On the heels of an authorizing resolution from the diocese’s 160th Council earlier this year, a small delegation led by Bishop Dena Harrison traveled to the Diocese of Southern Malawi in March. Accompanying her were myself, as chair of World Mission, and two laymen—Lee Hogan of St. Martin’s, Houston, and Tom Gebhard of St. David’s, Austin, a hydrologist who has been key to that church’s water-well ministry in Malawi, Warm Heart International.
The purpose of the trip was to get an overview of the opportunities for ministry in which our two dioceses might share in the coming years. Bishop James Tengatenga, who was our host, will visit Texas in May to complete the preliminary discussions and to meet with Bishop Andy Doyle to sign a covenant agreement for the first five years of the companion diocese relationship.
The mission statement of the Diocese of Southern Malawi is: "We are a diocese committed to witnessing for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the ministry of love, evangelism and action in the midst of a broken world." The diocese has seen explosive growth since its creation in 2002. Each of the twenty parishes has an average of five "outstations," or missions from which future parishes will emerge.
Parishes we visited showed how this formidable network serves the needs of the people: schools, pre-school/day care for AIDS orphans, adult literacy programs and distribution of the malaria-prevention Nets for Life, a program of Episcopal Relief and Development. We also visited the Anglican seminary in Zomba, where priests are trained for the entire country. The seminary would be a logical base for exchanges of faculty and students with the Diocese of Texas.
The church has created sustainable programs at the seminary where all the food the community consumes is locally raised. Goats are raised in a nearby parish and the gardens are fertilized with goat manure.
We have much to learn from our Malawian brothers and sisters in Christ about: stewardship, sufficiency, sustainability, generosity and the abundance of the Spirit in the midst of material poverty.
Barnes is associate rector at St. Matthew’s, Austin.