After a degree of success in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Mission 21, a facilitator to 'Make Your Church More Inviting', was launched in the Province of Uganda. The newly formed Ugandan Diocese of Kumi carefully chose out 21 people from across their Diocese to be trained and serve as translators and facilitators to adapt this programme into another language and culture.
When ACC-11 (Anglican Consultative Council 11th Meeting) met in Dundee in 1999, Clive Wylie and Dean Fostekew, the then Mission 21 Co-ordinators for the Scottish Episcopal Church, presented Mission 21 to the assembled delegates. This presentation led to requests from various provinces for Mission 21. Over the past four years Pat McBryde (former Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Episcopal Church), The Revd Canon John Peterson (ACC Secretary General), Marjorie Murphy (ACC Director for Mission and Evangelism), Gill Young and Dean Fostekew, have worked closely together to ensure that the Mission 21 pilot would be a success.
The Revd Johnson Ebong-Oming had identified the Diocese of Kumi as being a good place to launch Mission 21 for various reasons:
Revd Johnson Ebong-Oming, the Provincial Mission Co-ordinator for the Church of Uganda, and Canon John Omagar (Archdeacon of Kumi) visited a parishes in Scotland to see the varying experiences of Mission 21 in large and small churches in both rural and urban situations. They met people engaged with the process who shared their stories of success and struggles and the lessons learnt on the way. It was in meeting these congregations that Johnson and John 'caught the Mission 21 vision' and saw quite clearly how it might translate both culturally and linguistically into the Church of Uganda. This exciting and encouraging trip enthused them as they return to Uganda and begin to get the team together for the task in Kumi Diocese.
Having chosen 21 key people from the Diocese the team of three from the UK, Dean, Marjorie and Gill went out to Uganda to meet the team there and to gain understanding of the people and their faith and culture.
Uganda, is a green and beautiful country, fertile and with great potential but a country that has lived with civil war for 17 years (How often do you hear that reported in our news?) and suffered so much under the regime of Idi Amin. The Church of Uganda is a church alive with the Spirit and full of hope for the future and yet at the same time it is a church trying to counter inter-tribal rivalry, cultural norms and conservatism for example Bishops can only be bishop of a diocese from which they hail, the translation of bishops and clergy is therefore difficult and means that some dioceses end up without a bishop at times or with few clergy.
Kumi Diocese is the second youngest diocese in the Church of Uganda (3 years old) and is in the Teso region of Uganda which is amongst the three poorest regions in the country. Life is hard for many people, a great dream is to own a bicycle (35,000 Shillings or £11 to us). Kumi is in the plains and as such everything is covered in a dusting of red soil. The soil is fertile and despite the dust reasonably well watered. Most families live on 500 shillings a day (15p) and the woman and children are often seen carrying large 'jerry cans' of water great distances to their homes, a bike would make a great difference. Yet they are a smiling people and a people that have opened their homes and hearts to the thousands displaced by the recent upsurge in civil strife in the north of the region and in Soroti and Lira dioceses. While we were there some 67 people were massacred in Lira, Johnson's home region.
Anglicans in Kumi are large in number but their request for Mission 21 is to help them discover new ways of taking the faithful deeper into spirituality and prayer; to enable them to put deep roots down into their faith and then to put their faith into action. They also hope to explore new ways of worshipping that does not rely on the prayer book alone. While they want to maintain both the English and Ateso services they hope to develop more hymns and prayers in their local language and to encourage the wider use of native instruments but as of yet they have only just begun to explore alternatives.
Some had travelled for five or more hours by bus, bike or on foot to be there for a 0830 start. The bishop, The Rt Rev'd Thomas Eddison was chauffeured to the meeting on the back of the Diocesan moped! This is the vehicle he uses to do a lot of travelling round his Diocese, when the hospital 4x4 is being used. The Mission 21 facilitators represented a cross-section of the diocese; clergy, lay readers, school teachers and Mother's Union members. Their enthusiasm for Mission 21 was great and five of them are already translating (both culturally and linguistically) the Foundation Phase 'Making Your Church More Inviting' into Ateso.
The Revd Dean JB Fostekew
Provincial Mission 21 Co-ordinator
Scottish Episcopal Church.