Power is like an egg
Written by Alex Bjergbæk Klausen
A heavy wind came rushing through the crowds, while the bishops were praying over the newly consecrated Bishop Solomon Scott-Manga.
It was an amazing experience to be part of the consecration of the new bishop of Bo Diocese, Solomon Scott-Manga. The cathedral in Bo was too small to host the large number of people so, rather than dividing the crowd, it was decided to setup an outdoor cathedral, so everyone would be able to participate. There were bishops from the entire Anglican Province of West Africa – even the bishop of Cameroun, which is part of the same province, although Cameroun geographically belongs to Central Africa. The consecration of a new bishop is an important event, and it involves several bishops and the archbishop. We were privileged to be seated among the other partners on the front row and were able to get the experience in full. A consecration ceremony lasts a good number of hours. Honestly, I lost track of time. We started around 10 am in the morning, and sometime during the afternoon my stomach reminded me that we had not eaten anything for a very long time. But we were certainly not bored. All the robes, the incense, the angelic voices from the choir, the powerful prayers, the legal people with their wigs, the new bishop lying prostrate for his consecration truly made it a colorful event. Certainly a day out of the ordinary. Furthermore, we saw many old friends from all over the diocese – even some of the lay-readers we had trained. What a blessing!
The preacher came from Ghana. He was a new bishop himself and, in his sermon, he focused on how difficult it is to handle power in a good way. He compared power to an egg. If you hold it too tight it will break, and if you hold it too loosely you will drop it. The balance is important. I remember Mette whispering in my ear: “and if you hold it too long it will spoil”. The sermon was very appropriate for the entire situation. The Diocese of Bo has suffered due to mismanagement and abuse of power in the past. Responsibility was not shared within the church and too much power rested with only a few people. A bishop is supposed to be an overseer, a shepherd of the flock – and in order to make the flock work well it is important to share power with others, to share responsibility, while keeping an eye on everything. This is a truly difficult task.
A bishop is not a bishop by his own choice, but because he is chosen by God and the people. While the bishops prayed over Bishop Solomon, a wind suddenly came rushing down and lifted the plastic covering which was provided as a shade, so rainwater from the previous night’s heavy shower poured down. It was an odd distraction. Some people got seriously wet, but most people just noticed the timing and discussed it afterwards. Was this really a sign from God? Certainly, the Holy Spirit is needed if Bo Diocese is going to recover from the crisis. It takes more than human excellence to rebuild the diocese. God needs to lay a true foundation for the future – a foundation of solid rock.
Starting from scratch
The day after the consecration ceremony there was a multilateral partner meeting between the partners present, the new bishop, Solomon Scott-Manga, and the supervising bishop Thomas Wilson. The purpose was to meet and talk about some of the challenges faced by the diocese. Bishop Wilson opened the meeting by using the story of the Good Samaritan. He compared Bo Diocese to the man who fell into the hands of robbers and was left to die. And this is where we are. Just imagine how difficult it is to take over a diocese that is totally broke, robbed from every possession. There is no money to pay the bills or the salaries for clergy and other staff. No roadworthy vehicles to take the new bishop to the corners of his diocese and no money to spend on the vicarages that are literally falling apart. The whole situation is so demotivating that we truly felt sorry for the new bishop. There is indeed a great need for divine intervention. Although only a few of the external partners were present, it was a fruitful meeting which established a good understanding of the situation and the current needs on ground. Of course, the material needs are somewhat urgent. But so is the spiritual rebuilding of the diocese. It was not only the structures that collapsed during the crisis, but also the Spirit of hope. As Bishop Wilson stated: “There are no dead pulpits, but there are dead men on the pulpits”. There is a great need to revive the Spirit of hope in the diocese and to make the hearts burn again. One man cannot do this alone. This is the most important part of the rebuilding process. If we fail to lay the right foundation, nothing will last and our labour will be in vain. But if we build on Christ and put our trust in him, then we have the strength to overcome many challenges. And challenges are expected in the coming years.
An appreciation with no expiration date
Exactly one week after the consecration, Bishop Solomon was enthroned in the Cathedral in Bo. Enthronement literally means that a bishop receives his throne in the church – the special seat of the bishop. This was another long service, but this time inside the cathedral. It was a joyful Sunday with a lot of singing and dancing. The enthronement marks the actual transition of power. The Vicar General, Canon Ajayi Nicol, who had overseen the diocese in the absence of a bishop, retired from his responsibilities. He received an appreciation for his service. He was already enjoying his retirement, when he was suddenly called to serve as the Vicar General. Now he can return to enjoy his retirement life. Supervising Bishop Thomas Wilson also received his appreciation. For more than two years he has managed two dioceses. Now he can retire from his responsibilities as supervising bishop of Bo Diocese and give his full attention to his own diocese. Finally Relay Trust received a certificate of appreciation for the service rendered. Unlike the certificates for the Vicar General and the Supervising Bishop the certificate for Relay Trust did not state any end date. Our mission in Bo Diocese is far from over. We still have a lot of hard work waiting ahead of us. Obviously, we cannot just leave the diocese as it is. There is a need to support the new bishop and to help him put in place the right structures that will bring the diocese into the future. It takes both financial support and personal commitment to achieve this. Most important we must exercise patience, because the healing process in the diocese is more urgent than anything else. The crisis has divided the diocese and there is a great need for reconciliation. A church cannot stand if there is distrust among its members. It may be possible to suppress such distrust for a short time, but it will eventually surface and cause even more problems. So many bad words have been shared over the past years and it has created factions. Therefore, the most difficult task is to address all these hurt feelings among members and clergy. Relay Trust will continue to work hand in hand with the new bishop and his staff to see that a new and strong foundation is laid for the Anglican Diocese of Bo.
Rehabilitation of the vicarage in Kangahun
Many of the vicarages in The Anglican Diocese of Bo have been neglected over the past years. They need rehabilitation because they are in such a poor condition that they cannot serve as a home for the priest in charge. Some of the structures are even dangerous. They risk collapsing unless something is done. The Parish in Skalborg, Aalborg, has decided to render help to their friendship congregation in Kangahun, so the vicarage can be rehabilitated. The project is urgent, as a new priest is expected in the new year. The total budget for project is 2000 USD. The Parish in Skalborg is working together with Relay Trust and we are grateful that they have decided to commit to this project.