“Christ’s mission is mine today”
These striking words were said by the new President Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East The Most Revd Mouneer Hanna Anis at his recent investiture in All Saints Cathedral, Cairo. The service was full of colour, sound and drama which emphasised the diversity of musical and liturgical traditions that exist in this Province.
The service, conducted in Arabic and English, opened with the entry procession lead by diocesan and other clergy, together with the Canons of the Cathedral and the Assistant Bishop of the diocese, Derek Eaton, followed by Bishops of the Province and Archbishops from around the Communion. The procession finished with the entry of the retiring President Bishop The Most Revd Clive Handford, Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf. The rousing strains of the hymn “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made” accompanied the procession. This was soon followed by a piercing ululation and the drums of the Sudanese congregations in the Cathedral as they began singing the first of several vibrant Sudanese songs. The Acting Dean of the Cathedral Canon Godfrey Taylor extended a welcoming greeting to the gathered congregation and the President Bishop Handford then invited the bishops present to join him in prayer around Bishop Mouneer. The congregation shared in a time of silence which was punctuated by four short prayers for the President Elect:
“may your mind always think of Christ”
“may your lips always speak of Christ”
“may your hands always be ready to bless and to heal in the name of Christ”
“may your feet take you to places where the gospel of Christ must be heard”
A period of silence followed that was then broken by the quiet strains of the hymn “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me….”
Further prayers followed, including the Lord’s Prayer said in the first languages of all those present and concluded with an invocation of the inspiring life of St Athanasius of Egypt.
The first reading was taken from Numbers 27: 15-20, 22-23 recounting the call and commissioning of Joshua by Moses to lead the people of Israel. This was followed by a reading from Corinthians II, 4, 1-10:
“…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In his Sermon Bishop Clive Handford said,
“I count it a privilege to pass on in it the Primatial baton to my brother Mouneer. It is right and proper that we do that in the Bishop’s Cathedral and also special because this is where one of our Predecessors, Bishop Ghais, exercised his distinguished ministry as Diocesan Bishop and as Primate of this Province”
The Act of Investiture itself opened with the ceremonial Presentation of the new President Bishop to the People who pledged to uphold him in his ministry. Bishop Mouneer then gave his pledge to guard and uphold the Constitution and Canons of the Church and solemnly promised “to devote myself in the furtherance of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. He was then handed his new pastoral staff by the retiring President Bishop who enjoined him to “watch over the flock of which God has appointed you shepherd” and to “Encourage the faithful, restore the lost, build up the body of Christ”
The staff itself was handed on with the words,
“I pass this Provincial pastoral staff on to you as a sign of the ministry we share with our Lord Jesus Christ. May his love be your inspiration, his suffering your example and his humility your authority as Chief Shepherd of his Church in this place.”
Formal Greetings were next conveyed. These opened with a personal letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams read by the Bishop of Gibraltar the Rt Revd Dr. Geoffrey Rowell. He was followed by the Most Revd Dr John Chew, Bishop of Singapore on behalf of the Province of South East Asia of which he is Primate and also on behalf of the Global South movement. The Rt. Revd. Exekiel Kondo, Bishop of Khartoum was next among the many conveying special greetings on behalf of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion worldwide.
Numerous ecumenical representatives were present and many joined in the extensive offerings of personal greetings given in both English and Arabic, Bishop Boutros and Bishop Daniel represented His Holliness Pope Shenouda the Coptic Patriarch. Greetings were also conveyed by the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches of Egypt.
H.E. Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald titular Archbishop of Nepte and Apostolic Nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Arab League, brought a warm greeting on behalf of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
The President of Egypt, H.E. Mohammed Hosni Mubarak was personally represented at the Service as were the regional and local governments of Egypt and Cairo. Members of the Diplomatic Corps also attended led by the British Ambassador H.E. Sir Derek Plumbly.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt on his own behalf and that of Dr Tantawi the Grand Imam Al Azhar Al Sherif and on behalf of Dar el Iftar gave an eloquent greeting. He was followed by the long standing participant in Muslim-Anglican dialogue, Sheikh Fawzi Zafzaf.
Dr Clare Amos made a short presentation on behalf of the Anglican Consultative Council and Anglican Communion Office. A large number of partner institutions of the Province and diocese were represented including CMS, USPG and others.
After extensive expressions of thanks to those who had sent messages of greeting and support, the newly invested President Bishop said that “the world today, especially the Middle East, is in need of Christ’s mission. This ministry was clearly stated by Jesus at Nazarath when he said
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”
After reading this scripture the Bishop said,
“I am committed to bridge building and peace making”.
The service concluded with the pronouncing of Gods blessing upon the Diocese and Province. The service finished with the rousing hymn “Guide me O my great Redeemer”. This was rendered all the more poignant by the final drama which was an unprecedented downpour of rain as the heavens opened on the newest Primate of the Anglican Communion, something that did not lack for symbolism in a region where rain is so very rare and precious.