RURAL life in England and South Sudan may look different, but, the Archdeacon of Sarum, the Ven. Alan Jeans, says, there is “far more that joins us together in our common faith than the differences in our culture and economic contexts”.
Archdeacon Jeans travelled with Geoff Taylor, who organised the trip from the deanery of Chalke to the diocese of Cueibet this month. The two areas have been linked since 2012. Both are rural regions. It was an “extraordinarily life-changing partnership”, Archdeacon Jeans said.
GEOFF TAYLOR, CHALKE DEANERYCelebrating the gift of pencils from Chalke Valley schools
The trip included visits to see the impact of projects funded by the link, including the planting of fruit trees, the construction of classrooms, the purchase of bicycles for pastors, and the provision of training and sewing machines for women.
Primary schools in the Chalke Valley have donated hundreds of pencils and football strips to school children in the diocese. Other projects being explored include the provision of seeds, tools, and oxen, to help the community to become less reliant on imported food.
The deanery also sponsors the training of theological students. Archdeacon Jeans said that the trip had helped him to appreciate the “huge privilege” that he had enjoyed in his theological education.
All the clergy in the diocese, including the Bishop, the Rt Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, are non-stipendiary, and many have to balance their ministry with income-generating work such as farming.
“It was truly humbling to see the depths of their faith and commitment to serving Christ,” Archdeacon Jeans said. “Their generosity to us was overwhelming.”
During the visit, he was shown evidence of local sectarian conflict, including burnt-out huts. “The resilience of people was extraordinary,” he said. “They were already rebuilding, re-plastering, and re-roofing. . . The Christian Church is doing an extraordinary amount of reconciliation and [giving] support to the communities, to try to build a bridge.”
He was struck by the impact that a bicycle costing £200 could have: “It is extraordinary that what little we can give makes such a huge difference in South Sudan. . . My eyes were opened wide; my heart was also opened.”
GEOFF TAYLOR, CHALKE DEANERYA pastor in Cueibet on his donated bicycle