The Bishop has been to Swaziland. He said ‘the poignant thing was I was such an old man there … because of HIV and other factors most men are dead before they are 50.’
He’s right. If he’d gone to Malawi he’d feel even older. Despite that, I expect he was in the midst of laughter, welcomes, smiles, and liturgies where people want to be involved. There would be few if any shoulds and oughts. People just get on with the job and are glad to be alive. They are not bothered about ‘the way we do things here’ – because all the people who know how we do things are dead.
Digression alert. I did a session on ‘ethics of decision making’ for the diocesan certificate course and asked how many of the middle-aged people were on diocesan synods. All but one put their hands up. I said, ‘it’s time you came off to make room for younger people’. I keep saying that the church is run by people without a future, A self-limiting problem.
Back to the plot. My visit to 6 am Mass in English at St Paul’s, Blantyre, was notable for all those things I mention, but most of all for the uninhibited enthusiasm emanating from the hall next door where the choir was rehearsing for the 9 am Mass in Chichewa.
African Anglicans come to church in Portlaoise. I wonder what they make of it. What can we offer them? All I have is the liturgy, myself, and, since I have some inkling of what it is like to ‘mourn in lonely exile here’, my friendship.
The Bishop has imagination and a fine intellect. How will he survive back here having seen the delight and agony of Africa?