Dean's Blog

Deans Blog September-October, 2015

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

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

 

 

Wedding Blessing: Saturday 12th September 2015  

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

 

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

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

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

Finnish Bible Society in Bahrain: Wednesday 16th September

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

There were many good things about the visit: meeting a variety of interesting people, both on the delegation and in both cities; engagement with interesting organizations, particularly the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) seeking to bridge the language and cultural gap between the Middle East and the West and doing critical monitoring and analysis of social media; and visiting some very interesting places. I saw the Pope twice, driving past in his Fiat 500 surrounded by big black security cars and police outriders. We visited the National Basilica where the Pope had celebrated mass the day before and I was impressed by the chapels associated with different countries and the variety of cultural expressions of faith. I loved the statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As a group, we attended mass at a Polish Roman Catholic in New York, a very welcoming community on Poland’s National Day – they’d had a visit from the President of Poland earlier in the day – and I was able to speak of the wider religious community’s gratitude and admiration for the Pope, who was having a huge impact on US television, and we sang together the Prayer of St Francis. I managed to get to the National Episcopal Cathedral in Washington on the day we left for New York for part of the Sunday morning Eucharist. In New York, on the recommendation of my daughter Hannah, I was glad to be able to walk the length of the High Line – a freight route on the west side of Manhattan that has been converted into a park.

But there were also major frustrations in the visit too, mostly to do with transport: the average leaving time was an hour and a half after the scheduled time and when leaving on the bus to New York from Washington, we left over two hours after the scheduled time. Ten minutes before the Pope was due to arrive, we were told that we had to return to a non-existent bus, so only two of the party (the rebellious ones – I was one- who said we’d catch a taxi) saw the Pope and we were the first onto the bus!  There were several Roman Catholics in the party for whom this would have been an event of a lifetime and there was nothing more programmed after this event for that day. There were occasions too when it seemed the most important part was a photo shoot for the press in Bahrain and occasionally, particularly at Ground Zero and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, this seemed very superficial and insensitive.

On our return- with Lufthansa- the plane was very late leaving New York – and there was a very tight connection to catch the plane to Bahrain via Riyadh; they very efficiently bussed us across to make the plane, but inevitably the luggage didn’t make it and took a further 48 hours to arrive in Bahrain.

Farewell to Rachel and Bob Kirsopp:  Monday 28th September 2015

In going to the States, I sadly missed the BACC Farewell for Rachel and Bob Kirsopp, though we’d had a staff farewell previously in our home. Rachel has served very faithfully and effectively as our bookkeeper and done a fine job in training up Renitha over these past months to take on the role, for which we are very grateful. Before I left, I’d managed to organize a three fish plate made by a Bahraini artist and to get it to their packers to be wrapped up carefully for New Zealand. We wish them well as they establish themselves in their new home in what looks like a beautiful part of the country

 

TGIT at the British Embassy: Thursday 1st October 2015

Flying in from New York on Wednesday night through Frankfurt and Riyadh, a busy weekend beckoned with our Harvest Festival, but first the end of the month Thursday gathering at the British Embassy, where I am Chaplain, my first opportunity to meet the new British Ambassador, Simon Martin and his wife Sophie. Having just received his “credentials”, authorizing him for his role here, life was beginning to get very busy.

Harvest Festival weekend 2-4th October 2015

With more than 90% of food arriving though our ports by ship, it seemed appropriate to focus on the work of Mission to Seafarers and this was done especially at the Charity Entertainment evening at the British Club in support of MtS, which for us is embodied in the ministry of Stephen in the ports of Bahrain and those who support him as volunteers. Neil Anderson worked very hard to give the evening a new look and it was clearly enjoyed by all who attended.

Stephen and I attende