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Building with Biking Bishops: Prospects look good for Alexandria

The latest of the Friends’ groups from the JMECA region met on September 13th to pray for one of the Communion’s newest Provinces.

The Chair and Secretary of FAPA with Bishop anthony Ball at the meeting

The members who met at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, for the meeting, chaired by Bishop Bill Musk, spent the morning session informing their prayers which then were given effect in the afternoon session with a celebration of the Eucharist. Archbishop Samy joined the meeting on Zoom and reported on evidence of growth in every direction. New school and hospital buildings in Menouf and Sadat, new growth in the innovative Deaf Digital Church in Egypt (which now has 2,500 members), new Church activity in Chad (which now has seven active congregations) and the expansions and first graduations from new outposts of the Alexandria School of Theology were among the things to give thanks for.

The archbishop described a church which is very much in prayer mode, making specific reference to prayers for Sudan, prayer days in Suez, and asking prayers for those affected by the Libyan flooding disaster. He referred to a new era in relations with The Protestant Churches of Egypt, and continuing engagement in Christian – Muslim conversations. In Egypt all PCC members from the Diocese had recently been engaged in a day of prayerful debate about how to put the Diocesan vision of being a Spirit-filled church working for a better society, into practical effect in parishes through a focus on growth and self-sufficiency.

Assistant Bishop of Egypt, Anthony Ball, has been tasked with preparing the structures which will be necessary to support three new Dioceses, of Gambella, Horn of Africa and North Africa and he gave a report on progress. Though the detail of creating new Constitutions may seem tedious to some, they are absolutely essential for the smooth running of the Church’s mission after new Bishops are elected for each diocese in 2025. He gave some examples to illustrate how different the process is from a similar one that might be conducted in say the UK. Thinking about lay representation at Synod, the most basic question of ‘what is a church?’ cannot be answered just by reference to buildings or Electoral Rolls, for example. Instead, a definition along the lines of a specific number of weekly worshippers is a better guide. So in Gambella for instance, that number has been initially decided as 150 for two Synod reps and 80 for one. Bishops are obviously going to need to travel around their Dioceses, but cars are expensive, and the aim is for churches to be self-sufficient. Perhaps the solution is to buy them motor bikes (cue caption competition!).

Hugh Thomas speaking at the meeting

Canon Huw Thomas (who began his ministry in All Saints Church Oystermouth, Swansea when Rowan Williams was a choirboy there) was congratulated on receiving the St Augustine Cross from the Archbishop of Canterbury for a lifetime service to the Anglican Communion. That service concluded with a five-year spell in Algiers, and Canon Huw spoke warmly of the country Algeria and its people. At present that post of Rector is vacant. The Anglican Church there, as in so many places in the JMECA region is seen by the authorities as a Church for foreigners only, and finding the right person to fill the post, who is able to get a visa, is not proving easy.

Bishop Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield is the Friends’ Patron, and he sent some very enthusiastic Friends away with God’s blessing after a most inspiring and encouraging day.


18th September 2023