Many of you will recall the title of Bishop Hall’s talk in the Church Hall earlier this year, when he gave a flavour of the situation that he would encounter when he became the bishop of the poorest diocese in the island of Madagascar. The income for the entire year, for all expenses, is only £1,114, which gives little opportunity to expand the ministry.
The diocese of Mahajanga is the size of the island of Ireland. It has no metalled roads so transport is by lorry, where tracks exist, and otherwise on foot.
There are only 7 priests to minister to those living in this huge area, and insufficient funds to pay them all; they therefore have to take secular jobs in order to support their families and so have little time to carry out their priestly duties. Where it exists at all, clergy housing is at best basic; many clergy have to live with their families in one, rented, insecure room.
Despite these difficulties, there is no lack of enthusiasm and mission activity, but it can only take people so far and unless there is the facility (priest, church) to enable people to develop their faith, there is a danger that this work will wither on the vine.
Most of the worship leaders are catechists and evangelists who have received no training. None-the-less, there were 15 candidates for confirmation in one far-flung parish, which took Bishop Hall and his party two days to reach, firstly by lorry and then on foot.
While we remember Bishop Hall and Sarah in our prayers each week, the parish can provide practical support too by raising funds. Bishop Hall could then use these funds to provide, for example, basic clergy housing, training for worship leaders or a church with a tin roof.