks through two Dioceses) on Thursday 28 and so won’t see them.  I hope that others will bring me news and pictures!

At St Joseph, Emganwini, the priest and some church members showed us the places in which they are meeting now and walked us around the boundaries of the site of the plot of land which they own for the building of a church (and in due time a Rectory and Church Hall – this latter to be a place to meet but also to provide rental income.)  At the moment the church meets in a shelter created of scaffolding-type poles and a corrugated tin roof.  The Sunday School meets under a slightly smaller version of the same!  The plot of land is literally right next to another church.  But, having heard stories of one church in Central Zimbabwe Diocese which has had to continue to meet at 7am because its Pentecostal neighbours meet at 10am and are so much more noisy than the Anglican congregation that they drown them out, I was pleased to hear that the services at St Joseph’s are finished by the time the services at the other church begin!

We were able to look at plans for the new church and also to see plans for the church toilets.   It is hard to underestimate the importance of building toilets when building a church as many will have had a long or difficult journey and the services are often long.  The plans for the church had been passed and Bishop Cleophas encouraged them to begin building before the permissions ran out.   He told them especially to start on the toilets.

 After our tour of the site and look at the plans and Bishop Richard had prayed for the work of the church and its people, the Mother’s Union (as we had now come to expect) produced refreshments for us offering us cold drinks and cake.  Zimbabwean hospitality is incredible.  People who had been on one of these Link visits before had said it was good but nothing that they had said prepared me for the warmth of personal welcome that we have received from everyone.  It is an extraordinary experience visiting the home of someone whom you don’t know and finding yourself cared for and fed and taxied around in a way which I could not ever have expected - even taking into account what everyone had said.   Wherever we go we seem to be given food and drink…  I hope that I can still fit into my clothes when we get home!

After St Joseph’s we drove on to St Clare, Nkulumane.  Here, there is not only a toilet block already but there is a church too and another block in which the Mother’s Union can cook.   This church too has plans for building as it wants to extend to become bigger.   Once again we looked around the site and saw where the church would be.   The plans for the three churches which we saw were very similar.  They are quite simple structures which vary in size according to the plot of land which has been acquired, what else needs to be built on the site and ultimately, I imagine, on the projected size of the congregation.  Here the Church Council has decided to build a big church and when I say big I really do mean BIG.  They described it to us as the same size as St Columba church which seats 500 – more of that in another blog later when we have visited it! – and so we asked why they wanted to build such a big church and they explained that they had seen that other churches had had to build extensions and so were just going to go big at the beginning.   There is a logic to this of course, but one problem with this way of thinking is that it will make the building very expensive to construct and thus mean that it will take a long time as money has to be raised for each stage of the building. 

The churchwarden told us that having just finished the toilet block (which is awaiting a final connection before it is usable) the church is completely broke.   What money they gather they plan to use to paint the toilet block.  Bishop Cleophas, however, encouraged them to use any money they had to begin work on the church as they have planning permission and it will be important to start the work before this runs out.  They hope to build around the existing church structure so that they will not be without a place of worship whilst the work is being done and will then knock down what they have when some of the new church has been finished.

It is amazing to see the commitment of people to making sure that there are places of worship for those in their communities.  After lunch, once again provided by the Mother’s Union, the members of the MU sang for us before we left to visit our next and final church site.

St Katharine, Kingsdale is a beautiful but very small church which has existed since veterans who returned from the Second World War were given land upon which to build and live and they built the church as they were building. It feels like a place in which prayer has been offered and answered, it is peaceful and well kept and loved.  But it is too small.  So, the parish council has decided to build a new bigger church alongside it.  We were all delighted to hear that they will leave the existing church building as a small chapel which will have a roofed passageway joining it to the new bigger church when it is built.

Once again Bishop Cleophas encouraged them to begin the work on the building before the planning permission runs out.  He urged them to begin to dig as they saved for the cost of the foundations of the church. 

Wherever we went Bishop Cleophas encouraged his congregations and thanked them for all the work that they were doing in raising money to build new churches.  He assured them of help and support from the Diocese and via the Diocese from the Kingston Link but most especially he encouraged them to own the projects for themselves to raise the money necessary for the building work and to begin to move ahead to bring their plans to fruition.

The churches will all be of a similar design and will differ in size and finish according to the way in which the different parishes wish.  But, they will all grow out of the real conviction that the work of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe can help to change lives and build the Zimbabwe of the future.  It has been a privilege to see the plans and to hear of the work of the priests and people under difficult and harsh circumstances and as we have prayed with them as we left it was with the sure hope that God will bless the endeavours of Bishop Cleophas, his priests and people.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Visiting Diocesan projects - Friday 22 July

Using the mini bus, which will be our mode of transport for most of our visit, we set off to visit various places where the Diocese of Matabeleland has projects, some of them with help from the Kingston Episcopal Area Link.  First of all we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rangemore where we were able to see a bore hole working which will help to transform the work of the church in that area.   There is now a submersible pump which leads to a 500 litre tank which provides water for the church and for the farm which they are beginning to make on the land around the church. 

The new tank now means that the church no longer has to use the old petrol tanks to store the water that the pump draws from the bore hole.  They now have someone living on the land and have employed a farmer who was watering prior to planting seedlings.   The pleasure of those whom we met at these developments was palpable and it is extraordinary to see how much change a bore hole and pump can make to the peoples lives.

From there we went to Cyrene Mission to visit the school.    We met the Principal and Acting Headteacher and some of the senior teaching staff.  We were able to look around the school buildings and visit the dormitories.  The school could provide schooling for 500 boys but at present there are only 385 students.   The Principal and Acting Head are both hoping to increase the number in the near future.  The school was founded by Fr Paterson in 1939 but it burned down in 1965 and had to be restarted afresh.  It began as a school for ‘naughty Anglican boys’ to teach them how to live but gradually expanded to become a school based on helping the boys to be spiritually and socially strong.   Paterson believed that teaching them about art, religion studies and agriculture would give them all they needed for life.       

We were able to see the building which was the original heart of the school. The Acting Principal explained that they hope to be able to regenerate the original building as an administrative block. 

We were also able to see the Clinic which is in the grounds of Cyrene.   It has a catchment of c1500 people from 42 local villages from a radius of 4 kilometres.   The Clinic offers family planning advice, an immunisation programme and help in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS from mother to child and other educational and basic first level medical care.  In addition, the Clinic looks after the basic medical needs of the boys at the school. 

But, the Chapel at the school is the most surprising building on the site to those, like me, who had not been forewarned.  It is full of artwork depicting Biblical stories which was made by earlier students as the school was an art college.   It is an extraordinary building which is peaceful and full of wonderful evocative paintings including an icon of Bernard Mizeki, the first Zimbabwean Christian martyr.

It is hardly surprising then that the artworks painted onto the walls of the art block are also quite remarkable and evocative depicting the students’ hopes for the future.

Following lunch Bishop Richard, Alison Warner and Annie Kurk spoke to some of the students about the link between Cyrene School and Archbishop Tenison’s School in the Kingston Episcopal Area.     

As soon as the Cyrene School has its Internet connection up and running then the details of how the link between the schools will be finally worked out and the link can start to work properly and students can begin to share their hopes, struggles and learnings.

From the school we went to Cyrene Farm.   The Farm has 292 cows (four of them new this week) and five working bulls.  It also has broiler chickens which are grown for food.  We were shown one bore hole which had been drilled and which had been found to not have enough water beneath it to be viable and another which is working well with its new pump.  In order for the farm to expand it will be necessary to drill more successful bore holes.

The farm is vast and so there is lots of game on it and people come in to shoot leopards and other game for which they pay a trophy fee which helps to also fund the work of the farm.

After the farm it was back to our hosts to freshen up, prior to a service of welcome for the visitors from the Kingston Episcopal Area.  The service was a choral evensong and during it Bishop Cleophas and Bishop Richard discussed together the nature of partnership and the journey upon which the Kingston Episcopal Area and Matabeleland Diocese are embarked.   Both spoke of the importance of learning from and praying for each other and of the joy in seeing the link grow from strength to strength.  Bishop Richard then introduced the team from the Kingston Episcopal Area.

After a cup of tea in the Church Hall, surrounded by the portraits of previous Bishops of Matabeleland, the group left for dinner at a local hotel and then home to bed - ready for another busy day.