Earlier this year 160 people gathered together in Gambella Town, for the annual Local Assembly of the Anglican Church in Ethiopia. Between them they represented 52 congregations and around 6,000 people. The three day programme incorporated communal worship, Bible Studies, group discussions on many topics, round table meetings with Bishop Andrew Proud, elections for delegates to Synod in Cairo, graduation from the TEE programme and the first use of a new liturgy – with responses in eight languages. “Christian Character Formation” was the theme of bible studies which used passages from Romans, Philippians and 2 Corinthians. Visitors spoke about the “Something in common” distance learning course designed by St John’s College Nottingham.
Over the last three years a Theological Education by Extension programme has been run throughout the Episcopal Area and led by Mary Witts. Around 250 people have participated in the course in English. The Exploring course was taught in local languages, and the Lay Training taught using drama and discussions. At the Local Assembly, nineteen people graduated and received Certificates. Prizes were awarded to the best students, to the tutors and to others who had distinguished themselves.
Worshipping together fosters Christian unity and helps to build a common life. The Local Assembly also marked the use of a new liturgy – one that was translated into seven local languages (Nuer, Anuak, Dinka, Mabaan, Opo, Amharic and Somali). This meant that almost everyone at the Local Assembly could participate in the Holy Communion. Communal responses were said simultaneously in eight languages.
Previous translations, where they existed, were either antiquated or not available in published form. It is thought that the liturgy is the first ever written document in the Opo language. Few people speak English and for many this was the first liturgy that they could not only experience, but also understand. A common liturgy will allow regular patterns of worship in all the churches in the region and Morning Prayers have also been translated.
Story by Rosemary Burke, of the Anglican Church Office
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia