As we knew I would be speaking and preaching quite a bit on our travels, I packed a smart jacket & tie, and evn a dog collar – not a usual thing for me to travel with, but I am glad I did, as Malawi has inherited the tradition from when it was part of the British Empire, that if you are doing something formal, you wear a jacket (and sometimes a tie) – very English!! So even when it was very hot, I would have on a jacket when I was speaking, though occasionally I started with it on and then made apologies when I couldn’t cope with it any longer!! The jacket was even worn when we went into prisons where the prisoners were in very rough and dirty clothes, but the prison officers were all smart.
Most of those we met couldn’t believe that we are Anglicans, as Anglican pastors in Malawi are even more formal, wearing robes and a dog collar, despite the heat!! When I told them I hardly ever wore robes, they thought I was not a proper Anglican – not quite sure how to take that! We visited the Anglican Theological College on one day and were hoping to get back to speak to the students but weren’t able to make it as they had their half term break, but the Dean of the college had wanted us to share about how in the Church of England things were becoming much more informal, and how even liturgy is less traditional than it used to be. I do think we have a lot to answer for when I see how pews, robes, formal liturgy etc have been passed on to the African Church as the way ‘church must be done’ and now they seem tied to these ways, having become even more formal than the Anglian church in the UK.
But now we have arrived in New Zealand and are down at the bottom of the South Island, and jackets have been replaced by jumpers for the first time since leaving UK, as it is cold, especially after the heat of Malawi. Driving down from Christchurch we even saw snow on the mountains. But it is good to be somewhere that we can get a warm shower, have a comfy bed, sit on a sofa, eat what we want, drink water from a tap…. We are so fortunate in the west, but are also incredibly complacent about what we have, taking it all for granted.
Having said that, two of the children of the couple we are staying with were here last night, having come down for the weekend from Christchurch where they live, and were describing being there when the earthquake struck. After shocks are still happening most days, but they don’t yet have water and when they do are likely to have to boil if for some months to come, power is slowly being restored, but the city will never be the same. The airport and surrounds hadn’t been affected, so we didn’t see any of this on our arrival in New Zealand, but it is very much the talk of the place at the moment.
So from jackets in the heat and poverty of Malawi, to jumpers in a colder but more modern, though earthquake shaken New Zealand – quite a trip so far! It feels a long way from Tonbridge and the UK.