The blessing of a toilet

First published 17th December 2015

When asked recently what I particularly enjoyed about being a bishop, one of the things I mentioned was its variety. I regularly find myself invited to places I have never visited, having to get my head around issues I have not come across before, or engaging in an episcopal duty for the first time.

Blessing an environmentally friendly, composting toilet facility in the grounds of St Andrews church Blunsdon was one of the latter.

At the risk of having this sentence quoted on Radio 4s News Quiz, the congregation have been waiting for a toilet for decades. Not being on mains water supply has provided logistical difficulties but technology has come to the church's rescue and St Andrews new loo is far removed from the kind of temporary facilities that can be found at festivals or on building sites. It is very much a 21st century marvel.

In raising funds for the project the congregation did not simply think about their own convenience; they used their need as an opportunity to think about those of others. One of the things we take for granted are our toilets. They are invariably hygienic, clean and close at hand when needed. We would rarely consider them as luxurious yet that is how they would be regarded by millions of people. Across the planet, the toilet they use is no more than a hole in the ground, screened off for privacy, and situated some way off.

No handbasin, no flush, no sewage system or septic tank. To respond to this need Tearfund have created a toilet twinning programme through which churches and individuals can make a donation to help provide cleaner and more sanitary toilet facilities. Donors choose which country they would like to support and are sent a picture of a toilet they are now twinned with.

In the toilet adjacent to my office there is now a picture of Latrine 30376 in Bubale, Uganda, together with its precise grid reference. As I travel around the diocese I have begun to notice just how many toilets have a picture of a twin on a wall or a shelf. Blessing St Andrews new loo has turned out not only to be a blessing to me, but far more importantly, for a host of other communities around the world.


Powered by Church Edit