Northern Uganda gets a new Bishop

First published 4th January 2010

Cathedral alive with anticipation ...

St Philips Cathedral was abuzz with preparations for many days before the big event.

An outdoor podium was reconstructed; the Cathedral roof was painted; the surrounding houses were spruced up and a lot of garden tidying took place so that all would match the splendour of the occasion.

As I sat by the Cathedral one day in the evening sun I listened to the choirs rehearsing local songs in distinctive African harmony. The Halleluiah Chorus reminded me of the visit to Fort Portal earlier in the year

Last minute preparations ...

The day before the big event there was a rehearsal of Bishops so I saw some old friends of the Bristol Diocese. Last minute preparations were very much in evidence. A platform was still being constructed with concrete. One of the best sights of that day was the tired builder who relaxed into the wheelbarrow to have a nap between loads of concrete mixing.

Awnings were constructed. Lorry loads of singing parishioners arrived from distant parts.

The new Bishops house and compound filled up with excited friends from his parish of Bugalobi in Kampala. I came across a bus load who needed directions and was greeted with whoops of gratitude when I told them I would be their guide

At night security forces made preparations for the attendance of the President.

In which Stuart Taylor becomes Chaplain's Chaplain!

In the evening I became the Bishops chaplains chaplain accompanying Willy Akena to see that all was well. We found some visitors with no place to stay so we took them on a very bumpy road to the University retreat house where we also met Johnson Gakumba the new Bishop.

On our return we negotiated security checks to visit the Bishops compound to see that all was well. Groups of women were preparing chickens to cook by large wood fires behind the house. Many thousand were expected so cooking was a big undertaking.

Finally we got to bed about midnight, listening to the singing of the visitors in the distance at Gulu High School, their hostel for the night.

Rise and shine ...

Next morning was an early start. The first call was to pick up the Bishops suit which he had left behind. His house was bustling with people preparing for the great event. The best sight of the morning was the Bishops 6 year old daughter dancing around on the verandah in her new pink and purple satin dress. The suit was found and delivered. On the way I found myself walking past two newly slaughtered goats and a pile of chickens insides. No anonymous supermarket meat here!

Stuart Taylor's Courier Service

As promised we picked up the Bishop and his wife Christine an hour later, but because of security we could not easily get to the Cathedral, despite insisting that we had the main person of the day with us. I was given the Bishops two sets of robes to carry. The tricky bit came when we went through the security scanner, and I had no hands free to take the money out of my pocket. The scanner alarm went off, I was barred from going further but with great difficulty I persuaded them that I was not a threat to the President.

At last we delivered the Bishop Elect to the Archbishop, and I was relieved of any more responsibility.

A grand procession of Bishops started the service as we sang O Worship the King.

Fire, fire?

At one stage the fire brigade arrived to dampen down the ground where the President would walk. The new Bishop changed robes twice, The outgoing Bishop, Nelson gave an excellent resume of what he hoped he had achieved, There were many greetings, and stunning dancing of the traditional Royal Welcome by young people from Pader. The new Bishop gave his Charge, M.Ps and local leaders spoke. The congregation received Communion. The President arrived to make his own speech.

It's a service, Jim, but not as we know it!

Five and a half hours after the service began the New Bishop gave the blessing and it was time for food. A nice biblical number (about 5,000) were more than adequately fed. Crates of soda were drunk. Many danced. The young people in traditional dress gave us more demonstations of their talent. All agreed it had been a great day.

The last supper

Late in the evening as I shared a family supper with Willy (the Bishops Chaplain) we could hear the womens groups entertaining the new Bishop and his wife. Prayers are greatly needed for them both as they set about the task of guiding a diocese through the difficult stages of peace after two decades of rebel fighting when 1.8 million were displaced and and 24,000 young people were abducted. It has already been discovered that the problems of a new peace can be as complicated as war.

Please support them with your prayers.

Stuart Taylor

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