Sunday, September 30, 2012


Sunday morning started sunny and bright. It was a taste of things to come. We arrived at All Saints' Cathedral in Buyé for worship to a warm welcome. We were escorted to the chapel to change for the service and we could hear the congregation already singing. When we processed around the side of the cathedral we noticed that banana stalks had been placed along the front path to the door, a sign of welcome for a dignitary.

Entering the cathedral, it was obvious that it was packed.

We began with words of welcome and introduction by Bishop Sixbert, and Bishop Jane, Tim and I were each invited to say a few words to the congregation. Then the choirs began singing. In all there were five different choirs. It was an incredible experience.

Cathedral Choir

Ngozi Youth Choir

Cathedral Childrens' Choir

Mwumba Youth Choir

Lycee de Buye Choir

Then there was a song and people came forward into the crossing and began dancing. Even the bishops joined in.

Bishop Jane preached on the life of the church based on the letter of James. At the end of the sermon the congregation applauded enthusiastically.

Then followed communion. Again, Bishop Jane and I had the privilege of distributing communion.

Finally, the service came to a close and we processed out. That's when we were treated to a surprise!

A talented group of traditional drummers and dancers entertained the entire congregation outside the cathedral. Again, even the bishops joined in.

Eventually it was time to move to the bishop's house for lunch with all the diocesan staff and clergy. It was a delicious feast of chicken, beef, goat, potatoes, rice, bananas, peas and spinach. Both bishops shared their vision and hopes for the development of the partnership between Edmonton and Buyé, and we were presented with gifts.

We made our goodbyes and returned to our hotel. What better way to spend a Sunday?

Saturday, September 29, 2012


It's Saturday evening in Burundi. The crickets are chirping and a full moon is poking its face out from between the clouds. It is a beautiful evening, which is fitting after a beautiful day. Today we went for a youth service in the parish of Mubanga, where about 50 young people were officially inducted into the Boys' and Girls' Brigade. The winding dirt road was not as difficult as yesterday's road to Bigombo, but it did take us through some beautiful countryside.

Arriving at Mubanga we were again greeted by a crowd of people who had been waiting for us to arrive.

We were led into a school room to change into our vestments and then processed into a full church for the service. There must have been a hundred or more young children, many of whom sang in a choir, and an equal number of older youth. The small children kept moving slowly closer through the service, like the tide coming in. And the windows and doorways were filled with curious people outside, who were trying to see what was going on.

Archdeacon Samuel welcomed us to the parish, and Bishop Sixbert said a few words about our diocesan partnership and about his visits to Edmonton, and then introduced us. Bishop Jane, Tim and I were all asked to say a few words. The children laughed when I tried to explain ice skating to them.

As has become the usual routine, we were treated to songs by several choirs, readings from scripture and a sermon by Bishop Sixbert that encouraged the young people in their faith.

Then it was time to induct the young people into the Boys' and Girls' Brigade. A few clergy helped them tie on the blue scarves that are the symbol of membership, and then Bishop Sixbert said a prayer of blessing.

It was amazing to see both how serious the group was about this meaningful step, and the joy that they expressed at being officially inducted.

Next it was time for communion. Bishop Jane and I were given the opportunity to distribute communion to the faithful. It is always a blessing to see the eagerness in people's eyes as they come forward to receive the sacrament.

The service was about to end, but the weather had other ideas as the heavens opened with rain. No matter; a youth choir came to sing while we waited for it to stop raining. Finally, we emerged from the church and returned to the school room where we changed and enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken, goat, bananas, peas, potatoes and rice. This time there was also a delicious peanut sauce as well as the usual tomato based sauce.

The Archdeacon explained to us that the church building was built just last year by the youth.

Here's the one they replaced.

On the way home we stopped to see people making bricks. We were able to see all the stages at once. First, clay is pressed by hand into a mould to make the bricks.

The clay bricks are turned out of the mould and allowed to dry.

Once the bricks have dried enough they are stacked, covered in mud, and then fires are built at strategic intervals in tunnels in the piles of bricks.

The fires are kept burning for four or five days.

Once the bricks are ready, they need to cool.

Finally the finished bricks are ready for transport to a building project.

Here's how they are transported.

All in all, it was a wonderful day.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Friday's excursion was a two-hour voyage to Bigombo parish for the induction of new members of the Mothers' Union. Half the drive was along paved road, and the second half was on a very narrow and bumpy dirt road which wound its way along the edge of hills, past villages and across a valley.

Some of the welcome party
When we arrive were astonished! Our way was blocked about 200 m from our destination by an enormous greeting party. They sprinkled flower petals on the car and sang and danced and blew whistles and horns. Eventually the group parted just enough to let us through to the church.

As at Kirundo, we were immediately swarmed and greeted as we stepped out of the car, and escorted to the pastor's house to change into our vestments. Again the singing continued while we got ready. Finally we made our way in procession to the church.

Time to Worship!
At least six different choirs sang and danced through the service, including one made up of Mothers' Union members, and a children's choir.

Mothers' Union Choir

Childrens' Choir

Youth Choir

Another Choir

The highlight of the service was the official presentation and induction of some 57 new members of the Mothers' Union. This group of women across the diocese does some amazing mission work, supporting the life and work of the church, and reaching out into the community with a variety of development projects.

Induction of new Mothers' Union member
After communion, the Mothers' Union members showed us some of the fruits of their labour. Literally! (We were told the bunches of bananas weighed about 40 or 50 kg. This is the normal way of transporting bananas.)

The service over, we processed back to the pastor's house where we enjoyed a delicious meal of chicken, goat, rice, peas, bananas and cabbage.

After the meal, a few brief speeches were offered, expressing joy and hope for our diocesan partnership. The Archdeacon told us that we were just the second foreigners ever to visit his parish. He also asked us to tell the people of the Diocese of Edmonton that the people of Bigombo are praying for us.

Finally we made our farewells and got back in the car for the journey home, tired but inspired.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Thursday we made our way to Kirundo for a confirmation. The trip there started on the main highway, as yesterday's voyage, but we turned off to travel westward to our destination. Kirundo is a significant town, and a central parish in the area. The pastor, Evariste, is also the Archdeacon for the region.

Clergy Worshiping
 When we arrived for the service we were bowled over. The drive from the road was blocked by people who were singing a joyful song of welcome. They parted just enough to let our vehicle in and surrounded the car. As we stepped out, they made a path to the Archdeacon's house beside the church, where we were able to put on our vestments for the service. In all there were seven or eight clergy vested and a few others who arrived later and participated in the service. While we were getting ready, we could hear the crowd outside singing constantly.

The Procession
Finally, it was time for us to make our way to the church. The choir led the way and then parted to make a path to the door. Along the path to the church the people had placed banana stalks, a sign of welcome to dignitaries. As we entered the church we could see that it was packed and everyone was singing joyfully.

Full Church!
When we got to the front and found our seats, Archdeacon Evariste welcomed us and called on Bishop Sixbert to introduce the party from Edmonton. Then Bishop Jane said some words of greeting, and it was time for the choirs to begin singing and dancing. Two choirs presented songs accompanied by a keyboard and a huge drum. By the time we sat down for the readings 40 minutes had already flown by.

The service proceeded with the readings and sermon. At one point a late-arriving children's choir presented two songs, singing and dancing their hearts out with an amazing exuberance.

Children's Choir
And then the confirmation! We had thought there would be about 70 to be confirmed, but there must have been at least 170. They just kept coming in waves as Bishops Sixbert and Jane took turns confirming them by groups. They were obviously eager to be confirmed, as they surged forward. It truly stirred the heart.

Bishop Jane Confirming
 All the while during the confirmation the choirs and the people kept on singing and drumming. It was almost like a party, this joyful festival of faith.

Bishop Jane Confirming
 Eventually everyone was confirmed and it was time for communion. Bishop Jane and I were invited to distribute communion. I think people were more interested in receiving communion from Bishop Jane than from me. Some even switched lines so they could receive the sacrament from the visiting bishop from Canada, who was also the first woman bishop they had ever seen. Again the faithful surged forward eagerly to participate in the sacrament, the newly confirmed for the first time.

Members of the Congregation Singing
After communion there was more singing and dancing and finally the blessing, and the procession out. I checked my watch and was amazed to see that we had been in the church for over three hours.

The service ended, we were treated to a splendid lunch of chicken, beef, peas, beans, rice, bananas and fried potatoes. The house was full, with all the clergy and the lay leaders of the parish joining in the lunch.

Clergy at the end of the service
After lunch, and some speeches, we said our goodbyes and then got on the road for home. It was a memorable service that will live long in our memories.

Women of the Parish present Bishop Jane with a basket
Blessings to the newly confirmed!