Sunday, February 10, 2013

The daily routine: an episcopal view

By Bishop Alan Scarfe

I am writing at 6am after my first full night's sleep. Head hit the pillow and next thing I know it is 5.55am. The rhythm of each day has well established itself as far as basics are concerned: the competing roosters in the morning; checking around for creepy crawlers ( my personal phobia); waiting for the generator to switch on around 6:45am to give light and the short trip to the outhouse. On return the warm water (for bathing) has been prepared by a young Seminarian who must have been up a couple of additional hours to light the fire under a thatched open sided shelter, to fetch and warm the water. The Cathedral compound has its own well but not sufficient for developing running water. (The Bishop might use St Timothy's travel gift from our send off to this purpose).

Then there is the bathing, coffee in the Bishop's living room and prayers at the cathedral. Today there will be Litany, English language Communion led by the other members of the Iowa group, and the main service which will include four ordinations. (It was a marvelous four and a half hour service).
Because of the service, it is expected that lunch will be after 3 at the Bishop's house. In hotter weather we have sat under the Mango tree. Chair moving is a frequent event, and an image I take from up at the altar today is that of chairs being carried high above the crowds, even as various singing processions of Sunday School or Choir or Youth Choir are coming down the aisle as well.

By 4pm today we were greeting the worshipers in the Nzara tradition, though I have experienced this in other parts of Africa. The bishop greets the bishop at the door, then we stand side by side as the rest of the altar party come out and greet us extending the line as they pass, eventually greeting each other in turn as they pass. This line stretches out as long as the number of worshipers, each greeting the line and on reaching its end taking their place to greet the next person coming along. With a thousand participants you can guess the size of the line. Then there are the children who some how join in the fun from outside.

The sun dictates a lot - especially whether we gather under the mango tree, or by the bishop's house as the sun and shadows move. With sunset at 7pm, and sunrise around 7am, the start up of the generator for a few hours is another daily rhythm. Somewhere in the late afternoon I am approached by Emmanuel, the Seminarian, that "the warm water for bathing" is prepared. So I take my second "shower". It is truly "bathing" in that you pour the water over yourself from a bowl, lather up and repeat the process: not really a shower, nor a wash, and not a bath - but a "bathing". Even the Convention agenda has a break time for "bathing and eating".

The Standing Committee will no doubt get its detailed blogging if it hasn't already. It deserves to be recorded. It is an impressive display of diocesan business.This is not a place where diocese is anything but the whole community. Standing Committee (which is the equivalent of our Diocesan Convention. Convention in Nzara means an evangelistic mission) opened at 8am with prayers, then takes a break for breakfast, and gathers for its agenda from 9:30 through to 1:30 or even up to an hour later. Afternoon sessions may run through to 6pm, but are scheduled til 4.30 or 5pm. Delegates sit opposite one another in rows with the Archdeacons up front barely three feet from each other; and the discussions goes on at a steady pace. All reports have to be read including the minutes of the last Standing Committee because of the low level of literacy among delegates. We finish with an hour for "bathing" before dinner and the evening events. The evening is taken up with the youth blowing off steam to contemporary Christian music, some of which is in Arabic). I managed to have the bishop take us down, and we watched as our two wives began their own dance line with some of the adults.

The rhythm continues through to 10pm by which time you want to be ready for the sudden turning off of the generator, and the plunge into darkness. Fans go off as well, of course. I must have finally adapted - I slept through the first competition between roosters and as I said, woke at 5.55am.
I never knew roosters competed, but as we bishops were waiting for the ordinands today to come and sign their declaration of faith and promises of obedience ( in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan this happens before the actual ceremony which makes sense and removes that awkward silence as presenters sign the document). we saw the compound rooster strolling through the arranged chairs. Then we heard a rooster crow from another place. The Cathedral rooster turned around, tracked down the imposter ( a traveling rooster from an outlying parish!) and hopped onto the diocesan truck to stare him down. After gaining victory, he let us all know who was in charge as he let out a loud cock-a doodle do, the common language of global roosters.

There is great civility in all of this, and it makes you question what we have done with our own rhythms of the day, and to what real benefit ? The public space is very evident.

During the day the solar panels provide energy for things like keeping this laptop charged, and wifi active. And so the business of the diocese can go on at the center. Last night I enjoyed seeing Bishop Samuel as the only light in the dusk in front of his house being cast by his laptop balanced on his knees as he answered emails. The wifi stretches out into the courtyard, and so through such capacity and the frequent use of cell phones the Church engages the wider world in the midst of no running water and no electrical grid and of course the rooster (the apostle Peter might recall the latter)

                                                                                                       Bishop Alan

PS Did you know that Zande has no "L"or "C". And that Iowa (spelled differently of course but pronounced the same) means "okay then", alright or simply good? 


Blogger Mission Team ~ Iowa said...

Enjoying your description of the rhythms of life in South Sudan. What terrific in-depth blog posts by the team. Thank you!!

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