IT WAS a new experience for the Anglicans of Harare. There were
no police blocking the entrance to their cathedral. There was no
tear gas from which they would have to flee. There were no padlocks
on the doors to prevent their entering.
The former bishop Nolbert Kunonga had attempted to thwart and
undermine the ruling of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, which
declared the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya as the lawful Anglican Bishop of
Harare, and the buildings, houses, and institutions from which
Anglicans had been forcibly removed to be their rightful property
(News, 7 December).
But to no avail. The exiles were now returning home. The sound
of the bells as the procession sang and danced towards the
cathedral brought a great cheer. Then there was an electrifying
moment: Bishop Gandiya banged on the doors with his pastoral staff,
and, when the two doors swung open, there was a mighty roar from
the gathering of 10,000 which might have been heard in the UK.
The celebrations had begun in the centre of Harare, in Africa
Unity Square, across the road from the cathedral and parliament
buildings. This eucharist was attended by Anglicans from across the
diocese, members of government, and visitors from other parts of
the Province of Central Africa, and from around the world -
reminders of the encouragement and value of the world-wide Anglican
Those who could not find seats perched on statues, concrete
ledges, or any available surface. In front of the platform that
accommodated the altar party, four fountains rose 30 feet into the
air, adding to the life and energy of the worship.
"MuKristu usanete: namata urinde" ("Christians seek not
yet repose: watch and pray"), a hymn that had been a great support
in the people's darkest moments, was sung with passion. In his
sermon, Bishop Gandiya thanked those who had supported the diocese
in its struggles, and he praised his people for their faithfulness
to God, and their perseverance over the past five years.
He told them that, once they were back in their churches, they
should not sit back and expect to draw their pension. Rather, they
should be pressing on to whatever God was calling them to in the
future. There would be challenges of forgiveness and
reconciliation, and a great deal depended on the way they
remembered the past five years. They could remember in a way that
would allow the pains of the past to dominate their lives, or they
could remember in such a way that, like St Paul, they could "strain
ahead for what is still to come".
He ended with an appeal: "Come, let us rebuild our diocese." The
Bishop then declared that 19 November, the day on which the Supreme
Court Ruling was delivered, would be a day of thanksgiving for the
Amid the celebrations, there were moments of stillness, and a
minute's silence was held in memory of Jessica Mandeya, who died as
a result of the violence. There were messages of support and
solidarity from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican
Consultative Council, Harare's partner diocese of Rochester, the
Prior of Taizé, the Archbishop of Central Africa, and the general
secretary of Us (formerly USPG).
In his message, Dr Williams commended the leadership of Bishop
Gandiya, and Bishop Sebastian Bakare before him, and said that the
faith of Anglicans in Harare had been a beacon of light to the rest
of the Anglican Communion.
Before the procession to the cathedral, water and incense were
blessed for ceremonies of rededication and cleansing in every
church in the diocese. Churches will need considerable restoration
work. Some have been used for money-making enterprises, such as
offices and accommodation; others were used for crèches; and it is
said that one was used for a brothel and a drinking hall.
In an action akin to the destruction of statues at the
Reformation, Kunonga had removed from the cathedral cloisters
burial plaques, carvings, and commemorative displays that honoured
prominent colonial-era citizens as well as black soldiers of the
colonial African Rifles regiment. These have not been found.
An early theologian, Tertullian, looking at the persecution of
Christians in the Early Church, commented that the blood of the
martyrs was the seed of the Church. Many churches in Harare now
have congregations that have grown so significantly that the
buildings can no longer hold them. One lay person told me that they
had to provide an extra service for the overflow.
The challenges faced by the diocese of Harare are considerable,
and our sisters and brothers there will need our prayers as much
now as ever.
Dr Brian Castle is the Bishop of Tonbridge.