Earlier this month Bishop John and the Dean travelled to Morogoro for the fiftieth anniversary of the Diocese.
Tanzania is a beautiful land. It is also one of the poorest in the world. Most of the population is dependent on traditional farming and the vagaries of the weather. Last year the rains failed to come, and there is now serious malnutrition. There is cholera in many parts of the country.
The Diocese of Worcester has a link (like a civic twinning) with the Diocese of Morogoro in southern Tanzania. Last week Bishop John and I travelled to Morogoro for the fiftieth anniversary of the Diocese. A huge congregation attended a six-hour service outside Morogoro Cathedral to mark the event. The people we met have very little by European standards. Their homes are concrete boxes with iron roofs (in rural areas, mud huts). Education and health care are rudimentary, roads are poor, sanitation is often non-existent. Yet their communities are vibrant and full of vitality, and their Christian worship is spontaneous and joyful.
Bishop John and I went to Berega, deep in the bush, where there is a hospital run by the Diocese. Money collected in memory of Bishop John’s wife Denise, who died last year, has helped to extend the nursing school, and the Bishop unveiled a plaque. It is a hospital lacking facilities and equipment, but is a beacon of life and hope to a huge surrounding area, for without it there would be no medical care at all. We took supplies and gifts for the hospital, including a large quantity of nappies, which Bishop John nobly navigated through three airports. The churches of the Diocese of Worcester, including the Cathedral, have given money to this hospital and other projects in Morogoro, and will continue to do so.
In the end, a partnership of churches is not about money. It is a friendship in which there is an equal exchange of experienc
e and insights, wisdom and respect. It meant a lot to the Christians of Morogoro that Bishop John and I made the effort to attend their celebrations. It certainly meant a lot to us to be there. I came home, reminded that Christianity began as a religion of the poor, and remains a religion of the poor in most parts of the world today.
And yet it is so often in just those places that the Christian faith is so strong, so joyful, so full of hope.
To read more about the Dean and Bishop John’s visit to Tanzania download the Dean’s sermon from Sunday 6 December 2015.