The Revd Kate Wyles has spoken of the joy of Zimbabwean Anglicans as they returned to their churches and cathedral in the eastern Diocese of Manicaland after being barred from places of worship for five years.
Kate, whose fatherâ€™s family were missionaries in Manicaland, represented the Bishop of Guildford at celebrations earlier this month when over 3,000 worshipers danced and sang their way back into Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Mutare, and St Augustine's Mission, Penhalonga, led by their bishop the Rt Revd Julius Makoni.
The celebrations brought to an end a conflict which began when two renegade bishops in Manicaland and Harare attempted to take control of diocesan properties and congregations were forced to leave. During the dispute congregations faced violence and harassment when worshiping outside churches, priests were not funded and church assets were stolen.
During a cleansing ceremony at the cathedral Bishop Makoni referred to the period saying: â€œA new sight was seen in our police cells as our sisters in habits, our priests in robes and our bishops in mitres paced the floors!â€
But Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Anglican Church legally restoring their rightful ownership and the focus of the weekendâ€™s celebrations was on forgiveness.
Preaching during the cleansing ceremony the Archbishop of the Provence of Central Africa the Rt Revd Albert Chama, congratulated the congregation on keeping to the Gospel through their exile. He said: â€œGo back to your churches and keep your obedience to the Gospel by extending the hand of love and forgiveness that people may see the light of God in you.â€
Kate said: â€œHe commissioned the congregation, to which the crowds responded with cheers and applause.
â€œIt was incredible to be thereâ€¦â€¦..
The Bishop of Guildford sent greetings to the diocese through Kate saying that Anglicans in Guildford had kept the Church in their prayers during the difficult times and rejoiced that they could now return to their places of worship. He assured the congregation of continuing prayers and support for the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.
The Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, took greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury.