The Right Reverend Kenneth Cragg


Bishop Kenneth Cragg: 1913-2012We mourn the death, give thanks for the life, and pray for the soul of the Rt Revd Kenneth Cragg, who has died in England at the age of 99.

One of the greatest scholars of the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and one of the greatest workers in the field of Muslim-Christian understanding, Bishop Kenneth Cragg served both in Britain and in the Middle East, notably as Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem with particular oversight of Egypt, and in many other places too.

His scholarly and popular published works span more than 55 years and draw deeply on lived pastoral and human encounter. He was the most gracious and shrewd of Christians.

May he rise in glory.

+Michael Cyprus and the Gulf

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November 2012

Dear FriendsBougainvillea frames the old Flagstaff Station, Aden, Yemen

In a few days’ time we shall take our suitcases from the top of the wardrobe, dust them down and start packing, filling any empty corners with packets of mocha coffee, and head home. It has been a good visit. We have been here five weeks. It seems much longer. Nancy says that coming to Aden is like entering Narnia – the magical world of author C.S.Lewis’ creation, encountered in his children’s books.

There are some similarities between the waning power of the dreadful white witch in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – the first of the chronicles of Narnia – and that Enjoying  tea with friends during the eid holiday at Christ Church Adenof Yemen’s previous president, who still lingers on in the country causing mischief. We’ve not encountered the books’ magnificent lion, Aslan, who represents God, or more particularly Jesus, but we have certainly sensed his presence around. However, I do not think that any of these things were in mind when Nancy mentioned Narnia. It was rather the sense that in Aden, as in Narnia, time seems different to what it is in other places and that within what seems an incredibly short time a lot can happen – both wonderful and sometimes rather horrible.Apprentice guard dog in the garden at Christ Church Aden

Fortunately, we have not encountered anything very horrible though I did have a moment’s horrible reflection: On a rare occasion when I ventured to drive ourselves rather than have someone else drive us, I parked the car in an empty parking lot and an hour or so later returned to it. As I turned the ignition key, I suddenly thought, ‘I hope we don’t blow up’. Obviously, the car did not blow up but those sorts of things do sometimes happen here. It was a sobering moment.

Sadly, much more common and now often reported in the local media is the kidnapping on their arrival by sea on Yemen’s shores of some Somali and even more Ethiopian refugees. Those who take them appear to be Yemeni thugs, people-traffickers who hold their victims – some of them very young – until their poor relatives can send $300 for their release. Each of them will already have paid $50 for their long and hazardous passage over to Yemen. Those held are frequently tortured, abused and even sometimes killed.

Joining in celebrations at nearby St Francis Church in Aden, YemenLess anguished, nearer home but also tragic, is the plight of many Yemenis who go to bed hungry every night. Dr Nada, of the General Clinic has just informed me that 60% of the patients whom she has seen this morning are suffering from malnutrition evidenced in the rough, peeling skin of young children and their dark, crinkly, brittle hair. Some of them, with their families, subsist on a daily diet of sweet black tea and cheap bread. We try our best to help as we can. The situation is apparently worse in rural areas where 70% of the population live.

The country’s Government of National Unity, under leadership of interim President Abdo Rabba Mansour Hadi, has actually achieved much, not only in holding the country together but also in conferring with almost every party and grouping in the land from Yemen’s neglected and shunned akhdam or gypsies to the still hopeful and energetic youth of the Arab Spring, in anticipation of a significant conference to be held imminently in Aden on the nation’s future. There has not been a lot of energy left over to address the nation’s dire economic and humanitarian needs.

When last we wrote, we were poised for the visit of Bishop Michael. It was brief but very happy, encouraging and useful. One evening we had a party in the garden for the staff and their families. We Remembrance Service - Aden, November 2012were about 40. The food, a traditional lamb dish called, Zorubian, was delicious. Food, overseen by Mansour, always is! The atmosphere was wonderful – hard adequately to describe – an excited buzz and an enormous innocent delight at simply being together.

Children laying the wreaths at our Remembrance Service - November 2012It was just one of a whole kaleidoscope of encounters, experiences and meetings that have made up our brief visit. When we return home, some neighbours will probably say that they never realised we had been away and we, like the children in Narnia on their return home, will do our best to tell them of this troubled land and its remarkable people.

With our love and sincere best wishes in Christ

Peter and Nancy

PS. We have just learned of the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. He preached here at Christ Church a few years ago when one of his sons, Peter, was working here as a volunteer. Justin is a fine person – so is Pete.

Cyprus Visitation 2012

The second annual Gathering of the Cyprus Archdeaconry, and the Archdeacon’s Visitation took place at the Cathedral in Nicosia on Saturday 13th October, with a congregation made up of all the Chaplaincies on the island.

Each of the Chaplaincies presented a gift, at the opening of the service, to represent their location and mission. These varied from the red earth of the South East Cyprus Chaplaincy, to the ikons of Paphos, and an example of an embroidered cross which until the recent death of the donor, was painstakingly made and given to every new member of the church in Larnaca.

The congregation heard the Archdeacon, the Ven Dr John Holdsworth, outline work done in the diocese and archdeaconry during the past year, in a framework of the church’s five marks of mission. Mrs Georgia Katsantonis, the Bishop’s PA was present for the first time and said, “this was an amazing experience of the unity of all the Chaplaincies. It was the first time I have been to a service like this, and I found it very moving.”

You can download the Archdeacon’s Visitation Charge here.

October 2012

Flag of southern secessionistsYesterday was Revolution Day, and naturally, a national holiday. The people of Yemen are enthusiastic holiday makers. The main street of Ma’alla was shut off at each end with debris and rubble for a demonstration by those in the city wanting to see the south of the country break away and once again be independent of the North.

At the same time, over the hill in Crater, there was a counter demonstration by those eager to hold the two parts of the country together. Both were well attended but had about them the air more of carnival than protest. Police and soldiers with armoured personnel carriers oversaw both in a casual way, and at no time had cause to leave the shade of their vehicles.

Hut by the cemetery at Ma'alla

A few days earlier, Nancy and I went to the main Ma’alla cemetery to photograph a grave for someone in England wanting to know where his father lies in Aden, and what the grave looks like. We found it without trouble. He had been in an accident and died in 1955. In the same row we spotted this poignant headstone, ‘In loving memory of Philippa Malone Dixon, wife of Wing Commander D.E. Dixon. Her life was take by a shark 5 July 1955.’ Sometimes we eat shark and chips here. The sharks, we are assured, come from a long way off. Still, it is a very sad epitaph.

As we left the graveyard, we saw young Abdullah, who keeps it very diligently. He told us that the municipality had cut off the cemetery water supply because the British Embassy had stopped paying the water bills. With his customary resourcefulness our friend had made a new connection to another supply. The authorities came recently to cut that off too. But, when they found Abdullah giving a very old man, who lives in a fragile shack leant up against the cemetery building, his daily wash with water from the illegal connection, they relented and commended his kindness.

The party for Dr AdelThis week Bishop Michael flies in and there is eager anticipation of his visit. He has not been able to come for a while. We shall look forward, amongst other things, to reporting on the visit, just concluded, of Dr Adel from Egypt, who operated hard and diligently taught our local staff in the eye department. He is a wonderfully enthusiastic, able and conscientious doctor, and we are delighted and grateful that he is committed to returning soon to give further supervision to our two local eye doctors, one of whom is already well able to operate on her own. During his ten days with us, 61 cataract operations were performed.

Last Friday we worshipped, of course, with the congregation of Christ Church – fourteen adults and four children. At the start of the service, Gashu from Ethiopia and Nazir from Pakistan, who, with Rex from the Philippines, have led weekly worship without faltering since our abrupt departure, asked us to kneel before them. They thanked God for our return and prayed that God would guide us in our visit. It was a deeply moving moment.

Amongst the congregation were four newcomers – two young Pakistani engineers, an Ethiopian house maid and a Colombian aid worker, all newlyEye patients waiting at the Ras Morbat clinic arrived in Aden. As she left, the Colombian woman said with radiant smile, “In the service I thanked God so much for those who made worship in this place possible.

Today I visited the UNHCR to set up a visit to their office by Bishop Michael. On the way home, the Yemeni friend driving me unexpectedly said that in a local paper this week there had been a caution from imams about the wearing of inappropriate clothes in mosques. Second-hand clothes from Europe are imported here and bought eagerly, often with little awareness of what may be printed on them. Apparently the newspaper article showed men kneeling at prayer. One wore a T-shirt saying mischievously, ‘God’s busy – can I help you’. The other had a cap on which was written, ‘Jesus lives’. He does indeed! …….

With warmest thanks for your interest and your prayers.

Our love and best wishes in Christ

Peter and Nancy

Ordination of the Reverend Jo Henderson

Ordination of the Revd Deacon Jo Henderson

The 28th September 2012 marked an historic day for the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf when Jo Henderson was ordained as a deacon at St Andrew’s in Abu Dhabi, the first ordination in the UAE.

Jo Henderson came to St Andrew’s church more than 6 years ago and her talents in Christian ministry were quickly recognised and affirmed. She was licensed as a Reader in 2007 and since then has been ministering regularly to the Anglican community in Abu Dhabi.

Canon Andy Thompson, Senior Chaplain of St Andrew’s in Abu Dhabi, said “Jo Henderson is a popular member of the St Andrew’s community and is well known for her warmth, compassion and infectious laughter. Her calling to the ordained ministry has been consistently affirmed and recognised by an array of people and we rejoice that we are witnesses to culmination of this calling by hosting her ordination service.”

The Ordination service was presided over by Bishop Michael Lewis and during his sermon he reminded Jo and the congregation that ministry was “Not about her – but a continuation of the rich and diverse ministry of the global Church”.

St Andrew’s  was packed for the occasion with members of the wider expatriate community represented, including the British Ambassador and the Salvation Army.

Ordination of the Revd Deacon Jo Henderson
Ordination of the Revd Deacon Jo Henderson
Ordination of the Revd Deacon Jo Henderson
Reverend Jo and her husband Ralph

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