Tuesday, February 06, 2007

anglicanism in Egypt


Last week, I travelled to Egypt on business. For very random reasons, which are too complicated to explain here, I was staying in Cairo in a flat owned by the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

All Saints Cathedral is a curious shaped building in a fairly upmarket part of town, on an island next to the Nile and a large Marriott hotel. It survives as a relic of post-colonialism, having been built by an expat community in the 1970s on land donated by the Egyptian government.

Today, this miniscule denomination within the minority christian community in Egypt is struggling to find purpose and meaning. The English congregation is vanishingly small, populated by a few English missionaries and upper-class Egyptian professors. However, amazingly, the Cathedral manages to punch above its weight. This is simply because it has been forced to serve the community that has become attached to it. There are a tremendous number of Sudanese refugees in Cairo, and under the auspices of Refuge Egypt, the diocese has been able to serve in different ways. There are job creation schemes, ante-natal clinics, a cafe, craft shop and other facilities. The church also regularly visits expats languishing in the city's overcrowed jails.

The Cathedral is often filled with impromptue African singing. At one worship service I attended, a little african lady beautifully whistled - presumably because she could not read the words on the page. English, Egyptian and African laity and clergy serve together under an Egyptian bishop in a country which couldn't care less.

It is a diocese in an anglican backwater, unlikely to ever reach the starry heights of a mention in Ruth Gledhill's blog or the other parts of the (largely pointless) Anglican press machine. Predictably finances are tight - the refugees simply don't have any money. Around £1000 a month are needed to keep things going. Which isn't an awful lot - compare to Winchester Cathedral (random choice) which costs £4,500 a day to maintain its crumbling ancient architecture.

1 Comments:

Blogger Karin said...

Interesting.

1:56 PM  

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