Over 100 guests, members, supporters and partners of the Egypt Diocesan Association (EDA) joined by their Patron, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and President, Archbishop in Egypt Mouneer Anis, gathered at Lambeth Palace to celebrate 60 years of support to The Diocese in Egypt.
In his welcoming address their host The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said this was the week of Egypt, full of meetings and events, starting with the launch of the CARAVAN’s “Bridge Exhibition” that came out of Egypt where a mix of Christian, Muslims and Jews exhibited their art work as an expression of bridging the divide between the three faiths. The following days were a continuation of the Interfaith dialogue ending with this celebration. Archbishop Sentamu gave the blessing using an Irish prayer.
Archbishop Mouneer, using video footage, explained how the Egyptian people had regained their freedom with the latest political changes. He also confirmed the special role of the Episcopalian church in meeting with other church and Muslim leaders in promoting friendship and unity. The growth in the church in Egypt has been spectacular over the last 17 years and also in Gambella where the number of churches has reached 82 as refugees from South Sudan are still drifting in in masses. He also expressed concern about the church in Libya as security remain a very serious problem.
Holy Eucharist was to follow, held at the 13 century Chapel and Archbishop. Justin presided with Intersession led by EDA Vice President Canon Philip Cousins.
After the service Members and Guests were led along a maze of corridors and stairs, some dating back to 1200 AD, to a delicious lunch efficiently served in the palace gardens where long standing friends met up and made new friends.
Returning through the corridors to the Guard room where our meeting was held, a ‘memory lane’ session under the title of “Retrospective” was conducted by the Chairman Canon Huw Thomas where Elspeth Mackinlay, retired Secretary, lead Peter Heartfield through his 57 year Treasury-ship experiences, Peter had first gone to Cairo when called up in 1946 and when his unit was moved away from Cairo stayed there as a civvy and took over the choir at the Cathedral. He mentioned how later Frank Johnston, EDA Chairman at the time, had arranged ordination training for him, while he was supporting a wife and young family. For his consistent and long standing devotion to EDA and Egypt Peter was awarded a plaque by Bishop Sentamu.
Bishop Mouneer spoke about the two pioneers Temple Gairdner (Egypt 1889-1938) and Douglas Thornton (in Egypt 1888-1907) (both died in Egypt.) who learnt Arabic and specifically engaged with the Egyptian people with the aim of setting up an Egyptian led church primarily for the Egyptian people. Without this start Bishop Mouneer said the diocese would not exist and he would not be Bishop today. Two further beautiful gold coloured plaques were then presented to EDA committee members, Bridget Davidson, eldest granddaughter of Canon Temple Gairdner and Douglas Thornton (jnr) grandson of Rev Douglas Thornton (senior).
Joseph Wasef, secretary, was concerned about the reduction of “young” membership, needed to ensure the continuity of EDA as a support organisation to the work of the diocese and asked members and guests how EDA could redress the balance with their help and best promote the diocese to young people. Joseph has set up ‘partnership’ membership of EDA with a number of parishes and representatives and members came up with several ideas to be worked on by the development committee.
Archbishop Mouneer asked those present to continue with their prayers and thanked EDA for its support highlighting that for the last few years gifts received from EDA have increased and that everyone in the diocese appreciate this support. Archbishop Sentamu urged those present to continue with generous support to the diocese emphasising that there are too many needs which will continue for some time in the future.