The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, was presented with a gift box full of toy cows on Saturday to acknowledge his diocese’s partnership with the Diocese of Butere in Kenya. The presentation was made by the Bishop of Butere, Rt Rev Dr Tim Wambunya, who is in the north west with his wife, Gertrude, to explore creating living links between parishes in Kenya and Ireland.
Hundreds of parishioners from across the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe converged on the Millennium Forum in Londonderry to celebrate ten years of their diocesan vision, ‘Transforming Community, Radiating Christ’.
The encouragement event – which was hosted superbly by the UTV broadcaster, Paul Clark – was called ‘Transformed: Small Steps, Big Difference’. Among the audience were the Roman Catholic Bishops of Derry and Raphoe, Dr Donal McKeown and Bishop Alan McGuckian; the Moderator of the Derry and Donegal Presbytery, Rev Paul Linkens; and the Minister of Clooney Hall Methodist Church, Rev Richard Johnston.
Bishop Good was also presented with a ‘Major Friendship Award’ by Bishop Wambunya, in appreciation of their two dioceses’ friendship and partnership over the last four years. During that time, parishes in Derry, Tyrone and Donegal have raised more than £60,000 for the ‘Buy a Cow for Butere’ initiative which supports clergy there. The two dioceses have an even older bond: over a century ago, the son and daughter of one of Bishop Good’s predecessors founded Butere’s first Anglican church and its first girls’ school.
During an interview on stage by Paul Clark, Bishop Good explained the thinking behind the ‘Transforming Community, Radiating Christ’ vision: “What I longed for was that we would have some kind of shared sense of belonging, a shared sense of purpose and a renewed sense of vision – that all together, in our diverse areas, we could work together.”
“I think it’s done pretty well,” Bishop Good said, paying tribute to the clergy. “When I launched it to the clergy, they overwhelmingly endorsed it and said, ‘Yes, this is what we’re going to go with.’ They could’ve said ‘No,’ they don’t like this, but they said ‘Yes.’ It’s been a burden to them, it’s meant extra work for them, but they each formed a vision team – or a parish team – and they mobilised people. The Diocesan Vision team gives them ideas and suggestions. We never tell them what to do; it’s up to them to shape it. It was a risk – a step of faith; it could’ve not worked at all; in a way my reputation was on the line because it could have been a fiasco but I’m so pleased.”
The address at the event was delivered by Bishop Pat Storey – a former Rector of St Augustine’s and ex-member of the Derry and Raphoe Vision Team – who urged the audience to “be the change” they wanted to see.
Recounting the “landmark moment”, recently, when her grandson took his first steps, Bishop Storey said the first steps were the hardest, but once you get going you picked up momentum and speed, and it was like you were never not walking. “Moving forward in Church life isn’t unlike this phenomenon,” she said. “We take very tentative steps at first, when we’re trying to take onboard a vision plan, but I would encourage you to look at the progress that you have made because I think it [‘Transforming Community, Radiating Christ] is a great slogan – it encapsulates the idea that we need to transform ourselves and that in turn we want to have a hand in transforming the communities around us. And we do that by radiating Christ. It’s a simple vision statement, but it has breadth and depth.”
Bishop Storey wondered where the Diocese would have been if nobody had responded to the challenge. “The truth is that if the Diocese had stayed static or taken a step backwards, there would be a noticeable big difference, but it wouldn’t be the difference you’re looking for.”
She told her audience that people don’t always believe their own potential but said every single one of them could make a big difference. “So, I would love to challenge you today, and me, that even though this is a celebration of how far you have come – and it’s totally worth celebrating – don’t rest on your laurels. There is much work still to do. The harvest is ready but the labourers are few, and every single person here can be involved in making a big difference (and I include the children behind me). You just need to believe it, to change the story you’re telling about yourself, to take a small step.
“What would that small step look like for you? Have you always wanted to get involved with children and young people? Has God given you a heart for social justice? Do you love to sit and listen to the older members in your church? Or are you really hospitable and you’d love to be that first smiling face that people see when they arrive at the church door? Do you love the liturgy and the scriptures, and do you feel that you could learn to lead others in worship?
“Whatever is your personal calling – and it’s going to look different for each one of us – don’t let today go by without deciding to get involved, to make a difference.”
Bishop Storey said if anyone should be able to bring hope to the world it was those who radiated Christ. “I am absolutely positive,” she said, “that taking small steps makes a big difference. This Diocese has changed and transformed dramatically in just a few years and you are that change. As you walk forward from this day, be the change you want to see. Everyone can do something. Small steps, big difference.”
During the event, a film was shown to the audience to illustrate the impact that the ‘Cows project’ was having in Butere. The Rector of Donagheady, Rev Dr Robin Stockitt – who has been to Butere – share with the audience his impressions of the Church in Kenya. “I was thinking, ‘What was my abiding memory of the Church in Butere?’ and the word that comes to mind is joy because when we flew into Nairobi, we got a local flight to a place called Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, and there were hundreds of children around the perimeter of the airport waiting to greet us. It was just overwhelming.
“And then when we got to Bishop Tim’s Diocesan headquarters the Mothers’ Union were waiting for us, they sang a welcome for us, and then – probably the highlight of the visit – was we had an Ordination Service where I was asked to preach. The Service went on for four hours and there were complaints that it was too short. And afterwards, everybody went outside and they danced and they sang, and I thought this is a place that is so full of vibrancy and joy and love. I went out there thinking I was going to teach, and I was there to give, but I think I was the one who received more than I gave – I received this extraordinary sense of welcome and spontaneity and authenticity and joy, and I hold those memories very dear.”
Dr Stockitt said the relationship between the dioceses was mutually enriching and definitely not a one-way relationship. “The fact that we can play a small part in improving the lives of your clergy and you can inspire us to be more joyful, then I think that this is a very beautiful relationship.”
Bishop Tim said, “We all realise that we are children of the same God so, in a partnership like this, we are able to see how we belong to this one God. You, from Derry and Raphoe, will come to Butere and discover that you have brothers and sisters who may be of a different colour but have the same Father as you have. It’s an opportunity to share your faith, an opportunity to live out your faith in mutual prayer, in mutual fellowship, mutual discipleship, encouraging one another and learning from each other.”
Lydia Mons, of Bishops’ Appeal, told the audience that their earlier generosity to the NetsWork project had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria in parts of Nigeria. “Really, what we want to see is something that doesn’t just impact on people today and make a difference today, but something that we can look on in 10 years’ time, in 20 years’ time, and see the continuing impact and the continuing ripple effect.
“If people remember the NetsWork project that we were involved in. A huge amount of money was raised for mosquito nets in Nigeria. Well, today in Nigeria, in the regions where those mosquito nets were handed out and that intensive training happened, the malaria for children under five alone has halved. It really is something amazing.”
Bishop Good spoke of his gratitude towards the Lord for the rich legacy and history of those who had gone before in the diocese. He was thankful to those present for being in partnership with him, and for taking risks, and for the good-natured way they had responded to ‘Transforming Community, Radiating Christ’.
“I think a lot of people are seeing that now there’s fruit being borne,” Bishop Good said, “there’s a dividend being paid for the risks we have taken in stepping out and doing these things. I believe these are urgent days. These are urgent days for all churches in the West but particularly traditional churches. There’s no guarantee now, where there used to be, that young people will come and believe and accept what we might have done. One of the former Archbishops of Canterbury, George Carey, said every local church needs to remember that you are one generation away from extinction. That’s a sobering kind of message.
“We want to be creative and missional not just for the sake of it but to lead people towards Christ, to have a confidence in the Gospel that Christ transforms you, that Christ transforms churches, that Christ transforms community. And so, as we give thanks for the last 10 years, I want to say, ‘Lord there’s so much more ahead that you want to lead us into. This is only the beginning of things in many ways and I want to thank you for being willing to go on this journey.”
All photos by Diocesan DCO except for trans 02, trans 03, trans 05, trans 07, trans 08, trans 11 and trans 12 - which are courtesy of Timothy Dowie.