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VISIT OF METROPOLITAN EPHRAIM AND HIERODEACON BARSANUFIUS TO OUR CHURCHES IN UGANDA, FEBRUARY, 2000
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PHOTO REPORT BY FR. BARSANUFIUS, HIERODEACON

Arrival in Kampala, Uganda
Fr. Joachim, members of the clergy, his family and flock greeting us on our arrival. Left to right: Fr. George Lutayya, Priest of Buluuta.  Fr. Christopher Kyagulanyi, Deacon, of Zigoti. Fr. Joachim Kiyimba, M.D., Archpriest of Kampala and Zigoti, executive officer of the Church. Demetrius, reader, of Kampala. Metropolitan Ephraim. Fr. Spiridon Kisomose, priest of Kiboga.  Fr. Cyprian Kayigwa, Priest of Kyanvuma, not shown. Kevin, professional video cameraman, parishioner of Kampala. Annete, daughter of Fr. Joachim, college student. Both the fathers of Fr. Joachim and Fr. Spiridon were Orthodox priests of Uganda. Fr. Joachim received his medical degree from the medical college in St. Petersburg, Russia. Metropolitan Ephraim and I arrived with six large suitcases allowed free by Sabina Air Lines.  One contained our vestments, two contained some medical supplies hurriedly collected and donated by Dr. Vasili Mihailov of Maine, and three contained various church (candles, incense, icons) and Christian educational supplies, gathered mostly from the Monastery and Convent.

The Orthodox Church in Africa/Uganda: comprised of six missionary parishes, four priests, one deacon, and some 350 members. In the 19th century, Uganda became a British colony.  The Orthodox Church in Africa was begun in the 1930s by Fr. Sparta, a Ugandan Anglican priest, who came to understand that the Orthodox Church is the original Apostolic Church of Christ.  He and two others were accepted and ordained by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  Nine years ago Fr. Joachim, Archpriest, with his family and flock broke from the new calendar jurisdiction and placed themselves under Bishop Cyprian of Fili in Greece.

For the past 10 years, Fr. David Belden of Toronto has been corresponding with Fr. Joachim.  One of the books which Fr. David sent was, "Struggle Against Ecumenism", in which the history of the Old Calendar movement as well as the positions of the New Calendar jurisdictions are described. As Fr. Joachim told Metropolitan Ephraim on his arrival, "This book really touched our hearts."  This led him, and the other clergy with him, to seek union with our Metropolitan and the Holy Synod. Metropolitan Ephraim, both by letter and phone, tried to dissuade Fr. Joachim pointing out that both economically and administratively we are now over extended, considering our size and two major commitments in Russia and Georgia. Finally, Fr. Joachim and the other clergy responded with the news that they had severed their connection with Bishop Cyprian, were now commemorating Metropolitan Ephraim, and begged him for his prayers. In this way they arrived on our door step, "suitcase in hand".

Our February trip was organized in order to receive the clergy by Chierothesia, i.e. the Laying on of Hands, to meet the people in their parishes, to serve Liturgy with them, and
to ordain Fr. Cyprian, deacon, to the priesthood. In all, it was a very joyful trip.  The monk next to the Metropolitan is Fr. Menas, who spent some years at the Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina in Fili, Greece, and who returned to Uganda when the Church there came under our own jurisdiction. He begs our prayers for the establishment of Orthodox monasticism in Uganda.

The "cathedral" parish and medical clinic, The Church of Sts. Cyprian and Justina, Kampala: includes some 50 - 60 members.  On Saturday morning we arrived at the Church of Sts. Cyprian and Justina, Kampala, in order to receive the clergy through the Laying on of Hands, to ordain six readers, and to celebrate our first liturgy with the people. The Church occupies a rented apartment consisting of three rooms, each about 8' wide, and 10' - 14 ' long. The first room serves as a waiting room for Fr. Joachim's medical clinic and as an administrative office for both the Church and the Clinic. The second room serves as an examining room for the clinic, and as a medical and church library. The third room is the Church.

Many of the parishioners must attend the services standing in the clinic rooms, there being room enough in the Church for clergy and choir members only. An official meeting of the parish was held following the Liturgy, at which Fr. Joachim formally addressed the Metropolitan with an exceedingly warm welcome, and much gratefulness on behalf of the clergy and people for the consecration of our new union. During this address he referred to their decision to petition our Holy Synod for acceptance on the grounds of the confession of faith, based on his correspondence with Fr. David Belden and the reading of the book "Struggle Against Ecumenism". He stated their confession of faith in particular when he said, "We hate no one! But we are after the true Orthodox Faith. Let no one mistake that. "

Following the parish meeting we were driven to a suburb of Kampala to a Church, the construction of which was begun in 1980, the brick walls rising to just about where the eves were to be, when construction had to be stopped for lack of funds. Fr. Joachim explained they had thought many times of selling the property and abandoning the project. Metropolitan Ephraim immediately pleaded with him not to do this, but to trust in God, Who had provided this, and through prayers, perhaps enough funds can be collected to finish it and add an office to make it the "diocesan" center. This idea was accepted with much joyfulness, especially as this Church is only three miles from Fr. Joachim's home. We next arrived there for a most sumptuous and gracious meal with many members of the parish. Fr. Joachim's house is of clay brick construction, small and simple, brightly painted blue, with no electricity or running water, common through out the countryside. He has some 10 acres of land which he farms for himself and is able to sell some of the produce.

St. Mary's Church, (Dormition of the Theotokos), Kyanvuma: includes some 70 members. On Sunday morning we were driven some 40 miles south of Kampala, across the Equator, and past Lake Victoria at the place where the Nile River begins its 4,500 run to the Mediterranean.  We arrived, and were greeted by many parishioners, the women cascading flower petals over and before the Metropolitan as he entered the Church. There we met and greeted Fr. Cyprian, Deacon, received him by Laying on of Hands, and then, in the course of the Liturgy, ordained him to the priesthood, to be the priest of the parish.

He is 42 years old, a very quiet, pious, and gracious man.  As the photograph shows, the parish church buildings, except for Kampala, are all of mud and wattle construction, with no permanent doors and windows, so that the sacred vessels, altar hangings, and all icons must be removed after each service to the priest's home for safe keeping. The roof, of banana leaves and straw, serves more as shade than to keep out the rain, there being many gaps in it. The constant breeze flowing through the church made the atmosphere very pleasant. The small children, with much excitement, pressed into the window openings in the altar throughout the liturgy, adding an additional note of joy. The congregation was quiet and attentive, singing all the hymns zealously from memory, inasmuch as there are no books. They became especially joyful during the ordination, and as Fr. Cyprian was being vested as Priest, crying out, "Axios", most fervently.

Following the Liturgy a most joyful parish meeting took place under a straw canopy at the side of the church, lasting over an hour, and attended by some 80 to 100 parishioners and guests, including various town and government officials. Speeches were given by parish council members outlining parish programs and goals. The county governor also spoke complimenting the Metropolitan on the medical supplies which we had brought, and pledging his assistance in helping the parish in any way he could. I turned to the Metropolitan and said, "Have we ever heard this kind of offer in Brookline? We were then driven to an empty house, of brick construction. The owner is offering it and its land to the parish for $10,000, a very good price for the area, for use as a church and parish hall, etc. Next we were driven to Fr. Joachim's medical clinic in the area. He is enormously appreciated by everyone for his very unmercenary medical help towards all who come to him.  The primary killer diseases are malaria, yellow fever, and cholera, for which medicines are desperately needed by donation, given everyone's poverty, and now aids, primarily due to endemic polygamy among the pagans.

St. Luke's Parish and Clinic, Zigoti: includes some 50 - 60 members.  On Tuesday, we arrived at St. Luke's Church, Zigoti, and served Liturgy with some fifty parishioners and a small boy scout troop from the Orthodox Trio Primary School (Orphanage). Azariah Mukassa, the head master of the School and boy scout leader, is also the father of Fr. Christopher, the deacon. The boys were drawn up in strict British formation as the parishioners welcomed the Metropolitan with showers of flower petals.  After the liturgy, we went to the clinic where a large crowd of parishioners, towns people and officials were gathered.

The program of welcoming speeches lasted about an hour and a half.  Interspersed were several performances. At first, the boy scouts lead all in the singing of the National Anthem. After a quick tour of the clinic and opening speeches, the six orthodox nurses in training, five women and a man, sang welcoming songs with much joyfulness and modesty.  Finally, the boy scouts gave a long presentation of heroic tribal chants with much rhythm and clapping.  The speeches by members of the local community government were warm with praise for Fr. Joachim and his unmercenary medical practice. His nursing school students, mostly drawn from the graduate students of the Trio Primary School, enter the two year program in late teens, early twenties. They are well educated high school graduates, very zealous and industrious. He employs a Nurse Practitioner who is also Orthodox and administrates both the clinic and nursing school. Speeches by the parish council continued in the program, again well organized and outlining the state of the parish, its purposes and goals. Later, at the clergy conference, the Metropolitan was to strongly urge the clergy to institute Sunday evening Christian education programs in the parishes for both adults and children, comprising lives of Saints, the services, and the spiritual life of the Church. He also promised to send them service music, which has already been organized and sent by himself and Fr. Seraphim of the Monastery.

The Trio Primary School of Azariah Mukassa: includes 120 students and their teachers, in grades 1 - 6.  The name of the school derives from Azariah and his wife's initial home school for the first three of their own children. Over the past 35 or more years, he and his wife, the principal of the school, have adopted, besides their own six children, an additional 25 orphans into their own family and sent them on to higher education, some through high school, some to college. The school is also comprised of many orphans and includes some 100 Orthodox children, and about twenty Anglican children.

On our arrival, following the parish meal at the clinic in Zigoti, we were greeted by his wife and several teachers, who welcomed Metropolitan Ephraim with a "flower shower". At the same time the boy scouts and whole student body was gathered in the compound in from of their class rooms jumping up and down, clapping and chanting a very rhythmic welcome. Included in a tour of the school was the farm yard and animal pens, as the school program includes animal husbandry and farming, as this will be the life of many of the graduates. We also were shown a large field in which Azariah wants to build a chapel and have his son, Fr. Christopher come with his family to live and be the school chaplain. His other goals for the school include a complete renovation of the existing buildings as well as an expansion program, for which he already has architectural drawings, which he showed us with much enthusiasm. He and his wife are in their early seventies, and look and act twenty years younger. He is a most amazing man with much intelligence and maturity. We were truly amazed at what he has accomplished in his life with unceasing prayers and virtually no resources. He is a true almsgiver and an unmercenary worker of the highest degree.

The Parish of St. Basil, Kiboga, Fr. Spiridon, priest: includes some 100 members, and two other smaller missions each about 15  miles from Kiboga.  Our fourth and last Liturgy was on Tuesday morning in St. Basil's Church, some 80 miles west of Kampala, 25 miles east of the Congo. The second 40 miles was over a most dusty and rough unpaved road. We arrived in the village of Kiboga, and stopped to bless Fr. Spiridon's home. He showed us a photograph of his family when he was a child, which included his father dressed in his priest's cassock and rassa.

We proceeded another five miles to Fr. Spiridon's farm of 20 acres, on which the church was built. Fr. Spiridon is another unmercenary worker and almsgiver, in that his farm provides the income for his family, the maintenance of the church, and aid to many of his parishioners. He owns neither car or bicycle, daily walking between home and farm. The road, at first two track, quickly became one track, winding its way through trees and across meadows. As we passed mud homes with thatched roofs, his parishioners would appear at the door, recognize us, wave joyfully, and immediately begin gathering the family for the walk to Church. When we arrived at the Church, some sixty parishioners were waiting, as Fr. Spiridon explained they had gathered at the Church from distant farms, and had been waiting there to welcome us for over two days. A man, perhaps in his seventies, beat a rapid rhythm on a drum, calling all to Church, while women bestrewed the Metropolitan with flower petals as he entered the Church.

The Church was gaily decorated with many icons which we had brought, as well as their own.  The chanting was rhythmic and joyful. Both the choir and people were well familiar with the services and music. Metropolitan Ephraim ordained two readers, Fr. Spiridon's brother Noah, age 37, and Joseph the choir director, age 43. Both they and the people were filled with much joy at this. As the Liturgy progressed, well over 100 people had gathered, many of whom received Communion with great devotion and seriousness. Except for the chanting, everyone, including the children were very quiet and attentive. We noticed this as a characteristic in all the churches. Everyone, especially the children, were well ordered and attentive.

Following the Liturgy, we gathered under a very large and shady tree, again for a well planned parish meeting. The Parish Council and older members of the parish gathered closely about under the tree so as not to miss a word, while the younger families sat among the banana trees quietly listening to the speeches. Fr. Spiridon's main address well covered the state of the parish. Concerning the pastoral program of the parish, His sister Elizabeth has the obedience to call on everyone who does not receive communion within a three week period, to see if they are sick, or need help or counseling of any kind. In accordance with the ancient canons of the Church, any who fail to receive communion after three weeks without a blessing are removed from the active list of parishioners until they make confession and receive communion again.
In this way Fr. Spiridon is able to maintain close communication with all his parishioners, their concerns, and what they need to learn. The results of this intense pastoral care were very evident in the high quality of piety and joyful responsiveness on the part of his people, as well as their numbers. He has taught them very lovingly and very well.

On Wednesday morning all the clergy gathered in our hotel room for a conference with the Metropolitan. Various issues were discussed, among them the importance of establishing an administrative office, perhaps in the incomplete church building near Fr. Joachim's home, where both electrical and phone lines are available. Some sort of simple printing machine is needed to make the new translations of service materials and lives of saints, etc., available to the parishes.  The youth addressed the Metropolitan later at the church and asked what they could do. He strongly urged them to help translate from English into Ugandan, under the direction of Fr. Joachim. He again promised to be diligent in making church music available.  A few divergences in liturgical practice were noted and discussed, with the decision to await the visit of Fr. Joachim and Fr. Spiridon to our diocesan Clergy Conference in the fall for a more detailed discussion.

A very large issue of college education for Ugandan youth has been raised. The initial thinking of the Metropolitan on this is that it would be both very much less expensive, and more morally and socially secure for the youth if we were to help them with their expenses there, rather than to bring them here, despite the availability of excellent scholarship aid for African students in our universities. This is a very complex issue extending far beyond economics, and must be thought through very carefully.

With much gratitude to our Saviour for preserving, protecting and uniting this small group of about 350 genuine Orthodox people to us, with much thankfulness for our visit, and earnestly asking them for their prayers, we parted, determined to do all we can to encourage and help the Orthodox Church in Africa/Uganda.