The Right Reverend Oscar Stephen Mnung'a, Bishop of Newala, Tanzania photo/simonmarsh

UK photo slides here | Tony Johnson’s Newala, Tanzania slides here

WE’VE JUST WAVED Bishop Oscar and Mama Agnes off on their way down to Hereford. We’ll miss them both. The parish will seem a duller, less colourful place without them, and they’ve only been with us for a week. I understand better, at a personal level, why forums like the Primates’ Meeting and the Lambeth Conference as well as Diocese / Parish based links like ours are so vitally important.

You just can’t beat personal contact where the bonds of affection are concerned, and we are, after all, an incarnational people. Men and women came to understand God so much better through their personal contact with Jesus of Nazareth. Bramhall Christians have come face to face with some of the tough realities, as well as some of the great joys of Christian life in Tanzania through enormously warm and gracious friendship established with Bishop Oscar and Mama Agnes.

The Diocese of Newala has 26 parishes, over 200 sub-parishes, and every parish is involved in the running of 36 diocesan farms which produce a main crop of cashew nuts. A great deal of personal-people investment is involved in the establishment of this new diocese. The bishop and his wife themselves cultivate 10 acres – and that as a sort of spare-time occupation! Deep seated generosity is displayed by people who are far from wealthy in terms of material resources, but perhaps better off than some of us in the UK when it comes to the joy and confidence they have in the same faith we share with them.

Arrows are no good if they’re kept in a quiver, the bishop reminded us. There’s food for thought in those words for a long time to come here in Bramhall. Mama Agnes and Bishop Oscar of Newala have blessed us, and we know it.

UK photo slides here | Tony Johnson’s Newala, Tanzania slides here