When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
On June 26th Msalato Theological College held their graduation exercises. The day began with a large contingent of students and their families meeting the car carrying the “Americans” at the end of the driveway and running alongside side, singing them to the principal’s office. It was a very tender sight that brought tears to our eyes. We feel sure that neither Bishop Neil nor Doug will ever forget the welcome. We certainly won’t.
During the exercises, Bishop Neil Alexander preached from Luke 5 telling the graduates that they too would be called to take risks, to take their boats into the deeper waters in their ministries. This sermon was delivered with such force and grace that we were in awe of our Bishop. Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo of this Diocese of Central Tanganyika translated, giving double impetus to the sermon. The students cited the day as “historic” in having an American bishop come to give the graduation sermon and to hand out diplomas. Sandra was especially proud as the women of both the Kiswahili and English theology courses received the top academic honors. All around it was a day of rejoicing and happiness for the entire school, but for Sandra the day was also tinged with sadness. Many of the students that she was just getting to know and to love were taking their leave to far-away villages and remote areas.
Graduation was just the beginning of a whirlwind but deeply moving experience of having our Bishop and our parish priest, Doug Hahn, visiting our assignment in central Tanzania. Bishop Alexander came directly from London where he had been on official business for the Presiding Bishop. Doug met up with him in Amsterdam, and they arrived in Tanzania the day before graduation on Saturday, June 25th. They stayed at the home of Bishop Mhogolo during their time in Dodoma. Bishop Mhogolo asked us to dinner on Saturday evening to greet them. Oh, happy day—our dream had finally been clothed! After a great dinner and catching-up conversation, Santa Claus (alias Doug Hahn) brought out a magic suitcase with books, video-camera, two computers, glasses cases, peanut butter, meds, along with lovely cards and letters from home. It was an amazing haul, and we are certainly thankful that customs did not decide to have a peak into that particular suitcase!
After taking part in the graduation festivities on June 26th, Bishop Alexander was invited by the national church (ECUSA) to visit the camps in western Tanzania where there are long term refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. He returned to Dodoma on July 2 so he could preach at the Ordination of Deacons and Priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit the following day. After all, the ordination of Sandra had been his initial reason for coming to Africa, and it could not be missed! This day was all the more special for the McCann’s because their daughter Catherine had surprised them by coming from her school in Italy for the ceremony. Martin and Catherine were proud of wife and mother, for her long term commitment to the Spirit. She feels called to the Sacramental Ministry and with the elevation to the priesthood will be better able to serve her calling.
Along with Bishop Alexander and Doug Hahn, several other representatives of ECUSA were present at the ordination, having come back to Dodoma with Bishops Mhogolo and Alexander from the refugee camps. From ECUSA there were Canon Benjamin Musoke-Lubega, Partnership Officer for Africa, and C. Richard Parkins, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. Also on hand from the Diocese of NY were Suffragan Bishop, Catherine Roskam, and Senior Associate of the Department of Grants from Trinity Wall Street Church, Matthew Heyd. From Capitol Hill there was Maureen Shea, Director of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church. From the Diocese of Dar es Salaam there was Margaret Wester, another Atlanta Diocese missionary from the Church of the Transfiguration in Rome, who has just recently arrived in Tanzania.
Having a woman bishop presented in Africa constitutes a rare event, but Bishop Roskam was quick to point out that there are six women bishops in the US, two in Australia, one in New Zealand, and three in Canada. Bishop Roskam could not have been a better role model for women in ministry. She was very warmly received. During her introduction, she made a beautifully delivered plea for women’s rights around the world. Throughout the week she spoke with passion and energy concerning the feeling of imprisonment that she had experienced in the refugee camps. She and Richard Parkins moved us all to become more informed and politically active in the refugee’s plight to obtain citizenship and freedom.
For the ordination service the Cathedral was packed to the capacity of 700 and many more were looking on from outside. Bishop Mhogolo was in top form and the service progressed smoothly and gracefully. There was a very special moment when Doug Hahn was asked by Bishop Mhogolo to come to the microphone. It was then that Doug presented a check for $12,000.00 from St. Thomas and Friends in honor of Sandra’s ordination. It was given to her and to the principal of Msalato Theological College to purchase satellite internet access for the college. Sherry Wade and Charlie Roper were the facilitators behind this fundraising effort. Sherry had made up one of those large fake checks for the presentation, but the prinicipal of the school thought it was real. There was a moment of comic relief when he chased Sandra back to her seat to get the check. A nice reception with food, entertainment, and speeches followed the completion of the ordination service.
The next day, the Fourth of July, Bishops Neil and Catherine, and Doug and Matthew began a four day tour led by Bishop Mdimi to see ministries and programs of the diocese. As it was Independence Day, we invited all of them to dinner for hots, hamburgers, beans, and potato salad. We found at least one way to Bishop Neil’s heart--sweet Gherkin’s pickles!
Later in the week Bishops Neil and Mdimi and Doug hosted a round-table discussion concerning what a companion diocesan relationship might look like. Bishop Neil and Doug first told the area deans and others about the Atlanta Diocese and Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministry. The discussion that followed was about the mechanics of how a relationship between our two dioceses might proceed. Consensus was that dialogue should be ongoing and that initially our relationship should be on a diocese to diocese level, rather than parish to parish. On this end, Bishop Mhogolo made sure that there would be a mechanism in place and appointed Martin to handle medical affairs, Sandra to handle theological matters, and an Australian missionary, Kath Budden, to handle primary/secondary education needs. Following the discussion, Bishop Alexander wowed the crowd on the keyboard with Take my hand, precious Lord written by Thomas Dorsey of Atlanta. Bishop Roskam helped lead the words. Gosh, we have talented bishops!
Bishop Roskam and Matthew Heyd led another round-table discussion with the deans, key medical people, and educators. The NY Diocese interest is in setting up parish to parish companionships with one of their projects being to identify and fund school uniforms and fees for the AIDS orphans of this diocese.
On July 6, Bishop Mdimi took the Bishops and the others into the bush, getting them away from the city life of Dodoma, to do confirmations. These are the experiences which show how the people of the region really live and worship. We cannot confirm this, but we heard that there were fifteen choirs there! So by Thursday afternoon, the Americans were tired (Doug called it a good tired) when they left Dodoma to spend Friday at Mkumi National Game Park before beginning their trip home Saturday.
We feel that the entire visit was a booster to the churches on both sides of the water. We are grateful to Bishop Mhogolo and his entire staff for the arrangements and hospitality shown to the entourage. It was not made up or put on but reflected the nature and spirit of the Tanzanian people. As we write, we wish all who came Godspeed and a safe journey home.
Sandra ended this extraordinary two weeks by performing her first baptism. This is all the more remarkable as it was in Kiswahili! On this day, Sunday, July 10, Nyemo Joy Lusinde, was welcomed into the flock of St. Andrew’s Church on the grounds of Msalato Theological College. Thanks be to God!
If not already, there will be a gorgeous array of pictures on our website, www.mccannmission.org, of the graduation and ordination and perhaps one or two of the talented bishops and of the baptism.
With so much gratitude and joy that we are bursting,
Sandy and Martin