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The Bishop of Guildford reflections from his trip to Nigeria late last year 

We are fortunate to have had a long standing link to the Church of Nigeria, dating back to 1963. Although that has sometimes come under strain in recent times due to the wider challenges within the Anglican Communion, it's been wonderful to be able to develop our relationship once again over the past couple of years, both hosting Nigerian bishops here in Guildford, and paying two visits to Abuja where Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, has been privileged to speak at the Church's annual convention. 

Nigeria is one of the largest global centres of Christianity, with 20 million members in the Anglican Church alone. Our growing relationship is now enabling us to dream of new initiatives, not least visits by Nigerian clergy and partnerships between some of our parishes and dioceses across the country.  

In his journal from the visit in November 2023, Bishop Andrew wrote this

Our first assignment during our brief visit was to the cathedral in the Diocese of Gwagwalada, who rolled out the red carpet for us, with some lovely worship by the cathedral choir and more informal African worship complete with excellent drumming led by members of the women’s fellowship. 

Most of the lay involvement in the Church of Nigeria (as in churches around the world) is led by women; and Archbishop Henry is seeking to build up men’s fellowships around the dioceses; so in the afternoon we attended the opening service in a men’s conference on the theme of ‘Strong and Competent Leadership’. Certainly there is a crying need for strong, competent and moral leadership in all sectors of Nigerian life – and a constant theme here has been the dysfunctional nature of the nation’s politics, and horrendous prevalence of corruption.

At the 7am Communion service the following morning - the largest of the Sunday services, we were told, and a particularly popular time among young people! - we were again struck by the variety of the music, with the choirmaster later telling me that he was an avid fan of Guildford Cathedral Choir! Following a thoughtful sermon about the importance of giving, there were no fewer than four collections, the final one accompanied by drumming, dancing and joyous singing. 

One of the most powerful encounters of the trip was with an old priest called Peter, who had been kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen back in July. Peter had been presiding at a midweek communion service, when he was captured, with a demand of around £10,000 for his release. The family had managed to reduce that sum considerably, and Peter was eventually released, but only after he was beaten within an inch of his life. It's astonishing that he’d survived at all.

On the day of my talk, we travelled to the ecumenical church in the centre of Abuja, where around ten thousand participants had congregated from all the country. It was a colourful and noisy scene, though one helpful lesson I had learnt from the previous visit was to keep my distance from the enormous speakers. When a power-cut stopped an earlier preacher in his tracks, it was lovely to hear the huge choir strike up a beautiful series of songs without amplification - and it was somewhat disappointing when power was restored!  

I had been asked to speak for an hour on ‘Contending for the Faith’ - rather longer than my normal slot in the diocese of Guildford - and the response at the end was heartening, not least another outburst of spontaneous and noisy worship, accompanied by dancing around the stage! 

You can hear more from Bishop Andrew and some of the Bishops he met on his trip in these short interviews that share the joys and challenges of the Anglican church in Nigeria available on our YouTube


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