Christmas gifts for Seafarers: Saturday 14th December 2018
A good team of volunteers got together in the coffee room to wrap and parcel Christmas gifts for seafarers. This year we encouraged bulk buying of items and as well as many from the cathedral and awali, there was good support from the US Navy Base and the American Women’s Association. Three hundred parcels with various gifts were made and will be distributed over the Christmas season to seafarers visiting the ports of Bahrain, a sign that they are valued and remembered for their vital but largely unseen work and for those from Christian countries especially away from home and families in this special season.
Church of South India Malayalee Choir – 50th Anniversary: Sunday 15th December 2018
Fifty years ago the Church of South India established their Malayalee choir to lead their worshipping community meeting in the cathedral so it was an honour to be invited to speak briefly at their service on the text which they had chosen; Thus far has the Lord helped us. They currently meet following our Sunday evening service and it has clear that their choral tradition remains an important feature of their life and worship. A retired CSI bishop had flown from Kerala to share in their celebrations.
Staff Christmas Lunch: Wednesday 18th December 2018
It is always good to honour our loyal staff team for the work that they do throughout the year and our Christmas lunch at the Copper Chimney was much enjoyed by all. It was a joy to welcome little Abigail, Renitha’s daughter, who has recently arrived in Bahrain and especially good to see that she is settling in happily.
Christingle Workshop: Friday 20th December 2018
Organizing our workshops around times when we have the maximum number of people seems to be a good idea and the fellowship of doing something practical and creative together always helps bond people of different ages together, nationalities and backgrounds together. So thank you to everyone who turned out and supported it and for your information, on Friday 4th January we will be having our first Palm Cross Workshop with the aim over two consecutive weekends of producing 2000 palm crosses for our representatives to take to the Diocesan Synod for onward transmission to Exeter Diocese.
Tamil Nativity Play: Friday 20th December 2018
It was a delight to attend our Tamil-speaking congregation’s Nativity Play on Friday evening. The first part was a fairly traditional telling of the Nativity story but it was followed by an exploration of the meaning of the Incarnation with the incorrigible Robert, who has rather like the writer of Ecclesiastes sought meaning in life in all sorts of ways – money, celebrity status, fame, power – is eventually given a copy of the Bible and reads about Jesus coming among us.
Nine Lessons and Carols: Sunday 23rd December 2018
The Nine Lessons and Carols was a wonderful service and it was especially good to hear a revived Manama Singers leading our worship and singing a couple o carols: O holy night and We three kings with the kings singing in Persian reflecting their likely heritage. A choir from our Tamill-speaking congregation sang a Tamil carol and members of our East African community sang a Swahili carol. Choosing the readers for the Nine Lessons is always an interesting challenge. I try to have members of the community as well as cathedral members, balance the genders draw people from different ethnic/national backgrounds and have young as well as old readers. You need rather more than nine readings to achieve these aims! It is more than a matter of political correctness, but a genuine attempt to express the diversity and universality of the Church and that the message of the gospel is for all people. I had one lovely text from one of the readers from the community, that was a great encouragement : The most beautiful nine lessons and carols I have ever been a part of. A very special evening. Loved the truly inclusive feel.
Royal Visit on Christmas Eve: Monday 24th December 2018
It was an honour to receive His Excellency Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince’s son to the Cathedral on Christmas Eve afternoon with the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and the Minister of Labour , and the Chairman of the Board of trustees of the King Hamad Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Global Co-existence and the British Ambassador. As well as seeing the Cathedral, looking beautiful for Christmas, they came into the Alun Morris Hall and saw the Nativity sets from all over the world on the cross table all prepared for Christingle service which followed an hour later. Shaikh Isa said that he would like to return on a more normal occasion, so we must try and arrange that. His father the Crown Prince attended school on the compound, when St Christopher’s School was located here, and tells of attending prayers in the cathedral.
Christingle service: Christmas Eve December 24th 2018
One of the activities that I enjoy over the Christmas season is preparing the Alun Morris Hall for the Christmas Eve Christingle Service with the help of Kumar and Kalam. Moving tables and chairs has been a lifetime’s job in ministry, but it seems a particularly purposeful one for this service, creating a cross-table at the centre of the hall, marked out with candles on which Nativity sets, that I have collected and been given over the years from many different countries of the world, making the central focus and then creating several circles of chairs all facing the cross in the centre. It creates a wonderful atmosphere especially when the christingles are given out and the lights turned off. We often show a youtube film at this service from a very creative community in New Zealand: St Paul’s Arts and Media and this year we showed Star of Wonder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHjiB-xp_tE
Husseini Processions: Christmas morning 25th December 2018
In recent years on Christmas morning the Husseini Processions band have joined us at the end of the Christmas morning Holy Communion service, but sadly this year they were unavailable but very graciously Nader Husain Bardastani came to wish the congregation a Merry Christmas and God’s blessings on all. He quoted an Islamic scholar: All about Jesus is a miracle. He was born of a virgin mother, he has spoken while he was in cradle and his unique tendency towards love, peace and spirituality for all humankind.
For our final Christmas in Bahrain it has been lovely to have family with us: all of our three children (from the UK, Hong Kong and Australia) and one year old granddaughter joining us here for a week over Christmas. Inevitably Isla stole all our hearts. Thank you so much to all our community for loaning us so much baby equipment while she was here which made everything so much easier. There was plenty to celebrate as a family alongside Christmas: Isla arrived on her first birthday and we heard that our middle daughter Hannah had just got engaged to Tom, so it was a special joy to welcome Tom’s mother, Jo, to join us for Christmas too. As well as a lot of time spent over meals, we had a trip down to the go karting circuit adjacent to the BIC – a first experience for me – and tested our skills and speed behind the wheel. The caution of age saw me slower than all three of my daughters!
2018/19 Watchnight Service
Once again our Tamil community initiated the Watchnight service. Tricia played the organ and I preached and it was good to see a good cross-section of our wider community there: Kenyan, South African, American Indonesian, Seychellois, Filipino….and probably others that I missed. With 1 Samuel 7: 12 fresh in my mind from the CSI Choir 50th Anniversary (see above) I used the same text to look back on the past year and to encourage us to look forward to the new. I was reminded of the cairns on the mountains in England’s Lake District, when we lived there in the 1990’s, the tradition of putting a stone on the cairn to show that you have achieved the summit, but also to leave the mountain higher than when you arrived! May we all know God’s blessing through 2019.