Diocese of Chelmsford Anglican Communion Links
At the Lambeth Conference in 1978 the then bishops of Chelmsford, Mount Kenya East and Trinidad & Tobago met and through their friendship established inter-diocesan links that have continued ever since. The two links have developed very differently, although both include mutual-concern, friendship, prayer and reciprocal visits.
This summary focuses on our partnerships with Kenya which have enabled mutual support and learning as a result of the rapid expansion of the church combined with periods of extreme need. The Mount Kenya East region now has five dioceses of different size and with varying resources. We have tried to adapt our partnership to work appropriately with each diocese and to support the region as a whole through their shared theological college and development agency.
Our partnership is not based on money but we have been able to help in small pump-priming ways to enable our partner dioceses to develop their local priorities. Over the years these have included such diverse needs as: work with street-children, farmers, church building, water pumps, motorbikes for archdeacons, health care, a school for the deaf, community development, theological education and leadership training.
As well as the diocesan-level engagement, there are now more focused links involving individuals, parishes, the cathedrals, youth groups and about 30 schools. We are routinely present at each other’s major events and as a visible sign of the importance of the world church, a Kenyan bishop takes part in the Ordination of Deacons in Chelmsford each year.
Our Kenyan partners are very generous in their hospitality to visitors and we have learned so much from our exchanges – not least the importance of place and community, the ability to be generous, grateful and hopeful in all circumstances, their absolute dependence on God and taking nothing for granted.
A two-week educational visit to Kenya is now a standard part of our Curate training. This opportunity to experience discipleship, ministry and mission in a different culture where faith is explicit in the public square has been life and ministry transforming for many. In 2014, a group of Kenyans came to work alongside our parishes with local mission initiatives.
Our 2016 Lent Appeal will focus on raising funds for a hospital and in Kenya. A sponsored walk is taking place and the idea for this came from the fact their recent visit and participation in our annual Bradwell Pilgrimage.
The development of international links requires the investment of energy over a long period by a consistent group of people in order to survive the inevitable changes in episcopal leadership and in the midst of the various tensions in the Anglican Communion. But the rewards are enormous. Our diocesan life in Chelmsford and my own ministry has been enriched in ways I could not have imagined. I am personally grateful for the relationships we have in Kenya, Trinidad & Tobago, and with our ecumenical partners in Europe. The Body of Christ in all its diversity and beauty has become more real, and upholding the unity of the church more important.