Nigeria visit update
Update on the Bishop of Clogher's Visit to Nigeria

The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson, continues on his two week visit to Nigeria, where he is the guest of the Diocese of Kaduna. Having travelled to Nigeria on Wednesday night of last week, the bishop commenced engagements on Thursday morning, by addressing diocesan clergy on the theme of relationships and communion. The theme was a bible study of St Luke chapter 17, something which the bishop had shared with his own clergy in Clogher Diocese earlier in November. Dutiful service, holiness and restoration to membership of society and returning to the source of healing with gratitude formed the core. The bishop took a wide range of questions on many aspects of the life of the contemporary Anglican Communion. The bishop also had a long meeting with a visiting bishop from Zaphira State, where Sharia law holds, and discovered more about Christian witness in an interfaith context. He also had the opportunity to meet with the local Muslim leader.

On Friday, Bishop Jackson met with the committee who have formulated his visit, and worked through the aspirations and expectations of the many meetings with churches, diocese and individuals which will take place during his visit. The bishop outlined to them the next phase of the partnership between Clogher and Kaduna dioceses, in terms of the Kaduna Rural Education and Healthcare Programme. The committee were excited by this and expressed their greetings and good wishes to the clergy and people of Clogher diocese which the bishop reciprocated. Bishop Jackson also visited St Michael’s Diocesan School beside the cathedral in Kaduna. There he met with the acting principal, staff and pupils, who sit their end of year exams this week. He met the local church committee and members of Christ Church, a large thriving parish in the heart of Kaduna city. Whilst there, he gave a talk on the gospel, evangelism and contemporary Anglicanism. The bishop noted that media reports of inter-faith riots in Kaduna the previous day were incorrect, and whilst there was a riot near the bishop’s house, it was between police and drug dealers, and not an inter-faith riot as reported in the media.

On Saturday the bishop travelled to Jacaranda Farm to see a range of agricultural and horticultural farming in operation, and also to see Clogher Hostel, which was constructed on the farm with financial support from the Diocese of Clogher, as were a number of other actions on the farm. He also spent time in Kasuwa Magoni deanery where there are nine churches, seven evangelists and one priest. He visited all nine churches in the deanery, one of which is set close to a village where the animists live in the forest. The bishop was invited to give names of dedication to six of the churches and after prayer and listening to the people, he gave the following for different reasons: St Paul’s Church Kallah; Church of the Living Water Gefe; Christ the King Maraba Kajuru; St John the Baptist Iburu; St John the Evangelist Dambagudu; and St Luke the Evangelist Ilufana. Some of the church buildings are in the process of being built, but the people are already worshipping there. One of the churches had held an all night vigil to discern the way forward for the parish. Numbers are small in rural settings but increasingly people who are already Christian are looking to the Anglican diocese for tradition and stability. Also many other Christians are turning to the Anglican Church. After a busy day, the bishop returned to the bishop’s house with a total of six chickens as gifts for Archbishop Josiah from the parishioners. They travelled quietly in the jeep!!

The bishop worshipped and preached on Sunday in St Paul’s Church Kakuri, a suburb of Kaduna city. It has a large Igbo community with a Hausa pastor. This is part of Archbishop Josiah’s policy of not allowing parishes to have tribal rectors and tribal identity. This is very much in the spirit of the contemporary Nigeria. The three hour service, at which the bishop preached, was attended by a congregation of nearly 1,000 people, during which Bishop Jackson was invited to bless two families each of whom had a child recently, and a couple recently married giving thanks for their marriage. During the service parishioners entered dancing and carrying gifts of rice, yams, fruit and three rams, one of which was for Bishop Jackson, as the visiting bishop. It is now happily grazing in the local bishop’s compound! The bishop’s sermon focused on your possessions and the Holy Spirit. He developed a theme of spiritual and material generosity in line with 1 Corinthians and the body of Christ as the church was dedicated to St Paul. During the day the bishop also met with a youth missionary who has family connections with the Diocese of Clogher.

On Monday, the bishop spent time in Kateri deanery visiting a medical station and a number of village communities. There are two clergy and eight evangelists who service up to twenty parishes on either side of main road from Kaduna to Abuja, and there is also a healthcare clinic, a large primary school, and a high school up to grade three. The main illnesses dealt with by the healthcare clinic are still malaria and typhoid. One parish is forty five miles into the bush. At Bishini, a development area church, the bishop encountered some interesting questions - if a believer reverts to idol worship will that person be able or not to have a Christian funeral? if parents are animist and Muslim can a son or daughter attend their funeral? Clearly these are live issues. The bishop based his general address to the people on St John 1:1 “in the beginning was the Word...” He explored the link between creation and incarnation, and the Word as Bible and the Word as Christ. He appealed to the people to bring forth their own church leaders for the future. The village chief, a member of the local church, attended throughout the meeting and sent the bishop away with twelve yams and two chickens.

Tuesday commenced with another early start, as the bishop headed off to spend the day in the deanery of Birnin Gwari, which means the city of the Gwari Tribe. The communities are partly mixed Igbo and Gwari and some are exclusively Gwari. Interestingly at least two of the communities which he visited had been evangelized by other mission agencies but now are asking to be incorporated into the Anglican Diocese because they want structure. The bishop had the opportunity to dedicate and name three churches: The Church of the Living Way Kuriga; St Andrew Sabonlayi; and The Church of the Resurrection Kasaya. The parishes are very rural and are actively supported by St Christopher's Church, Kaduna city, in terms of building, evangelism and general encouragement. This is a very interesting type of pioneer ministry which seems to work well. In the evening the bishop gave a lecture to a large gathering in St Michael's Cathedral on Anglicanism and the Covenant. He gave an outline of the threads of Anglicanism and showed how these could be found in the Covenant text. He underlined the localness of Anglicanism based on the application of shared principles and practices; he shared reflections on his experiences of the diocese of Kaduna; and he described the Covenant as an exercise in shared trust. The Covenant had been given to people in the deaneries ahead of the lecture and there was lively discussion particularly of autonomy. Interestingly he was asked why there was no specific mention of youth as a major component in the Anglican future. The bishop suggested the lady write with her suggestion to the ACO. There was no antipathy at all expressed towards the Covenant. During the occasion, the bishop handed over to the Resident Canon in the cathedral a signed letter of greeting, which was gratefully received.

Bishop Jackson continues on his visit of Nigeria until Wednesday 1st December.


25th November 2010