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In late May, Bishops Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. and Alan Gates led a delegation from the Dioceses of Ohio and Massachusetts to the Diocese of Tanga, Tanzania. The companion relationship goes back to the time of Bishop John Burt in the 1970s, when the Diocese of Ohio provided the funding for a building that now houses Tanga's Diocesan Offices. After the late 70s, the relationship was dormant until Bishop Hollingsworth took an interest and invited his former boss, Bishop Tom Shaw of the Diocese of Massachusetts, to participate with us. The focus of the trip was to familiarize Bishop Gates, Margaret D’Anieri, Canon for Mission, and the leadership in Tanga with one another and with the ministries in the Diocese of Tanga as well as to renew relationships between those who have been on previous trips. This trip offered both the first-time travellers and those who had been before to do the work of relationship building and learning that are integral to reconciliation.
he Diocese of Tanga is one of 27 Anglican dioceses in Tanzania and is located in the northeast part of the country, near Kenya - not far from the various wildlife national parks. Geographically, it’s the size of the eastern half of the Diocese of Ohio. With 120 parishes and 55,000 members, it has roughly three times the membership of our Diocese.
In a meeting with clergy leaders in Tanga, one of the Area Deans asked the American Bishops about the secret to securing resources for their churches. The bishops turned the question around. “How is it,” they asked, “that you have such a vibrant parish life in Tanga, with the richness of worship and the joy that the people of Tanzania show for their church?” We have more financial resources and fewer members; they have fewer financial resources and lots of parishioners, including many children (the median age in Tanga is 17, compared to 38 in the U.S.) We wondered about this: can we learn and apply one another’s “secrets to success?” Or is it in understanding and appreciating of different experiences and contexts that expand our ideas about church and about encountering God?
One of the many interesting and surprising things we learned is that although the Diocese of Tanga does not currently ordain women, at least one other Diocese in the Anglican Church of Tanzania does. The Bishop of Tanga, Maimbo Mndwola, is moving the Diocese in that direction. He wanted the two ordained women on the trip to wear clerical clothing and invited them to participate in communion distribution at a joint confirmation service.
In addition to visiting schools and parishes, the group toured Diocesan health care facilities (hospitals, community health centers, and clinics). The medical facilities in Tanzania reflected the scarcity of resources seen in many developing countries. However, the large number of youth, the rapid adoption of motorized vehicles, and less than ideal roads, are all increasing the number of traumas (as a result of road accidents) an emerging public health issue for the country. A new transportation hub is being built in Korogwe, the home of the Diocesan Center and Cathedral. The two-lane paved roads are shared by buses, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, and bajajes (three-wheeled taxis). Dr. Brendan Patterson, an orthopedic surgeon and member of St. Paul’s, Cleveland Heights, was part of the contingent. He spoke with Tangan physicians regarding new procedures that could be used to treat bone fractures without requiring long hospital stays in traction.
Our Diocese is hoping that Bishop Maimbo Mndolwa will join us at the Bicentennial celebration in November. We see the potential for exchanges with lay leaders, seminarians, new clergy, clergy on sabbatical, and medical students.
We know that a number of people in the Diocese of Ohio have been on prior trips to Tanga. The Tanga Committee (of the Commission on Global and Domestic Mission) is compiling a list of connections in Tanga that have been created as a result of these various mission trips. If you're willing, please send your contact information to Antoinette Taylor.
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