Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Soap and salt

Today we put our money together and bought soap and salt for the clergy here. It should help out the next six months. Clergy are not otherwise compensated, so this is a big deal.


As we prepare to begin the return journey starting tomorrow, we have armloads of notes, photos, greetings, and memories to bring back. The relationship between Iowa and Nzara has never been stronger. We are grateful for your prayers one and all.

This small thought as we go: When conducting confirmations, ordinations, Mothers Union inductions, or Lay Reader commissionings, Bishop Peni will ask the subjects to make their vows, then asks them to repeat the answers to the questions. (A typical answer would be something like, "I will with God's help.") The Zande word that forms the commandment to repeat is, "Berawe" -- say it again.

In other words, "Once more, with feeling."

Renewing ordination vows is nothing new for clergy, of course. But to have to repeat your end of the bargain of how you intend to serve God, in the very moment of your declaration to move forward, in the middle of the thing itself, helps to create the feeling that the service is almost rising off the page.

It may be safe to say we have not heard the last of this liturgical innovation.

Torey Lightcap

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? 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A photo

Bp. Alan greets the Nzara Diocese this afternoon. It's a lively bunch now enjoying the afterglow.

Friday, February 08, 2013


Much remaining to share, including some photos in a minute or two. For now, I just want to make sure this doesn't get lost in the mix.

Bishop Peni shared with us this morning that they don't have a word in Zande to really, technically describe a companion relationship or a friendship of the sort the Diocese of Iowa enjoys with Swaziland, Brechin, and now Nzara. He offered the word "backulay" (phonetic), which you can use to refer to someone who has exchanged blood with you.

As with so many places, Nzara/South Sudan's HIV/AIDS problem is a very real one. So the use of such a term in the age of fighting bloodborne disease is a bold choice indeed.

Bishop Scarfe, so often given to finding the right word at the right time, offered in his remarks that "The blood we have in common is the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Torey Lightcap

Day Two

Yesterday, Torey shared a description of our warm welcome by the entire village, at least it seemed that way.  It was overwhelming in so many ways.  When we were walking through the village later, children would come running to see us and to wave at us.  Today, we had the opening of the Diocesan Standing Committee, which is the equivalent of our Convention (Note to Anne Wagner:  the Bishop and I are beginning to imagine format changes for our Convention!)  The day began with a celebration of Holy Communion conducted in Zande.  I was particularly moved by the strong sense of personal hospitality.  The young man sitting next to me, who was functioning as an acolyte, kept me apprised at all times of where we were in the service.  The music was in many cases quite familiar; and by the end, I had a sense of the rhythm, so was able to sing along.  "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" is apparently a favorite of theirs, and it is one of mine as well.

People walk to the Standing Committee meetings' the farthest parish is about sixty miles away.  The clergy may come on bicycles; but others walk, and it may take 2 to 3 days.  They stay in parishes along the way.  Each parish is expected to bring representatives of the Mother's Union, along with a youth representative, and either the Senior Warden or a Lay Reader.  When this doesn't happen, it may be because of an illness.

There is no dispensing with the reading of the minutes. The entire conversation is reported; and questions are asked about the progress or completion or resolution of the issues raised.  It makes for a strong sense of accountability to each other.  One question raised last year was the need to follow the liturgical colors, and learn to use a liturgical calendar.  The question was raised this year as to what had happened with that concern, and we able to present them with a calendar for each parish. 

The overwhelming impression so far is of deep commitment to Jesus Christ, and to the life of the church.  They have clearly seen the Diocese of Iowa as their companion in the journey since the beginning of the diocese in 2009.  The outpouring of thanksgiving for our presence along with the general and very personal offerings of hospitality is exceeding humbling.

A world is being created here.  There are two schools, and another in mind.  There is a very active clinic.  There is much work with maternal and child health, and there is a strong focus on the empowering of women.  The sewing machine project is one aspect of that. In addition, there is the beginning of microloans to women.  Two hundred Sudanese pounds are lent to women to beging some kind of money making enterprise.  One hundred is to be paid back the first month, and two hundred the second.  They can keep what they raise; and they are being enabled to provide a living for their children. Thirty seven such loans have been made.

I was pleased to note that the women in the Standing Committee are not hesitant to speak up.  There is a woman priest in the diocese, and a woman deacon.  We will see another woman ordained to the diaconate at Sunday's service.

All in all, it is a wonderful experience.  There is much more to be shared and experienced in the next few days.  We were all able to sleep fairly well last night, and seem to be holding up.  Thank you all for your prayers, and God be with you.

Kathleen Milligan 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Arrival in Nzara

Hi to our friends in the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and elsewhere!

A group of four - Bishop Alan Scarfe, Donna Scarfe, Rev. Kathleen Milligan, and myself (Rev. Torey Lightcap) has at last found itself the very willing beneficiaries of hospitality in the Diocese of Nzara, in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, in east-central Africa. Bishop Samuel Peni, his wife, and various folk affiliated with the diocese are our gracious hosts.

Our presence here was precipitated by a long series of prior conversation and visitations that eventuated in the formation of a companion relationship between Nzara and Iowa at the 2012 Iowa diocesan convention. The list of folks from the Iowa side that people here remember and continue to pray for is quite long, and it is for all those founding and innovative energies of leadership that we continue conversation and the relationship-building on this largely diplomatic trip.

Bishop Scarfe and Donna were to meet Kathleen and me in Detroit, but their plane was delayed in Des Moines due to mechanical difficulties. While they investigated possibilities for getting out of Des Moines, the number of ways to do that began to dwindle and chances for going this or that way fizzled. Finally, the Scarfes grabbed their children, drove to Chicago O'Hare, and dropped themselves off. (The children then had an uninterrupted six-hour drive back to Iowa.) Meanwhile, the other half flew on time, if tiringly. Omaha/Des Moines, Detroit, Amsterdam, Kigali, and finally Entebbe. An ECS driver met us and took us to an overnight retreat house where we caught a tight five hours sleep. When we awoke, the Scarfes - who had gotten themselves to Entebbe via Istanbul with thanks to Turkish Airlines - had dropped in at the retreat house just long enough to shower before heading back out again. We hopped a Mission Aviation Fellowship flight out of Kampala, landed back in Uganda just long enough to check out of the country, got back in the air again, and landed in Yambio, in South Sudan.

The plane was met by a significant contingent of Nzara Anglicans. They sang us beautifully melodic songs in Jesus' name and showered us with leis. Representatives of the government were on hand, and one even prayed (!) a powerful word of thanksgiving recognizing all it took to achieve the moment. We were truly blessed.

Driving to Nzara town, we saw and heard about life here. Folks build their simple homes adjacent to property they intend to farm; after a few years, they move along to a different farming location and build more homes. Economic deprivation is everywhere evident as South Sudan is a baby country emerging out of a period of enormous internal and external strife.

Driving up to the diocesan center, we were met by many, many folks who waved branches and sang songs as we passed through them. We went right into the cathedral (a simple frame operation with seats and a place for a band) and had a service of welcome with prayers and songs. Bishop Scarfe was asked to say a few words. Let me see if I can remember the really choice bits.

A paraphrase:
Donna and I were about out of energy when we landed this morning for all the adventures it took to get here, but I will tell you that when we had that reception at the airport and again just now, I was reminded of the scripture that "The joy of the Lord is my strength." And I will tell you that that strength is rising within us.
We believe in and preach Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen. We recognize in Iowa that all we do is to serve Christ and him alone. We see that you, too, only want to serve Christ and him alone in all you do. Brothers and sisters, this makes us truly one...

We know that we have been in your hearts for some time. You, too, have been in our hearts for so long. So we are very glad for this day.

After that reception we toddled out to the places we're staying and had a little lunch (rice, banana, pineapple, beef stew, bread and jam and hot tea) under a mango tree. In about 30 minutes a contingent of US soldiers who want to greet us will be stopping by for tea.

The schedule for the days ahead calls for much to be done, yet it doesn't seem overly taxing. Included is at least one ordination and 60 confirmations in addition to a diocesan Standing Committee meeting where we will bring your greetings to the many assembled.

Please keep this entire event and all of us wrapped in prayer. Perhaps again soon one of us might be able to take advantage of this technology long enough to post more information.

Yours very truly in Christ,

Torey Lightcap