A visit to Uganda

First published 18th October 2016

Rod Symmons, Area Dean of the City Deanery, reflects on a visit that included the Consecration of Henry Katumba-Tamale as Bishop of West Buganda. 24 - 31 August 2016

Download an A4 print version of Rod's report here.

The Diocese of Bristol has a link with the Church of Uganda that goes back to 1969, and the City Deanery has a specic link with the Dioceses of West Buganda and Central Buganda.

In May last year, 12 of us from the Deanery visited Uganda, with 6 spending time in different homes in each Diocese. While we were there, Bishop Godfrey Makumbi of West Buganda was seriously ill and died shortly after our return. For over a year Bishop Jackson Matovu of Central Buganda acted as Caretaker Bishop, but at the end of August Henry Katumba-Tamale was consecrated as the Dioceses sixth bishop.

The service started at 9:30am, and we had to be there an hour earlier to go through security and to robe - and this meant setting off from Lyantonde before 6:00am. All of the Bishops of the Province of Uganda attended the consecration, which was conducted by the Archbishop of Uganda. I was moved around the procession a few times and somehow ended up leading the line of Bishops!

There were thousands of people present - including the King of Buganda, a ceremonial hereditary post, and the Vice President of the country. The service ended at around 1:30pm and was followed by speeches from the various politicians, climaxing in the King (pictured left) inviting the Bishop and his wife, who is also ordained, to his palace and the Vice President giving him the keys to a new 4 wheel vehicle donated by President Museveni.

It was a great privilege to attend the consecration and I think that people really appreciated the fact that the Diocese of Bristol was represented and value the continuing relationship that we have through the Uganda Link.

I had arrived in Uganda the previous Wednesday evening, and stayed at the Boma Hotel on the outskirts of Entebbe. This is a lovely hotel with very friendly staff and is a regular stopping off point for teams from Bristol. The picture to the right shows the view outside my room as I caught up on some email on Thursday morning before heading off to Lyantonde.

I had arranged to spend three nights with a couple called Amos and Grace and their family, who I had stayed with in May last year. It was lovely to catch up with them again and I was particularly moved that our visit last year had prompted Amos to decide to give up his job working for a road construction rm and to train for ordination.

On entering their home I saw that the Diocesan calendar for 2016, which had pride of place in their living room, had a picture of last years team from the City Deanery. It was somewhat odd to realise that we were gracing the homes of so many Christians in West Buganda, but again it shows how much visitors from the UK are appreciated.

The time in Lyantonde was pretty full - visiting a number of homes and taking part in a fantastic service for students at a vocational college.

On the Friday we went to visit some of Amos family in Mbarara and also visited the Regional Hospital, which is church-run and was administered at one stage by Joan Hall, who worships at Redland when she is in the UK. Joan is something of a legend in Uganda - and the Guest House at the Hospital is named after her. We called in to the restaurant at the Guest House and met the current administrator of the hospital and the warden of the Guest House, who was recruited by Joan.

I met up with Joan at the consecration and travelled back with her to her home in Kabale, which is close to the border with Rwanda. We were also joined by the Principal of Bishop Barham University College, who later showed me around the College.

It is a beautiful part of the world and Joan and I spent Tuesday near (and on) Lake Bunyonyi, which is where the Rwanda Mission treated leprosy patients in a hospital on one of the larger islands.

I also spent an hour or so with Bishop George Bagamuhunda of the Kigezi Diocese, who is relative new in post.

I had arranged to meet up with the Bishop of West Buganda and his team back at the Diocesan Ofce in Masaka on Wednesday at 9:00am - what I hadnt factored in was that Masaka is about 5 hours drive away, which meant a 4:00am start!

It was Bishop Henrys rst day at work after his consecration, and one of the things we discussed was the allocation of 2,500 donated by Redland to each of the two Dioceses that City Deanery is linked with for clergy training at our Gift Day in 2015. What moved me was that three of the clergy present had been supported through their training by Bristol Diocese and spoke effusively of what that support had meant to them and their families.

After the meeting Joans driver dropped me at the Boma, where I spent a few hours before going to the airport. I was due to y to Bristol via Kigali and Brussels - and was thrilled to meet Bridget Howard, one of Redlands mission partners, in the departure lounge on her way back to Kigali from a conference in Kampala. It was an unexpected joy to catch up with her!

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