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Letter from the Bishop of Colombo
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
CEYLON 050318-2
March 18, 2005

A Letter as it appears in the current issue of the Ceylon Churchman

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] 

My dear Sisters and Brothers,

Lent: We are now in the Season of Lent. It is a time to reflect on our lives and the mission of the Church in the light of our Lordís experience in the wilderness, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Cross and the Resurrection. It is a time to wrestle with our understanding of God revealed in Jesus Christ. As we keep this Lent, after the tragic experience of Tsunami, it is important that we respond to some of the popular statements made by people on the nature and character of God. Our Diocesan Reconciliation and Peace Desk has put out a booklet of Bible studies for Lent to explore at depth the biblical thinking on issues of Godís wrath, judgement, compassion and mercy, all interpreted through the life and ministry of Jesus. The booklet consists of reflections for each of the five weeks of Lent, followed by questions for discussion in groups. I am grateful to Fr Rienzie Perera, Coordinator of our Reconciliation and Peace Desk, for his initiative and guidance in this publication. I commend this booklet to our congregations for reflection and meditation.

The Tsunami: In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, I visited all the affected areas of Sri Lanka and I was able to listen to the grief and shock and also to the stories of courage and solidarity. My reflections on this were published in The Times (London) and appears elsewhere in this issue of the Churchman.

I am grateful to all the clergy and several lay people who responded almost immediately to the Tsunami. They provided relief, care and shelter to many. I must also thank those, here and abroad, who have contributed so generously to our efforts. We set up a Relief and Rehabilitation Desk in our office, manned entirely by volunteers who gave of their time and talents to organize the relief and rehabilitation work. From February, we have been very fortunate to obtain the services of Ms Chrishanthi Abeynaike, recently retired from a very senior position in the Central Bank, as a Co-ordinator for the Desk. We have also appointed full-time co-ordinators in each Archdeaconry. A Task Force, comprising persons with a variety of experience and skills, is helping to plan policy and implement our rehabilitation programmes.

Windsor Report: As I write this, the Primates of the Anglican Communion are meeting in Newry, Ireland to study the Windsor Report the report of the Commission headed by Archbishop Robin Eames to make recommendations for the Anglican Communion in the light of controversies surrounding issues of human sexuality. The Commission, representing a wide array of views, presented a unanimous report which as Archbishop Eames reported was an endeavour to mirror values of the Gospel to look for healing not division, pastoral reconciliation not punishment, to hold to our shared witness not only in mission but in the processes by which our Communion works out the current tensions. The Primates called for and received responses from Provinces and extra-Provincials like ourselves. We trust the Primates will also be able to arrive at a consensus, like the Eames Commission, to Ďmirror values of the Gospelí.

Mission: Bishop Jeyapaul David, the CSI Bishop in Tirunelvely and the current President of the National Council of Churches of India, has kindly agreed to conduct Mission meetings in Tamil in Sri Lanka during March. Bishop Jeyapaul will be accompanied by his wife and the Revd Appadurai Gnanaraj. The first of these Mission meetings will be held at the Cathedral in Colombo on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th March at 5 pm each day. The second series of meetings will be held at St Markís Church, Badulla on Tuesday 15th and at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on Wednesday 16th March. Bishop Jeyapaul and his team will also be conducting special programmes for young people and for women. The theme for the Mission is ĎAn Abundant Life for one and all in Christí. Bishop Jeyapaul and his team have a reputation as eloquent speakers and missioners. Please pass the word around so that many will come, hear and be inspired and blessed.

Clergy Conference: This yearís clergy conference will be held at the Buona Vista Conference Centre in Galle from 6th to 9th April. The emphasis will be on our response to the Tsunami. We have invited Dr Vinoth Ramachandran to be our main speaker at the Conference.

National Christian Council: Many of us attended the Service of Induction of the Revd Dr Jayasiri Pieris as the new General Secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka held at the Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church on 31st January 2005. Fr Jayasiri and Geethamali have the assurance of our prayers and support as they begin this new and extremely challenging ministry.

Theological College of Lanka: The Revd Dr Albert Jebanesan of the Methodist Church was appointed Principal of the Theological College of Lanka, Pilimatalawa with effect from 19th November 2004. I was happy to participate in the Service of Installation held at Pilimatalawa on 21st January 2005. Our prayers and good wishes are with Dr Jebanesan as he takes on these responsibilities for the training and formation of the clergy of the member churches.

Ripon and Leeds Link: The Ven Dhilo Cangasabey who has functioned as our link officer for many years asked to be relieved of his responsibilities due to pressure of work. The Revd Devapriya de Silva has kindly agreed to take on this position. We thank Fr Dhilo for having shouldered this for so long and would request your prayers and support for Fr Devapriya in this his new additional role.

We have had an ongoing teacher exchange programme going with our link Diocese of Ripon and Leeds. As part of this programme, we had a group of teachers from Ripon & Leeds visiting their link schools in early February. There will be a return visit by some teachers from Bishopís College, Hillwood College and S Thomasí Bandarawela to Ripon & Leeds in May thus year. These exchanges are useful and of mutual benefit to the two linked schools.

Visitors: We have had many visitors particularly in the post-Tsunami period and many messages of solidarity from around the world. We are grateful to all our partners for their concern, support and solidarity. We may make special mention of the contribution from the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and for his concern for the clergy working under stress in the affected regions, for the solid material support from the Episcopal Church of USA and for the visit of a team from their Episcopal Relief and Development, for Bishop John Packer and the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds for their solidarity and for setting up a Tsunami Relief Fund which has been a real strength to us and for a visit from a team from our partners of the CMS and the USPG who have pledged continuing assistance. There has been other substantial assistance from various churches, institutions and individuals and we are overwhelmed by the solidarity shown.

We have also had visits from the Revd Ahn Jae Woong, General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia and from Ms Frederica Venn who may come and work here for sometime under CMS sponsorship.

Pastoral Visits: Since the Tsunami, I have twice visited the affected areas These visits have been a real learning experience for Geetha and me. During these visits, I have been able to conduct worship services in the various churches. I was happy to visit for the first time our community in the Uyana Chapel in Moratuwa. I am grateful to Bishop Kenneth who did the confirmation service at All Saintsí Pettah when I was away on my visits to the affected areas.

Overseas Visits: I was invited to speak at the annual Convention of the Mar Thoma Church held in Maramon, Kerala, India. This is a week-long event and I spoke on the last three evenings. It is a huge mission event held on the dried bed of a river drew crowds as much as one hundred thousand people. I am grateful for these opportunities to strengthen our links with the churches in India.

With Peace and Blessings.

Yours very sincerely,

+ Duleep