For six spring-like days in January 2014, diocesan friends and partners from three continents joined together to compare unique cultures, share missional successes, and explore the universal challenges of building authentic Christian communities in a changing world.
From January 17-22 the Diocese of El Camino Real welcomed partnership teams from its Companion Dioceses in Western Tanganyika, Africa, and from Gloucester, England. The Gloucester team consisted of Archdeacon Robert Springett, Canon Dr. Andrew Braddock, and Lay Minister Julie Faye. Western Tanganyika’s team included Bishop Sadock Makaya and Treasurer Gervas Ntahamba.
The international teams were the featured speakers at ECR’s Winter Conference in Salinas, hosted by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Each presented an engaging and entertaining talk, sharing how Christianity came to their countries and how their unique history informs their present-day missional work. Noting Bishop Mary’s year-long theme of “Living in the Questions,” the presenters also urged attendees to explore the history of Christianity in California and ponder how that history impacts today’s sharing of the gospel.
History was on the minds of everyone who joined two memorable pilgrimages in the following days. On January 20 a group of 50 hiked the Anza National Historic Trail through San Juan Bautista, which commemorates the story of the 1775-1776 Spanish Expedition from Arizona to upper California. The next day a band of intrepid travelers assembled for prayers at the Santa Teresa light rail station in San Jose for a day-long “Tech Trek” through Silicon Valley, stopping for lunch in Mountain View and a visit to historic Trinity Cathedral in San Jose. The fun day trip ended with dinner and fellowship at St. Stephen’s in-the-Field.
The triad partnership was launched on the First Sunday of Advent in 2008, with the following words from Bishop Mary. “Through our partnership one with another, may we grow in mutual affection and communion, seek a more profound experience of truth, build up the Church in unity and give glory to Jesus Christ.” It thrives today as a vital part of El Camino Real’s strategic plan and its ongoing mission to strengthen local ministries and “connect our common life with the wider church and the world.”
Thoughts from the Partnership Teams
This year’s visit left rich memories and lingering insights with the teams who traveled from Gloucester and Western Tanganyika.
A highlight for Archdeacon Springett was walking the Anza Trail and experiencing California history. “Americans often say to us, ‘You’ve got far more history than we do,’ but you’ve actually got the same amount of history as anybody else in the world,” he explained. “It was really good to celebrate that unique history and how the differences shape our walks with God.”
“I’ll remember Sunday morning, going to the Spanish-speaking service at St. Paul’s in Salinas,” said Canon Braddock. “Seeing the vibrancy of the congregation and its music was quite unexpected and really delightful.”
“Preaching at St. Mary’s by-the-Sea in Pacific Grove was an absolute joy – they’re such a warm congregation, very supportive,” said Lay Minister Julie Faye, who serves as a link officer between the two dioceses. She admitted she was a bit nervous preaching on Sunday morning.
“It’s bad enough when you preach at a different church in the UK, but even more so when you go to a different country in a different church! The whole trip has been a highlight for me . . . it’s exceeded my expectations.”
Bishop Sadock shared two highlights of his visit — visiting St. Philip the Apostle in Scotts Valley, and riding the light rail train through Silicon Valley.
“I was grateful to meet St. Philip’s parish, which has wonderful music,” he said, “but what struck me most were the many children and young people. I didn’t expect that, because normally in western churches we find older people.”
“I also had a great interest in Silicon Valley,” he added. “It was striking to see the headquarters for big companies such as eBay and Yahoo. With all the resources I have witnessed on our visit, and the technology . . . if El Camino Real can use those skills, you could transform the world with the work of evangelism. God has blessed you so much.”
Canon Braddock was also impressed by the world-shaping influence of high-tech Silicon Valley. “While traveling on the light rail, we discussed the extraordinary influence that this part of California has on the whole world thru science and technology,” he said. “How does the church affect that influence? It’s not simply about the numbers that are coming to church, but it’s about helping Christians who are in those industries to connect with their faith while they’re at work — to be a good influence for the kingdom in their workplaces.”
“I think El Camino Real is doing some really interesting work,” said Archdeacon Springett, “by recognizing that what is increasingly distinctive about us as Christians is the way we model a distinctly Christian life in places like Silicon Valley. In both our countries, people are looking for a way to live an authentic life . . . there’s a shallowness to some of our material culture. My take-away from this visit is the work you’re doing to build authentic Christian communities.”
“On behalf of all of us, our enormous thanks to Bishop Mary, the diocesan staff and the many others who worked hard to make this visit possible,” added Springett. “The way in which our three dioceses have walked together is a source of inspiration, of delight, and of enormous hope for the future of our church.”
To view a photo gallery of the partners’ visit, click here for our El Camino Real Facebook gallery.