A Happy New Year to you all! We pray you had a restful and joyful Christmas time.
To start with some good news, just before Christmas we were able to buy a car, which has transformed our ability to get around! CMS have helped us with a loan to be able to cover the total cost, so if you would like to support our car fund specifically, details are at the bottom of this letter.
Unfortunately, though, our first visit to Aqaba will have to wait until the beginning of March. January has been taken up with Joel’s engagement in and preparation for change in the life of the Anglican Church in the region, as well as preparations for a month-long trip to the Gulf for events for both Fiona and Joel.
Firstly though, returning from Christmas in the UK with family, the Anglican Primates (Archbishops) from across the Communion met altogether. Following Archbishop Suheil’s offer of hospitality, this meeting was held in Jordan rather than in the normal venue of Canterbury Cathedral. While the major focus was the upcoming Lambeth Conference in August for all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion, it was also a fantastic opportunity to promote ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue. The Archbishops met with King Abdullah II of Jordan, as well as other church leaders, and the stories were picked up in local media.
Joel was involved in the planning of the meeting and staffing it while it was underway. His particular highlight was guiding the Archbishops on a pilgrimage on the last day to the Baptism Site of Jesus, where Archbishop Justin Welby presided at a renewal of baptismal vows, followed by a visit to the Anglican Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, and finally to the church at Mt Nebo, from where it is commemorated that Moses saw the promised land. In another encouraging sign of strong ecumenical relationships, we were met by the Custos of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land, and were able to use the church for a time of collective prayer for the Church throughout the world. It was a privilege to support the meeting; we hope and pray that it leads to better relations within the Anglican Communion and continued improvements for the lives of Christians in the Middle East.
Through his Provincial work, Joel has also been engaged in the developments in the Province, which will continue over the coming year. Archbishop Suheil completed his time as Primate, and Archbishop Michael Lewis will now lead the Province for the next two and a half years. This will probably mean more travel to Cyprus for Joel, and an opportunity to work more on Anglican Alliance issues in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. The Diocese of Egypt has been given the go ahead to become an independent Province (of Alexandria) with new Dioceses in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Finally, the Diocese of Jerusalem will elect a new co-adjutor Bishop who will learn the ropes until Archbishop Suheil retires in April 2021. Please pray for Archbishop Michael’s leadership of the Province, particularly as we look to bring new leadership to the church in Iran in very difficult circumstances, for the Province of Alexandria as it is birthed, and for the Diocese of Jerusalem as it elects its new Bishop.
We are now gearing up to be in the UAE and Oman from the end of January to the end of February. Although Fiona’s consultancy at the end of last year proved a bit more work than anticipated, as a result she has been asked to present the research findings (on the impact of providing shelter and settlements assistance) at the World Urban Forum (WUF) in Abu Dhabi, which is excellently timed between other planned workshops and meetings. Fiona will also be participating in a number of side events organised by Urban Shalom Society on the role of Christian communities in the development of cities around the world, being held alongside the WUF. She has been volunteering with them providing back end support for the past year, so it is great to finally be able to attend one of the events, including making a presentation on land justice. Hopefully this will lead to greater engagement with the organisation, and the flourishing of the network in the Middle East. Please pray for a successful series of workshops that lead to more engagement by Christians in the issues of justice and development as we seek the peace and prosperity of our cities.
Before this, Joel will facilitate a workshop in Dubai on safe migration, involving Anglican representatives from the Gulf, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, alongside other Christians in the Gulf. We will also attend the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf’s Synod, where Joel will co-lead a workshop on creation care. Following the WUF, we will all carry out a visit to learn about the interfaith work of alAmana centre in Oman, before returning to Dubai for Joel to take part in the annual global strategy meeting of the Renew Our World campaign. Please pray that this can be a useful time, with meaningful outcomes in how the church can work to challenge the unjust structures in society and be a light in darkness. We also give thanks for the remarkable hospitality that people are showing in hosting us at this time, and pray that Aidan will cope with a month on the road.
Grace and Peace,
Fiona, Joel and Aidan