ALMA is the Diocese of London’s Companion link with the Anglican Church in Angola and Mozambique, and part of the network of Companion Link Dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion.
During the last 18 months I had heard much of our partners and their faith in Christ Jesus. Visiting the Diocese of Lebombo, in southern Mozambique during August this year was a wonderful opportunity to experience that faithfulness and put faces to my prayers.
We can fall into the trap of thinking that we have much to offer the partners of our links – my experience is that we have much to learn. The parable of the Good Samaritan gives the model for the act of love going beyond what we see is conventional. It teaches us that love come through seeing the other, not simple as I see them but in the light of God who has created us both. That recognition leaves us not only capable to reaching out in support of other but also being willing to receive support from the other. Without my neighbour I cannot become my full self.
London adopted a pre-existing Willesden Area partnership with Lebombo (started by Bishop Donald Arden in the 1980’s when he retired to Harrow after his time as Archbishop of Central Africa).
The ALMA covenant was signed in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1998; was renewed in 2008 at the ‘River of Prayer’ Service before the 2008 Lambeth Conference and extended in 2018 for 2 years until the 2020 Lambeth Conference when all partners will be together to sign the next covenant.
My visit was to the Diocese of Lebombo, in southern Mozambique, covering 5 provinces + Lebombo side of River Zambezi in Tete province which was founded in 1893. Eamonn and I were very grateful for the generous hospitality of Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, Bishop of Lebombo, and his wife Hortência.
Mozambique’s history has been shaped by war; the war of independence 1964-1974 and then civil war between 1977-1992.
The church has played significant part in the peace processes with the now retired Emeritus Bishop of Lebombo, Mozambique, Bishop Dinis Sengulane, and the Christian Council of Mozambique being part of the negotiation and initiating the TAE project – transforming arms into tools /swords into ploughshares which has taken over 900,000 weapons out of commission and turned many into pieces of art (see: Throne of Weapons and Tree of Life in Africa Gallery British Museum or Music Man hosted at St Paul’s Old Ford and read ‘Object 98’ in Neil McGregor’s ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’)
I arrived on the 6th August a day on which Mozambique’s president and the leader of the country’s main opposition group signed a new peace accord, pledging to end years of violence and facilitate elections in the fall.
In signing the Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement, President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade said they would peacefully participate in Oct. 15 elections. Bishop Carlos lead the prayers at the end of the event.
At home in a city in which divisions hold the potential of deepening the lessons of a country who have known war for over 50 years must be worth listening to. The biggest one being is that peace begins with us.
At the service of ordination at St Cyprian’s Maputo I preached on John 20:19-23 ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”’ I reflected that lives lived in the presence of Christ and filled by the spirit produce peace. Peace is not something which happens because we are tired of fighting, but it is intentional, it is something which we need to put on. Part of the ministry as priest and deacon is to bring peace.
Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world, but the generosity and hospitality of the people was obvious. I am now the proud owner of many Capulana which is a thick cloth printed with beautiful art worn by women.
The church in Mozambique is growing. Its vibrant witness has had a major impact at a local level through church planting, choirs and bands, youth groups, Mothers’ Union, the Bernard Mizeki Guild for men and ‘Umoja’ community development facilitators. Nationally the churches have been heavily involved in their countries’ peace processes.
The week demonstrated that we share some common challenges not least; the encouragement of lay leadership, the development of clergy, how we encourage young people, how we create financial sustainable churches and how we plant new churches.
I was very impressed how Bishop Carlos was modelling the involvement of lay leaders and their Catechists mirror our Licenced Lay Ministers. The Bishop intentionally uses lay people at every opportunity and is providing training to bring about the culture change with clergy.
We attended the launch of a new ecumenical youth project in Maputo. They, like us, lose young people when they leave Primary school. By involving young people in the development of worship they are finding encouragement. I met some great worship leaders who are working with the young people to form choirs among other activities.
The Diocese encourages churches to develop means for their own financial stability and I met several entrepreneurial women who are giving their time to projects for their churches in a country where they cannot depend upon the giving of their member.
I met several church plants; they have planted 20 in five years. They start off with a family who have been travelling a long distance who start meeting in their home. Once established, a priest is then provided, and the church builds the building. I was struck that they have learnt, like us, that none of this grows quickly, they often support enthusiasm even when little structures are in place and their plants are predominantly Anglo catholic in nature.
Since 2016 women have been able to be ordained and the first ordinations are likely to happen in 2020 in Lebombo Diocese. Bishop Carlos used my visit to underline his support of women as priests and I met with those in training and we specifically used several events as vocational opportunities.
Bishop Carlos modelled shared ministry and took every opportunity to give me a role in sharing ministry including in the ordinations – I am very grateful for this and it reflected an intention I have rarely seen in the Church of England.
We pray for Mozambique every Wednesday as part of our Diocesan Cycle of Prayers – prayers used in St Paul’s Cathedral each week. The visit has enabled me to pray in a different way with faces to the names and memories of the places. I have not only heard of their faithfulness, but I have now seen it and the fruit which it is bearing, and I am giving thanks.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. (Colossians 1:3-6)