Evangelising at home and abroad

The Diocese’s ‘Mahajanga Calling’ appeal has so far raised over £20,000 to help the church in North West Madagascar, where a ‘son of the Diocese’, Rt Rev Hall Speers, is serving as Bishop.

The figure was disclosed by the chairman of the Board of Mission and Unity during the final discussion of this year’s synod. Rev Canon Paul Hoey said he wanted to thank those parishes and individuals who had supported the project. “Al though it hasn’t been easy to raise funds over the past year,” he said, “we have – at the last count, over £20,000 that has gone to Mahajanga.

“I shouldn’t pick anybody out,” Canon Hoey said, “but I will mention Canon David Crooks’ special fundraising effort – if only because I’ve been wanting to tell him to get on his bike for years – but well done, David.”

Canon Crooks, who is a brother-in-law of Bishop Speers, has been an enthusiastic fundraiser on behalf of the Mahajanga Calling appeal. Among his ventures was a sponsored cycle, in three legs, around different parts of the Inishowen and Raphoe rural deaneries.

“If you ever have a day when you’re feeling a low energy count,” Canon Hoey said, “I recommend reading Bishop Hall Speers’ newsletter which is humorously entitled ‘Our Mad Life’ – as in Madagascar but also ‘mad’.

“I want to quote a bit from his most recent newsletter. He’s talking about a visit that he made to some parishes in his diocese very recently. So, he says: ‘After tinkering with the engine of the catechist’s car, we were on our way to inspect the site for the new clergy house and – eventually – church.’ (I just want to point out that it’s our money that’s helping them to build this clergy house and church and amazingly you can build a rectory and a church there for about £6,000).

“The Bishop says, ‘The accounts in this parish show how little the priest and his family have been paid: a miniscule amount in cash and 15kg of rice per annum. Our home help’s family consume 15kg of rice per week.’ (Again, I would point out that the money from our project is helping the diocese there to buy rice fields which inject finance into the life not only of the church, but support clergy and people working in the local community).

“I’ll go on with the bishop’s report. He says: ‘The local church is run by an incredibly energetic lade, Mlle Angeline – she’s one of the evangelists there. With her own hands she helped the men build the temporary mud and thatched roof. There was the most wonderful atmosphere of both reverence and celebration. We even had a choir who danced as they sang. I was conscious that I was the only one wearing shoes. What a privilege it had been to meet many lovely people, share in uplifting worship and travel safely. Thank you to all who made this possible through your generosity.’ Now, he’s speaking to a wider group of people when he gives thanks but he’s certainly speaking to us in the Diocese of Derry [and Raphoe] in his words of appreciation.”

Canon Hoey said the Diocesan Office will continue to accept donations from any parish or individuals who haven’t yet had an opportunity to contribute to the Mahajanga Calling appeal.

On a separate matter relating to the work of the Board of Mission and Unity, Canon Hoey said the Church of Ireland had recently authorised the appointment of a team of people with a remit to support and equip pioneer ministries and new forms of church in every diocese. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated the decline that had already set in to many parts of the church,” Canon Hoey said, “particularly among younger families and so on, and that we urgently need to explore new ways of being church. And this is part of what the Centre of Mission is about.

“I’m aware of centres of mission already up and running – or about to be set up – in the Dioceses of Cork, Dublin, Tuam, Meath, Armagh, Connor and Down, so we’re actually part of a minority of dioceses that don’t yet have one.

“The hub of the project that we’re working on at the moment is likely to have a focus in the Waterside area of the city – there’ll be a cooperation between the two Waterside parishes – and the person or the people who will be appointed will have a dual remit. One is to focus on a particular area of the Waterside, and – through service, building community and evangelism – to pioneer a new form of church. And secondly, to equip and to train others right throughout the diocese to be evangelists. We’ve just heard in the report from Mahajanga how hugely significant evangelists are in that part of the world and I think they could be and ought to be here as well.”

Church Army would assist with training and with the setting up of the project, Canon Hoey said, but the Diocese would also have to find around £40,000 per annum. “Some of the dioceses that I’ve already mentioned that have got centres of mission have fewer resources than we do,” he said, “so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible for us to take the leap of faith and go ahead with this project, and we’re hoping before too long to put a concrete proposal before Diocesan Council which I hope will be favourably looked at.”