IN THE beautiful setting of Peterhouse School, Marondera, in
Zimbabwe, 120 clerics from the dioceses of Harare and Manicaland
came together earlier this month for their annual silent
This is the first time in years that they have gathered in
Peterhouse without fear of interruption by the former Bishop of
Harare, Nolbert Kunonga: when they last met here, in 2012, they
were forced to leave by the state police. But times have changed.
Rulings by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court have dismissed Kunonga's
claims against the Anglican Church, enabling congregations to
return to their churches.
Times have changed in another way. At the retreat with the
Harare and Manicaland clergy were three women priests from the
diocese of Rochester, whose parishes have links with Harare
When the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, invited
clergy from Rochester to attend the retreat, Canon Elizabeth Walker
(Vicar of Platt), the Revd Judy Henning (Vicar of Rainham), and the
Revd Anne Jablonski (Vicar of St Peter and Paul's, Bromley)
responded. This is the first time that women priests have attended
the Harare/Manicaland retreat, because women are not ordained in
the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).
In November 2013, the Provincial Synod of the CPCA debated
whether it should agree to the ordination of women those dioceses
that wished to have them. The Synod voted against. The motion was
passed by the laity, but rejected by bishops and clergy. All this
happened after the Rochester clergy had agreed to attend the
Notwithstanding this, Bishop Gandiya, and the Bishop of
Manicaland, the Rt Revd Julius Makoni, both supporters of the
ordination of women, were delighted that they were attending, and
they were warmly welcomedby the other clergy on the retreat.
All the retreatants sang, prayed, and shared silence: sharing
silence provides an environment for profound communication. After
the retreat, there was a visit to the shrine of Zimbabwe's first
martyr, Bernard Mizeki, whose example was an inspiration to
Anglicans in Zimbabwe as they faced seven years of persecution.
The Rochester clergy came away moved by an exuberant Zimbabwean
welcome. The Zimbabwean clergy were delighted to meet and spend
time with three Rochester women clergy. Harare, Manicaland, and
Rochester dioceses have been enriched, thanks to the Anglican
Dr Brian Castle is the Bishop of Tonbridge, and conducted
the retreat in Zimbabwe.