All posts by Diocese of Southwark

It’s not too late to give!

The Bishop of Southwark’s Lent Call has come to an end with a wonderful service at Southwark Cathedral where schools from the Diocese came to present their gifts to the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun.   You can read about what some of the children thought about taking part in the service on our Hearts on Fire blog (add link).

As it is not yet Ascensiontide we have yet to gather in all the money from the Lent Call collections around our churches and schools but we know from Twitter that lots of churches and schools have taken part in activities to ensure that the causes we have publicised this year are well supported.

In fact, one of our parishes has made a donation which we think might be one of the largest we have ever received.  We are very grateful. So far we have received about £21,000 but we know that there must be a lot more donations to come as we usually raise significantly more than this – so please do send your monies in to us so that we can begin to know how much we will have to share between our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe and projects in our own Diocese

From visiting Zimbabwe I know that there are so many needs in that troubled country where there are so many challenges to meet as the churches seek to share the Good News with those around them.  I know that the feeding projects that we have been able to help with have meant so much to people in Zimbabwe as they seek to ensure a brighter future for the next generation.  Children who are hungry often cannot make it to school because they have to walk a long way and if they do make it there they are not able to concentrate well if they are hungry.

We were delighted to see some of the children who had been involved in Lent Call events in our schools at the Cathedral service and to receive a little over £3,500 from the eleven schools that brought money to the Lent Call service.  We know there is more to come.  Here is a brief look at some of the young people at the service.

Each year at our Diocesan Synod on November we give cheques to those groups who have been supported by the Lent Call for that year and the pleasure on their faces helps us to know that the support which our schools and parishes and individuals give to them is very important.  So, it’s not too late to give and we hope that you might still want to contribute towards helping people in Zimbabwe to have enough to eat and helping the projects in our own Diocese to continue providing a good meal and practical help to the homeless and to offer good quality drug education in our schools.

On behalf of Bishop Christopher and all those involved in the Lent Call.  Thank you.






Lent Call – how you make the difference

As we have journeyed through Lent we have had an opportunity, through the Bishop’s Lent Call, to think about some examples of the challenges other people face.  We all have difficulties at times in our lives but the people of our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe have, for many years now, been faced with particular issues in their nation.   This, and the drought which had been affecting them, has made their lives harder.  Yet despite – or may be because of – such hardship their faith has not diminished and they give thanks to God for all that God has done and will do for them.  Their worship is joyous and vibrant. As you can hear from their singing their faith is the bedrock of all they do.

The projects here in our Diocese all show how people reaching out to others can help to bring about changed circumstances for people either through education or practical help.  The three projects are the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, Faith in Action’s Merton Homelessness Project and Deptford Reach.

Two of these projects (Faith in Action Merton and Deptford Reach) deal with actual physical hunger on a day to day basis, making sure that their clients get a good meal every day, while the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation’s work is based around ‘Making Safer Choices’ – the drug education programme it has developed in association with specialist teachers.  But, all three provide information and services to fulfil a different kind of hunger – the hunger for the kind of knowledge which will enable people to equip themselves to help their own situation.

Right across the Diocese we know that people have been undertaking fund raising events in order to contribute to the Bishops Lent Call this year.  Our schools are always particularly active in raising money and we always look forward to the Lent Call service where they come and give their gifts to the Bishop and sing and dance as part of their thankful worship to God.  But there are other events too….

Bishop's Lent Call service_0037

There is still time to give to the Lent Call now and to encourage others to do so as we don’t close the books for a little while yet.  Have a look at some of the fund raising suggestions in the pack, available from – you might like to organise a hunger lunch, donate the money you’ve saved by giving up chocolate for Lent, or wash people’s cars in order to raise money.

We are so grateful for the way in which individuals and parishes respond to the Lent Call and hope that as we move on towards the tridiuum of Easter and the remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection we will all continue to pray for those people and projects which we have supported through the Bishop’s Lent Call this year.

“I was hungry… I was thirsty”: An anchor in Deptford

For the third and final project that the Bishop’s Lent Call is supporting within the Diocese of Southwark, we cross London to the Woolwich Episcopal Area and to Deptford, which is the home of Deptford Reach.

Deptford Reach was founded in 1979 as the Deptford Churches Centre, largely by committed Christians, including local ‘legend’ – Father Diamond. Indeed, for the first few years of its existence before moving to its own premises, the Deptford Churches Centre operated from the crypt of St Paul’s – Fr Diamond’s church.

Then, as now, the aim of the project was to help the homeless and marginalised of Deptford and South London. Deptford Reach, like Faith in Action Merton, is a crisis intervention centre, providing day-care facilities to over 95, vulnerable, unemployed and marginalised adults per day.

Most of their service users have multiple problems and the staff and volunteers find themselves helping them with a wide range of issues. The centre’s aim is always to help them overcome their difficulties, regain self-esteem and take responsibility for their lives. This is done by providing basic support, advice, information, volunteering, rehabilitation, tenancy support/sustainment, counselling, training and education.

Deptford Reach tries to tackle the roots of poverty and homelessness and works in partnership with campaign organisations to initiate changes for those affected.

In the following short film, you’ll hear from Jordan, a Project Worker and from Iain and David – two service users with very different reasons for being at the centre.

“I was hungry… I was thirsty”: A hunger for knowledge (as well as food)

For the second of our Diocesan projects we head over to south-west London – South Wimbledon to be accurate. In the hall attached to the Salvation Army Church, the Faith in Action Merton Homelessness Project serves breakfasts and lunches to more than 70 people per session as well as offering them the sort of tangible assistance which can help them get back on their feet.

Faith in Action was founded around 15 years ago and has grown thanks to a collaboration of local faith groups. Today a Project Manager, part-time Project Workers and a dedicated team of more than 60 volunteers enable them to run the Homeless Drop-In Centre.

The Drop-In Centre is open on Wednesdays and Fridays and, as well as a warm welcome, service users can obtain breakfast, snacks and a home-cooked lunch; shower and laundry facilities; clothes and food parcels; supported internet access giving service users a facility for filling out online registration forms, job and housing applications, and benefit claims. The team at the Centre also help with access to local statutory and voluntary services such as the Community Drug & Alcohol Teams, Spear Housing, Street Rescue, and Merton Winter Night Shelters. Another important service offered is help in the search for work, including assistance with putting together CVs, looking for jobs, and making online applications.

The Centre welcomes all rough sleepers, street users and the precariously housed, as well as those who are socially excluded, vulnerable and isolated or who have mental health or addiction issues. At an average session, the centre will serve meals to up to 80 people and do approximately 10 machine loads of washing.

In the video, Andy Fairbairn, the Project Manager, tells us a bit more about the work of the Drop-In Centre and we also hear from Dot, one of the volunteers, and Phil, a service user.


I was hungry… I was thirsty: Projects in the Diocese of Southwark

Over the previous weeks in Lent we have been looking at issues of food security and the provision of water in our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe. For the fifth week, we move our focus closer to home and look at projects that the Bishop’s Lent Call is supporting within the Diocese of Southwark.

Two of these projects are dealing with actual physical hunger on a day to day basis, making sure that their clients get a good meal every day, but all three provide information and services to fulfil a different kind of hunger – the hunger for the kind of knowledge which will enable people to equip themselves to help their own situation.

The three projects are the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, Faith in Action’s Merton Homelessness Project and Deptford Reach.

The first project we are featuring this week is the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation.

DSM Foundation play launch_0030

The Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation is a drugs education charity founded by Tim and Fiona Spargo-Mabbs in response to the death of their 16-year-old son Daniel in January 2014, having taken ecstasy. Dan was bright, articulate, popular, kind, funny and talented. He attended a CofE school in south London and he and his family were active members of their local Anglican church, where Dan had signed up for a youth Alpha course which started two days after he died. Tim and Fiona felt if this tragedy could happen to Dan it could happen to any young person, that this is a risk close to home for a lot of people, and they wanted to do all they could to prevent any harm happening to anyone else’s child.

Most of the Foundation’s work is based around ‘Making Safer Choices’ – the drug education programme it has developed in association with specialist teachers – and this has been increasingly successful at getting into schools to help young people aged 11-18 to understand the risks and consequences of drugs and to navigate these choices safely. The programme also offers sessions to parents and carers to provide awareness of the issues and risks their children face with drugs and alcohol, and what they can do to support them to stay safe.

DSM Foundation play launch_0048

Another way the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation has of putting its message across is through a play which they commissioned. Called ‘I love you, mum – I promise I won’t die’, the play by Mark Wheeller uses the words of Dan’s friends and family to tell Dan’s story. The title of the play comes from Dan’s last words to his mother before he left home on his last evening and it was first performed in March 2016. In February 2017 the text was published by Methuen and the Foundation commissioned Stopwatch, a Theatre in Education company, to tour the play around schools during Spring term 2017. Educational workshops follow each performance, to enable young people to engage interactively with these important issues.

This new ‘touring’ version of the play with a smaller cast was premiered in Southwark Cathedral at the launch of the play text on 9 February. This short video was shot after the performance and shows reactions from members of the audience to the powerful subject matter:

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Crops and goats and pigs and – of course – chickens

The Diocese of Masvingo has worked hard throughout the past few months and years to ensure that the people in the Diocese are fed as well as educated.   Southwark Cathedral, with which the Diocese of Masvingo is linked, helps with supplementary feeding in the schools in the Buhera district and across the Diocese as Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi talked about in his welcome to the visitors from Southwark in the Cathedral hall as we arrived.  As well as thanking the Diocese for all that they have done Bishop Godfrey could not resist noting – as did all our hosts wherever we went that this was Archdeacon Jane’s first visit, not only to Zimbabwe but also to Africa.  It brought people so much pleasure that she had come to Zimbabwe first and that she was so obviously enjoying the experience.   It is always brilliant when we visit Zimbabwe how warmly you are welcomed and how pleased people are to see us – and it is mutual.  It is always such a pleasure to be back in Zimbabwe and to see the joy and hope of the people we meet and their faith and positive outlook no matter what the difficulties they face

One of the schools in the feeding plan is Munyaradzi Primary School and it is clear that even when things are very difficult for people in the schools and parishes they are full of praise.  We didn’t make it to Munyaradzi parish this visit but we did previously and this clip of their singing gives a real feel of how much they express their faith and joy in song.

Whilst we were in Masvingo Diocese we were taken to visit the Transfiguration Centre.  The Bishop, the Dean and I had seen this project before when it was working as a Training Centre for students to learn about farming so that they could take it home to their villages and share their knowledge with others.  At the moment the Centre is not used for training as the places in which they used to stay are being upgraded but the Centre itself is thriving and much is happening which can be used both to help to feed people and to teach them to farm for themselves.


the old buildings in which the students lived which are being upgraded

There is now a worker and his wife on the site and another Diocesan worker also lives in the house on the site.   The site has developed a good deal since we were last there with a borehole and water butt to help with the growing.


It is really helping the crops to survive, even when the water supply has been low.  We were pleased to be able to stand in crops which were as tall as we were (although it has to be admitted that, with the exception of Bishop Christopher, those who travelled from Southwark Diocese were not exactly hugely tall!)


We visited the pigs – it always surprises me that they are relatively clean – the chickens and the goats.  The goats were particularly appealing as the time that we visited was the time when they expect to be let out to graze and so they put their heads towards the door expectantly and looked at us with mournful eyes as we went passed their pen and didn’t let them out.


This project is a real testimony to the determination of the people of Masvingo Diocese – as was all that we saw.   They won’t let anything stop them in their determination to be the Church and to show others that being the Church means working to ensure that everyone is cared for as much as possible.

The feeding programmes are a really good example of finding practical solutions to a difficult problem.  Not only are the children hungry – as are their families – but their hunger can at times stop them getting to school or being ready and able to learn if they get there.  Hunger is so debilitating.  Feeding the children helps them not only to get to and from the school, as they receive nourishment when they are there, but also acts as an incentive to make it to the school because they know that they will get food, as well as learn.

Bishop Godfrey has worked hard to ensure that as much is done as possible to help meet the material and spiritual needs of his people and he has been wonderfully helped by the committed clergy and people there – especially by the Mothers’ Union.

The people near the Transfiguration Centre don’t yet have a church in which to worship God and give thanks for his blessings to them and so one of the buildings on the Transfiguration site is used as a church – when it does not have chickens or other animals in it


Sometimes things are a bit basic such as the provision for lighting at the Centre but no matter how little the people in Zimbabwe seem to have materially, they have so much spiritually.   They have a faith borne out of difficulty and the need for endurance and their deep sense of conviction concerning God’s care and provision for them is a real wake up call to those of us who have more materially.


It is so hard not to feel that we are poor in faith in contrast to their deep and positive sense of God.  Please pray for the people of Zimbabwe and give generously so that they can continue to work to ensure that they provide as much as they can for those who are hungry and thirsty.  As we pray for them let’s encourage them to pray for us that we too might feed the spiritual hunger and thirst of our people here in South London and East Surrey.

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Drum majorettes to greet us in the Diocese of Masvingo

We arrived in Masvingo Diocese and were warmly greeted by Bishop Godfrey and his wife Albertina and by many of the people with whom we were to meet during our brief visit.   There were the six Archdeacons of the Diocese (except not all of them had quite made it at that stage because of the roads) and the ordinands who are taught day by day at the Cathedral as well as those who worked around the Cathedral.

We had come now to expect that the tables and chairs would be draped in white shiny material and coloured bows and this was no exception as the hall was all draped in cloth and yellow sashes.   It makes ordinary garden chairs look much more interesting and brings colour and life to the room.

It is quite an amazing sight to see this wherever we went.



But at this first meal in Masvingo I was even more surprised to see a full tea service in fine white china with the MU logo on it. I thought it would be a fun thing to have back in the Bishop’s office at home and also how much it continues to tell us about the importance of the MU in the life of the Dioceses in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.


During our stay in Masvingo we were pleased to be able to visit the Daramombe Mission, which, like other Mission stations, is a lot more than just a school.  It isn’t often that one gets met by drum majorettes who have been standing in the sun waiting for you and who then lead you into the place you are about to visit.  Well that’s what happened when the Bishop, Dean and Archdeacon of Southwark and I arrived at Daramombe Mission.   It was quite amazing to see the lines of young women waiting and then marching in front of us with their batons and leading us in.   They waited in line – heads down at every place we visited – except during the school assembly of which they were a part.   We marvelled at their ability to be so still for so long in the sun!


Daramombe is an amazing school.  It is large and residential for most pupils and the grounds and classrooms are well kept and clean.  But, the school is not content with where they are and is busy building new classrooms and living areas which we were able to see.  There is to be a new space for computers and new and fully equipped rooms for different teaching subjects.  These are sturdily and well built and are nearing completion.

Schools such as Daramombe are so important in Zimbabwe because here future generations of leaders are educated and learn how to be leaders for the future.  Many of them go off to university and many of these are abroad and it is always hard to know whether those who have left will return in order to help make the future of their country, or whether they will choose to stay out of the country where life is definitely likely to be easier.  We spoke to students whose hopes were high but few of them talked of further education in Zimbabwe and this is a cause of real anxiety because where will the leaders of the future come from if those who can achieve university places leave and do not return.

As we were led into the school we went into an assembly.  Sadly, as ever, we were a little late and the students had been waiting a long time.  The hall is huge and was very full and hot but the students had waited patiently for us and stood as we arrived.


Introductions followed and then the choir sang.

They were absolutely amazing and were led by Fr Fungayi Nyandoro. The Bishop and I had met him at the Shearley Cripps festival in 2015 when he was newly returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa and then he had been at St George’s Jerusalem with the Dean and I.  He is a truly inspirational character.  What we had not known when we met him in Jerusalem was that he is a brilliant musician as the choir’s performance showed.  He is also a wonderful advert for the religious life as he is so full of fun and energy and faith.   He is Chaplain to the school as well as the rector of the parish in which the school stands and the Vicar General.

Daramombe had been occupied by those aligned to the deposed Bishop Nolbert Kunogna and, as with other places in Zimbabwe, the are differences to be healed still but this Mission station provides so much for the pupils who study there and for the people around it that there is little doubt that such things will be overcome to ensure the best for all those in the area.

Food security is important here too and so the Diocese makes sure that the food necessary can be provided and helps the parish as well as the school to be able to grow and rear enough or to be supplied with enough that the students and teachers can have sufficient to be able to learn and teach properly.  Many see a good education as the way forward and without a doubt Daramombe Mission tries to provide that for the children in its care.

But, it is not just DARAMOMBE.  There are 6 Secondary Schools, 1 High School and 8 Primary schools located in the various Districts and Provinces within the Diocese of Masvingo.  The Education departments sees its vision in words expressed in Provers 22:6 – ‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’

Having seen some of the other schools here in Masvingo and and others around the Dioceses few can doubt that they work very hard to ensure that their students get the best of possible starts.

That’s partly why food is so important and why the Diocese of Masvingo has, with the help of its Link, Southwark Cathedral, provided food programmes in lots of their schools to ensure that the children have eaten enough to both get to school and to learn.   There will be more about that on our next blog on Wednesday.




I was hungry… I was thirsty: Crops, schools and very, very potholed roads in the Diocese of Manicaland

The Umoja project is such a good one but that is not all that the Diocese is doing to try to ensure that people have food security and that they are properly educated.  After a Eucharist and welcome at the Cathedral in Mutare we journeyed off to visit schools and projects in the Diocese.

There is so much to see and experience in such a large Diocese as Manicaland that we spent a lot of time journeying and learning all about the effects of rain on untarmaced roads.   One journey of 31 kilometres off the main road took so much longer than it would normally have done to because the rains had made the roads so potholed and full of rain and puddles, and the vehicle which Ron had borrowed from the Malaria project struggled a bit at times.

We saw Holy Family Junior School where the head teacher had been to visit schools in the UK and spoke about the things that she had learned and took back form the visit and implemented in her school.  They are moving towards offering more boarding places and building new accommodation blocks.


The Headteacher of Holy Family Junior School introduces Bishop Christopher to pupils


Building work at the school

From there we visited another maize project at St Mary Magdalene School at the St Mary’s Mission.  The maize project is on some of the Schools land and suffered from the rains.  One half of the crop is much more grown than the other as one half had to be replanted as the rains washed it away.  Here they are not yet using the Farming God’s Way method and have used tractors and ploughs to clear the land and were spraying the crops when we arrived.  As the project leader explained this was the first year that the land had been cultivated and so it seemed good to use machinery to make sure that the land was properly prepared and that was hard work which needed the help of machinery.   They will see if they can farm in another way in future years.



From St Mary’s the Bishop went off to see the Bonda Mission Hospital and to meet with Archdeacon Luke Chigwanda, who had been ordained in the Diocese of Southwark, and The Dean, the Archdeacon of Southwark and I went to Penhalonga Mission.   The Dean had very much wanted to visit this Mission as it is associated with the Mirfield Fathers and he had trained for the priesthood at Mirfield.

St Augustine’s Church there is absolutely magnificent and the school and the grounds are wonderful.  They are so well kept and look beautiful.   We were in the church just before a service was to start and some of the boys and girl had gone into the church early in order to pray and to prepare.  It was really rather moving to see their devotion and faithfulness.

We were also able to meet with the Sisters there who run the orphanage and who worked so hard through the many difficult times that they faced when the Mission was taken over.   We were able to say a prayer with them, and to spend a little time before having a quick look around this wonderful place, and then it was back to Mutare in time for Evening Prayer and a braii (an African BBQ).

We had a brief amount of time in Manicaland before moving onto Harare the next morning and on our travels we didn’t get to interview Bishop Erick about his hopes for the Diocese.

However, last weekend Bishop Erick and his wife were able to travel to the UK for the consecration of Bishop Karowei who is the Bishop of their Link Diocese of Woolwich.  Whilst he was here Bishop Christopher asked him about how things were in the Diocese and what they were working towards.

Manicaland, just like the other Dioceses in Zimbabwe still has many challenges to face as they continue to grow and work together under Bishop Erick’s leadership but they are not downhearted and are clear that, with God’s help, they will ensure the best of possible futures for their Diocese and their people

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Stories of crops, cows and chickens

We arrived at the Diocesan Offices in Bulawayo which is quite near to the Cathedral in the mid- afternoon and we were swiftly led to the Umoja project at St Joseph’s Mrehwa.   The project is lead locally by Selina who is a single mother with a grown child.   We were greeted by a group who were from the local church and from the Umoja/HIV project.  The group was mostly women and as is often the case it was soon clear that the women are motivated and eager to change their circumstances and the circumstances of those around them.


The Umoja/ HIV project works on two related issues simultaneously.   People in each village are trained to help people to live with HIV/AIDS and to deal with the illness and try to prevent its spread, and there is a great deal of encouragement and help in order to ensure that crops are produced and dried and stored for the dry seasons as well as, where possible, sold in markets or by the women themselves as small vendors or to the local churches.

The crops produced and dried were really impressive.   We saw some fresh vegetables and some dried ones but we also saw that some of the produce had been used to make nutritious snacks for people.   Selina explained to us that the grounds nuts and produce such as mbwirembwire which is Shona for a food made from roasted dry maize grains, ground into a flour with a little salt given in small quantities will help a child to go to school without feeling hungry and to last until they can come home.  This ensures that they can continue to their education even when things are very difficult around the country which is excellent for their future and the future of the country.


The Umoja project is brilliant in that it offers help to people in villages and outlying areas to ensure that the farm in an ecologically sustainable way and raise crops which can cope with the difficulties of the weather: when there is too much or too little water.  It provides food for the family and for the villagers but it also provides a way of generating some income for those who grow and make things.

And it is not just crops and  handiwork – those involved in the projects raise chickens, as do so many around Zimbabwe.  I was amazed just how quickly the chickens grow and are ready to eat.   Here are some which are just a day old:


They are given food and water and supplements and soon they grow to be big enough to eat.


And, as well as chickens there are sometimes cattle who can provide milk and meat for the villagers.


Life is not easy and cooking is often outside and facilities are few.


But the work that the Umoja project does ensures that people have a chance to eat and to make something of a loving and to feel that they are empowered to help themselves.   I was really struck by the fact that the women said that they did not ever sit and do nothing – they were always cooking or planting or doing handicrafts because in this way they could provide for their families.

However, once the crops are grown and the nutritious snacks made or the fruit dried, one of the issues is how they get to sell it.   It is complicated because there needs to be sufficient production for markets to be found and sustained but as you will see from this video clip Ron Lumbiwa, who is the Projects Officer for the Diocese of Matabeleland and who we have been privileged to have as a driver and guide on our journeys around Zimbabwe, who is usually mild mannered and quiet, is passionate about the need for markets in order for subsistence farming to become more than that – and the people listening responded enthusiastically when Ron’s words were translated into Shona.

In order for life to change for people in Zimbabwe they really need to learn again to farm on a bigger scale and to be able to feed themselves and then others in the continent.  But it is so hard to see how this can happen when very often it is a huge effort to feed just your own family.   Life is so restricted and hand to mouth in Zimbabwe that I find it hard to see how people can be as positive and resilient as they are.  But they are – they work tirelessly to make sure that people have enough and that the next generation is prepared through education and in their faith to take on the daily challenges of living in such a rich and yet fragmented and suffering land.

More than anything else it never ceases to amaze me that the people of Zimbabwe will sing at every possible opportunity and their songs come across as joyful and full of life.

I pray that we will learn from their enthusiasm for life and faith and become more willing to celebrate and share all that we have.