It’s always good when someone asks you a question that comes from left field, as it were.  I was attending the Resolve course at Southwark Cathedral last week.  It was the third of four sessions and we were looking at the soul after looking at the body and the mind in previous meetings.  In the conversations that happened afterwards one of the members of the small group that I was in asked, in a very interested way, why those of us who were Christians prayed.  It was a good question because it made me really think about what was a reasonable answer I could give.


Durer’s image of praying hands

Others in the group gave their responses, a lot about the ongoing conversation that we have with God, the idea that it is always there in the background, in the way that T S Eliot talks about it in his poem ‘Little Gidding’, part of the ‘Four Quartets’.

And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

There was also of course something about the kind of ordered prayer that we engage in in church, the words that we’re given to pray.  I made the point that I was obviously ‘paid’ to pray, that it was part of what I’m required and called to do on behalf of the church.  But all the talk also made me think about how important prayer is, to me, as a response to situations where I simply cannot do anything else.

The news emerging from Zimbabwe is disturbing and distressing.  The Diocese of Southwark has had a partnership link with four of the five dioceses in that country for many years and the Cathedral is part of that, having a direct partnership link with the Diocese of Masvingo.  That is the most recently created of the dioceses, in the rural south.  The people we have been able to get to know are simply wonderful led by Bishop Godfrey and his wife Albertina.  Coupled with that is the relationship that has grown through the Cathedral Shop with the ArtPeace project based in Harare.  The artists who produce the stone carvings we sell are a resilient and talented bunch of people, supported by the Jesuits, and through our contact here in the UK we get to hear their very real stories of dealing with the poverty that has blighted the country.

The recent protests and the violent response of the army and police has affected all these groups of friends.  Members of artists families have been beaten and some have taken refuge in the Jesuit house.  The situation in Masvingo, away from the capital, is difficult as well.  And what can we do?

Zimbabwe prayer

The prayer vigil underway

Well, we have been praying.  After the Choral Eucharist last Sunday members of the congregation spent time before the map of Zimbabwe that is in the nave of the Cathedral holding a prayer vigil.  Few words were said, most of the time was spent in silence, candles were lit and people focused their attention on the map and the people that lay behind it – holding it all before God.  The wonderful thing is that the people for whom we are praying are so encouraged by the response that we have made.  They believe in the power of prayer and the promises of Jesus.

‘Truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matthew 18.19-20)

It’s an encouragement to pray and an encouragement to agree on the words that we want to pray, agree on the purpose of our prayer.  So when I was asked to write a prayer for others to pray in response to the crisis I was delighted to do so and even more thrilled when I learnt that our friends in Zimbabwe are also praying, using the same words.  Please pray with us – I’m not sure what else we can do at the moment – and I believe that this is an effective response in itself.  God’s will be done.

May there be … no cry of distress in our streets. (Ps 144.15)

Loving God,
strong and merciful,
we hear the cry
of our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe
and we place them into your hands.
May the hungry be fed,
the sorrowful consoled,
the injured healed,
the hopeless encouraged
and the dead have new life in you.
May justice flow like a river
and may your peace rest upon them.


A lady called Dorcas

I have just received the latest news from Zimbabwe about our friends at ArtPeace.  Those of you who follow this blog may remember that as part of our commitment to our sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe we sell stone carving in our shop produced by artists in this project. The money goes directly to them.

As part of the relationship that we have built up we receive regular updates about the situation in the country and some stories about some of the people involved.  I asked if I could share this particular story with you and they were happy that I do this.  I was especially touched as the name ‘Dorcas’ and the story of the woman in the Acts of the Apostles who has that name (Acts 9.36-42) mean a great deal to me.  The love that the biblical Dorcas received and the love that she showed to her neighbours is deeply affecting.  I hope that our friend in Zimbabwe receives similar love.

This is her story.


Dorcas – a proud woman in a difficult situation

‘This lady called Dorcas, lives in the wet lands between Tafara and Mabvuku suburbs. Her family were evicted from a farm in Bindura by a government minister after their employer was removed from the farm. They now live in poverty. Her husband ran away leaving her with 2 children and she is 6 months pregnant. I was touched by her story. She said since they were evicted to this wet area, they were promised cement and bricks to build a better foundation for their cabin house but without success. They, including Grandma Ruth, sleep on a plastic sheet on top of a mud floor to prevent blankets from getting wet – hence the need to lift their cabin off the wet ground.’

Keep Dorcas, her children and her unborn child in your prayers.

God bless Zimbabwe
protect her children
transform her leaders
heal her communities
and grant her peace.
for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Farewell 2017

Like you, perhaps, I’ve been thinking over this last year.  It hasn’t been an easy one and I’m not weeping as we approach the beginning of 2018.  So just a quick review of each month as far as it has been for me.

January – the bells came back to Southwark Cathedral.  That was a fantastic event and a great service when the Bishop baptised two of them and rededicated the rest.  I think it was seeing those twelve bells, dressed and lined up down the nave which is the lasting impression.  Or could it have been meeting the Revd Kate Bottley who then came with the ‘Songs of Praise’ crew to film them being raised to their place in the tower?


With lovely Kate

February – I went off for a tour of Zimbabwe with Bishop Christopher, the Archdeacon of Southwark and the Bishop’s Press Officer.  I’d been to Southwark Cathedral’s own link Diocese of Masvingo but never to the whole of the country.  Amazing.  But who would have thought that this same year we would see the fall of President Mugabe and the Archbishop of York replacing his dog-collar?  The highlight though, I have to say, in the midst of all that amazing hospitality and wonderful worship, was visiting St Augustine’s Penhalonga, where the Community of the Resurrection had been based, and walking into a church I knew so well from photographs and now seeing it in all is splendour.


The basilica of the bush

March – the Consecration of Karowei Dorgu as Bishop of Woolwich was a wonderful occasion.  The lack of diversity amongst the bishops was being addressed as far as gender was concerned but not with regard to ethnicity. Bishop Karowei was, and is, a clear sign of hope.  But then that same month the attack on Westminster Bridge and the killing of people there and then of PC Keith Palmer, doing his job, defending our democracy, was a shock to the system.  Hope all of a sudden seemed to be under attack.


If the hat fits …

April – a month that should have been focused on Holy Week and Easter began with us hosting the funeral of PC Keith Palmer in Southwark Cathedral.  Cressida Dick became the Commissioner that same day so that she was in post to represent the whole of the Metropolitan Police Service at the funeral.  It fell to me to preach.  It is hard to describe what that feels like, knowing the streets and bridges were full of people, listening.  All I could do was remember that this was a funeral and that Keith’s widow and daughter would be there, listening.

May – one of the joys of life over the last eight years has been to serve the Society of Catholic Priests as their Rector General.  So it fell to me to visit SCP in Ireland and to encourage those few priests there who would identify as coming from the ‘catholic’ tradition.  It was a great visit.  What a wonderful country and people!  Later in the year, however, my time as Rector General came to an end.  But what a privilege it has been to visit and speak to members of our Society – women and men, black and white, gay and straight, single and partnered, with differing abilities – serving the church faithfully in the places to which God has called them.

June – the month began as any other and then the evening of 3rd June would see an event which would affect the whole of the remainder of the year.  The terrorist attack that evening on London Bridge and the Borough Market left 8 people dead and 48 people injured.  It also left a community scarred and changed.  Being unable to get into the Cathedral for almost a week meant that we had to learn how to be ‘the Cathedral’ differently; the local community came together with a new strength; we learnt about each other as people.  It has changed me – for the better I hope – and given me a new appreciation of my Muslim brothers and sisters.  Speaking at Friday Prayers at our local mosque in the week after the attack was a privilege I never thought would be mine and then hosting the long planned Grand Iftar in the Cathedral ten days after the attack has created new relationships and a greater understanding.  But at such cost!


Three of the great Street Pastors who cared for us after the attack

July – General Synod is always a feature of my year but in 2017 the Synod in York became very significant.  Had the tide turned? Was there a different feel? The debates on welcoming transgender people and the banning of conversion therapy with regard to homosexual (in evangelical speak ‘same-sex attracted people) in church were powerful, brave and decisive. The irony was that at the same time a group of 50 people including 15 priests from Southwark Cathedral and the Diocese were marching in the London Pride parade, with pride.  It was a delicious and painful irony, a vignette of where we are as a church.


Marching with Pride

August – I turned 60 at the end of July.  That was a fantastic occasion – great to see so many friends and family as we celebrated.  And then it was off to Spain for my usual ten days in the sun, catching up on reading and simply relaxing.  The highlight? I suppose visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona now that it is almost complete.  Bonkers it is, but impressive bonkers.

September – it’s always one of those getting back to work months and this September was like that.  The terrorist attack in June meant that I was unable to lead the Cathedral Pilgrimage in the steps of Martin Luther, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  But in September we held a reunion for all the pilgrims – so I got to see the photos and hear the stories!

October – as part of my first sabbatical in 2006 I visited Tamil Nadu in India – I’d always wanted to go back to that country and see another area.  A group of us had planned for a long time to do this and so in October eight of us, plus our organiser and guide, headed off for 15 days in Rajasthan.  It was everything we had hoped for – lovely people, wonderful sights, new experiences, delicious food, warmth and sunshine and something memorable.  For me it was the Taj Mahal, the scaffolding removed and there, resplendent, perfect, a monument to love and unsurpassed by the skill of humanity.



November – we use the nave of the Cathedral in many ways and occasionally for grand dinners.  One such dinner happened in November.  The chairs were cleared and round tables installed, the flowers were arranged and the lighting perfected, the candles lit and people gathered.  The event was the retirement of one of the Partners at EY (Ernst and Young) who have offices not far from the Cathedral.  Why mention this?  Well, the person retiring lives with a bad stammer but had not let this prevent him living his life and progressing in his profession and had set up a stammering network in the firm which is the largest such network in the UK. He spoke and sang at the dinner and with such confidence – it was very moving, and humbling.  And why at Southwark? Because at a memorial service for a colleague that we hosted he was asked to read and doing so was the beginning of a journey which has brought him to where he is, and praying in that holy place is one thing that has sustained him throughout.  Tremendous.

December – it is my favourite month and I make no secret of that.  We welcomed thousands of people to the Cathedral for carol services and concerts, as we do every year.  But this year people wanted to remember the events I have mentioned, but also Finsbury Park Mosque, the Manchester Arena, Grenfell Tower and the atrocities and the disasters that have happened in so many communities around the world during the year and that have given this year its particular feel and flavour.  All of it was brought to that vulnerable baby in the crib, all our own vulnerability that we have learnt so much of together, in the hard times and the good times of 2017 and that knowledge that God has been with us and God is with us.


Ending the year in the Borough Market


So where do we go from here? There is only one direction and that is forwards.  It has been hard but it has not been all bad.  But all I can do is remember the words of perhaps the most famous poem for the turn of the year, the one that caught the public attention and the popular imagination when King George VI quoted it in his 1939 Christmas broadcast to the British Empire. It was written a number of years earlier by Minnie Louise Haskins.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

And that is my prayer and that is my intention – to put my hand in God’s hand as we walk into 2018.

Hand of God, hold us.
Hope of God, sustain us.
Vision of God, direct us.
Love of God, enfold us.
Peace of God, fill us.

Symbolic acts

Almost ten years ago Archbishop John Sentamu was on the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ and cut up his dog collar saying that he wouldn’t wear it again until Mugabe was no longer President of Zimbabwe.  It was a powerful and symbolic act that captured the imagination of people. Since then I’ve seen the Archbishop on many occasions – at services, in the closed rooms of the Crown Nominations Commission, at his home at Bishopthorpe in York, at Synod in that city or in Westminster – and I can honestly say that he has never had a bit of plastic around his neck.  However important the occasion, whoever was in the congregation, the absence of that bit of gleaming white plastic was obvious.  Perhaps now the collar will be reinserted.


There goes the collar! (Picture BBC)


It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, these days since it looked as though Mugabe would be going immediately and then appeared to be hanging on and then, finally, in the face of impeachment, went.  My thoughts and prayers have been with my friends in that wonderful but beleaguered country.

I’ve been thinking about the priests from Zimbabwe that I spent time with at St George’s College in Jerusalem last November.  We were studying together, clergy from the Diocese of Southwark and clergy from our link dioceses of Matabeleland, Central Zimbabwe, Manicaland and Masvingo, with clergy as well from the Diocese of Harare.  It was great getting to know each other on the neutral territory of the Holy Land and a great preparation for my return to Zimbabwe in February of this year.  With Bishop Christopher, the Bishop of Southwark, as well as the Archdeacon of Southwark, Jane Steen and the Director of Communications, Wendy Robins, we travelled around each of those five dioceses, an opportunity for me to see all the cathedrals as well as visiting a variety of projects.  As ever it was amazing to witness the resilience and sheer joy and hopefulness of the people.  Their generosity knew no bounds as they fed us like honoured guests with food, I suspect, that they could hardly spare.

But what I have also been thinking about in these days has been assembly at Cathedral School.  Each week one of the clergy from the Cathedral goes into our parish primary school, to do, as clergy across the church do, lead assembly.  Assemblies and expectations of the clergy have changed in the 34 years I have been ordained when I began leading assembly at St James’ Middle School, in Manston on the outskirts of Leeds.  We may have taken in a visual aid but that was it – the rest relied upon us talking.  But now I have to go armed with a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate what I’m going to do.  It’s not a bad thing and I really enjoy both preparing and delivering the assemblies.  But whatever it is that we are thinking about we conclude with a prayer for Zimbabwe.  The children have learnt it off by heart and with hands together and eyes closed they say a variant of the Prayer for Africa.

God bless Zimbabwe
protect her children
transform her leaders
heal her communities
and grant her peace.
for Jesus Christ’s sake.

That regular praying for Zimbabwe which takes place in the Cathedral School and at the map of Zimbabwe in the nave of the Cathedral, is not a symbolic act, of course, not like the statement made by the Archbishop, destroying his collar.  As we pray we believe that it will make a difference.  And it has, certainly to our friends in Zimbabwe.  I have told them about assembly and about all the children caught up in prayer.  And then I filmed a bunch of children at one of the schools in Masvingo greeting the Southwark children with a rapturous greeting. The children back home loved it – they saw the faces of the children they were praying for!


Children from one of our link schools


I love the Letter of James.  It always feels to me that it could have been written yesterday, so relevant, so direct, so challenging, whether it be about how the rich treat the poor, how the tongue can run away with itself, or where our priorities lie.  And then in the final chapter James talks about prayer.

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. (James 5.16b-18)

That fervent prayer made a difference and we believe that prayer, beyond being symbolic of our love and concern, is effective, it changes things.  Sometimes that is hard to see, very hard to see, but I do not lose faith that in God’s season things change and the harvest comes.

Whether or not ++Sentamu takes up his collar again we will continue to pray that prayer. As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’

The people of Zimbabwe have stepped out, now their leaders have to step up and we need to pray for them and journey with them. So join the children of Cathedral School and pray with us.

God bless Zimbabwe
protect her children
transform her leaders
heal her communities
and grant her peace.
for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Putting the pieces together

I have to apologise.  After my last post from Masvingo there’s been the blog equivalent of ‘radio silence’.  The simple explanation for that is that after we left Masvingo on Wednesday there was either no Wi-Fi or no time! So I need to put the final pieces together of the Zimbabwean journey that we’ve now completed through the five Anglican dioceses.

One of the themes of the visit, and indeed of the life of the church in Zimbabwe and I suspect in other parts of the world in which the church has been formed by missionaries, is the presence of ‘missions’.  In both the diocese of Masvingo and the Diocese of Manicaland which we went on to, there are significant missions.

The first we saw was Christ the King, Daramombe, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the diocese and perhaps the Zimbabwean church.  This was a return visit for me and a very welcome one.  The mission comprises a primary school, residential secondary school, a clinic, a church and, of course, attendant agricultural projects.  The mission is more like a village in itself, providing for the lives of the local people and people from a wider area the things they need, practically and spiritually.  As before we were met at the gates of the mission by a corps of drum majorettes who led us triumphantly into the secondary school and to a very hot hall in which the whole school was assembled awaiting our arrival.


Being marched to assembly


It was an impressive sight, as was the ‘computer village’ now nearing completion.  USPG are funding this latest development which will provide the students at every level with state of the art computer facilities for learning.  It was wonderful to see.


Touring the new ‘computer village’


The visits we made in the Diocese of Manicaland were often to a school alongside which something else was happening.  So at the Holy Family School we saw the construction of new blocks to enable the school to expand and provide residential facilities.  At Mary Magdalene’s School we saw a maize project covering 17 hectares of land that will provide for the local schools and communities in an effort to increase food security.


Building new blocks


But the place I wanted to go to was St Augustine’s Penhalonga.  Again, this is a mission in the diocese, a few miles outside of Mutare. In that mission there is both a primary and secondary school, a convent, and a magnificent church.  It’s a school that achieves excellent results and has a high reputation.  But the reason I wanted to go was because of the association with the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield.


The magnificent St Augustine’s Penhalonga


When I was at the College of the Resurrection to be formed for priestly ministry I would often idle away time looking at the college photo albums.  For those now there I feature in the pages that cover the years 1980-83! But earlier in the albums were pictures from the life of the Community in Africa.  CR was present and significant in both South Africa and, what was then, Rhodesia.  The focus of their life in what is now Zimbabwe was at St Augustine’s and I remembered looking at the black and white pictures of the twin towered church so reminiscent of the community church in West Yorkshire.

As we drove down the dirt road that leads to the mission all of a sudden, through the trees, I saw the two towers and it was a really emotional moment.  Drawing into the grounds and before the west end of the church is amazing.  This enormous, brick built, cathedral-like structure, is awe inspiring.  We did the formalities, met the Headmaster and the Chaplain and were then led into the church.  What we found was not just a magnificent basilica in the heart of Africa but a church filling up with students.  The Practice, I suppose begun by CR (it was so reminiscent of life at the College and Community), was for the young people to undertake their private prayers, meditation and devotions in the church before the evening Office.  Two boys were knelt in silent adoration before the domed tabernacle in the side chapel where the Sacrament is reserved.  The nave was full of children praying silently, preparing for Evensong.


The Blessed Sacrament altar


I wandered around, delighted to be there.  It felt a bit like coming home, coming to a very special place, a very special mission, God’s mission for God’s people – a final piece in the jigsaw.

Alongside the church is the Convent where we met the eight Sisters who are resident there.  I was asked to visit an elderly sister, Sister Hilda, who was ill in bed.  Would I pray with her before I left, I was asked. I was led to her room and there was the elderly sister in bed, in her habit, and it was a privilege to pray for her healing, to lay hands on her and bless her.


With the sisters at Penhalonga


The Zimbabwean journey ended for us in Harare. That diocese if actually linked with the Diocese of Rochester but we took the opportunity to meet Bishop Chad and some of his clergy, not least the Dean and those who went to Jerusalem with clergy from Southwark and Rochester, to study at St George’s College.  It was fantastic to hear what the church is doing and planning to do in that part of what is a fantastic country.

So, from the ‘Smoke that thunders’ through five dioceses, along miles of roads, many destroyed by the floods that have followed the drought, we’ve seen more maize than I’ve ever seen before, thousands of chickens and hundreds of pigs being reared, even more children being educated, women being empowered through the work of the Mothers’ Union to serve their communities and feed their families, missions making Christ known and a church in very good heart.

Next year the nation engages in fresh elections and people are looking to those and praying for a peaceful expression of their hopes for the future.  It was wonderful for me to meet my five fellow Deans and see the cathedrals in which they serve, to meet the friends I made in Jerusalem and talk about how we can continue to study together and learn from each other, to experience the hospitality of people who’ve very little but from hearts overflowing with love will wash your hands and sit you at their table and feed you richly.


Overflowing generosity


It was that hospitality that reminded me so much of an episode in St Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus has been invited to supper at the home of Simon the Pharisee.  A women turns up, a notorious woman, who ministers to Jesus much to the shock of the other guests at the table.  But it’s the comparison that Jesus draws between Simon and the woman that’s so important.

‘I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment ….. she has shown great love.’ (Luke 7.44-47)

The love that I experienced, the care, the generosity, was Christ-like.  It’s a challenge to me, as was the breadth and reality of their concept of mission, their devotion to the Lord through prayer and praise and the sacraments, their passion for responding to the needs of their society, their deep down optimism that in Christ all will be well. We have so much to learn.  Putting these pieces together has been one lesson for me.

This is the prayer that we pray each day at the map of Zimbabwe in the nave of Southwark Cathedral and that the children pray each day at assembly in Cathedral School.  Pray with us – please – for the great people of Zimbabwe.

God bless Zimbabwe;
protect her children,
transform her leaders,
heal her communities,
and grant her peace,
for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

What a difference..

.. two years makes!  It’s two years since I was in our link diocese of Masvingo.  This is the youngest of the five Zimbabwean Anglican dioceses.  In fact the diocese is 15 years old this year and we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Cathedral link next year.  This morning we left the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe and drove south to the city of Masvingo.

Bishop Godfrey and his wife, Albertina, met us outside St Michael’s Cathedral.  It was great to see so many friends waiting for us to arrive.  What was planned for the morning were opportunities for Bishop Godfrey and Bishop Christopher to meet, for me to meet Fr Gerald, the Cathedral Rector (the Bishop is acting as Dean at the present time), for Jane Steen, the Archdeacon of Southwark, to meet with the 6 archdeacons from this diocese and, finally, for Wendy Robins, Fr Fungayi and me to meet as we had all been in Jerusalem in November.  These meetings were fantastically useful and especially in learning that we are all facing the same challenges, but to different degrees.


Bishop Godfrey at the bore hole


In the afternoon we headed out of town to the Transfiguration Centre.  This is a food security project which aims to give skills to villagers in farming and animal husbandry.  There are fields of maize, sheds of chickens, pigs and goats.  We came to this centre two years ago and this is a project that the congregation at Southwark Cathedral has been supporting.  When we were last here the bore hole needed to be sunk to a deeper level to find water, the fields were empty and the project needed to up its game.  There has been a transfiguration! The bore hole with its pump was working; the maize was tall and full of heads of corn; the chicks were healthy, the pigs well looked after and the goats delightful.  A tractor is there to make farming more efficient and in one of the chicken houses a new Anglican congregation gathers for worship in the months when the chickens are not in the shed.  It really is wonderful to see all of this.


The chicken shed church


What was particularly encouraging was that in addition to growing the maize, healthy and strong, a new congregation is also being grown.  I was reminded of a passage from St Mark’s Gospel

‘The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’ (Mark 4.28-29)

Jesus is not just talking about farming but about building the kingdom, growing the kingdom and seeing a good harvest.  We saw that happening – food security being addressed but also doing what we are called to do, to make Christ known and bring his people to worship.

Lord of the harvest,
for the harvest of the field,
for the harvest of the kingdom,
we thank you.


Those who know me will be aware that I’m appalling at speaking languages other than English – and sometimes even that is challenging!  I was therefore a bit surprised when I went home to see my Dad the other day and he presented me with all my school reports that my Mum had carefully kept in the ‘deed box’ and in reading through them I discovered that my highest grade was for French!  How did that happen!

Similarly I was surprised today when I finally learnt a word of Shona, the local language, the first language for many, of the people we are visiting here in Zimbabwe.  I was really grateful to learn that ‘mazviita’ (pronounced mash-vita) is Shona for ‘thank you’.

Cooking sadza in industrial proportions

And it was timely as I wanted to say a big thank you, a big mazvitta for today.  Most of the day involved a visit to St Patrick’s Mission.  It’s a large mission owned and run by the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe that lies about 30 kms outside of Gweru. The first part to be built was a primary school.  But now there’s a secondary school for 800 boys and girls (borders and day pupils) through to the end of the VIth form, a clinic (where we met a mother and her twin boys born this very morning) and a connecting hospital almost ready to open, a convent of the Community of the Holy Fire, a retreat centre and a farm with cows and maize and bees.

What is amazing is the vision and commitment and determination of the people to succeed, sometimes, often, against tremendous odds.  They have new ideas constantly for how to make the place even better.  My caution that often stops me doing things is not something that affects them at all – they simply go for it and, after all, what else can they do.

Bishop Christopher meets the bees

I was thinking about a verse from the book of Proverbs

‘Without vision the people perish.’ (Proverbs 29.18)

If it was simply down to vision then this people would undoubtedly flourish. They were a challenge to my lack of courage, my own lack of vision and often that lack of passion that our church exhibits.  Mazvitta, sisters and brothers of St Patrick’s Mission.  At the end of an almost impassable road, right there where the bush encroaches on otherwise fertile ground you are building the kingdom and it is a blessing for all of us.

Holy Fire,
burn within us
and fill us with vision,
and passion
for your kingdom.

The smoke that thunders

It’s hard to describe just how fantastic the Victoria Falls are.  They are massive yet you seem to be able to get so close to the water pouring over the edge as the Zambezi drops a distance of some 355 feet down into the gorge below.  A cloud of water droplets is thrown into the air and rises constantly from the falls.  One ‘factoid’ you may like is that the quantity of water needed by Johannesburg for two days descends over the falls in just one minute.  The real name of the waterfall is Mosi-oa-Tunya which means, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ and the falls live up to their traditional name – the smoke rising and the thunderous noise sounding.


Our first sight of the thunderous smoke


At the present time the waters are swollen as a result of much higher rainfall than is usual.  The irony is that Zimbabwe was suffering as a result of drought, now she suffers as a result of the floods.  As we say ‘It never rains but it pours.’

I was reminded of the psalmist, who obviously knew a thing or two about the grandeur of waterfalls,

Deep calls to deep
   at the thunder of your waterfalls.
(Psalm 42.7)

It could have been written of this place. It is said by some to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and standing there, transfixed by the sight of so much water and overawed by the sound it makes you give thanks for the sheer wonder of creation. Deep truly does call to deep – you never escape the sound of the waters in this place.


The statue of Livingstone


So this is where this journey through Zimbabwe has begun for us.  Victoria Falls lies on the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia and the Zambezi Bridge spans the divide, built in 1905 under the direction of Cecil Rhodes. And it was here that David Livingstone came on 17 November 1855, perhaps the first European to see the falls.  His statue still looks out over them.  But we are here not to do sightseeing, though this first day has been wonderful, but to visit the dioceses, their cathedrals, parishes and their many projects with which we in the Diocese of Southwark and at the Cathedral are linked.  So there will be plenty to see and tell you about.

But here where the smoke thunders we glimpsed something of the awesome nature of God.

Creator God,
in a single drop of water,
in a mighty waterfall,
we glimpse the delicacy
and the awesomeness
of all that you have made.

News from Zimbabwe

I have just received this message from a represntative of the artists in Zimbabwe whose work we sell in the Cathedral Shop.  Bishop Christopher was visiting Zimbabwe and found time to visit Artpeace, the organisation which works with the local arists.

Bishop Christopher and the artists

Bishop Christopher and the artists

SOUTHWARK VISIT ARTPEACE!  It’s not every day I receive a phone call from a bishop but two weeks ago, Christopher Chessun, the Bishop of Southwark rang before leaving for Zimbabwe. He was moved by baby Peter whose death was mentioned in Dean Andrew Nunn’s blog and on Twitter. Fr David Harold-Barry said: ’For a few days, baby Peter became quite famous. So last Sunday 23rd Feb. the bishop visited the people whose stories he had heard and whose sculptures find their way to the Cathedral shop 6000 miles away. It was a marvellous visit full of warmth and concern on the part of the bishop and his two friends. Artpeace turned out in full and explained something of their lives and hopes, and also their difficulties in present day Zimbabwe. Artist Peter Kanenji, showed the bishop a photo of baby Peter, who died suddenly two weeks ago. Bishop Christopher went out of his way to console Peter and had his photo taken with him (left).  The bishop and his companions, Fr Mark and Canon Wendy, toured the “workshop” amongst the clearings in the trees, admiring their artistry and the different coloured stones that had been sought out in remote places. He ended his visit with a little impromptu talk about the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe’s five dioceses all of which he had visited during the week and then led a beautiful prayer for all present especially for the sculptors and their families. We were honoured and grateful for his visit and that of his travelling companions.’ It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops.     

My Lent Diary

A journey from ashes to a garden

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Passion in real time - a retreat for Holy Week

Led by the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark