Direct parish to parish links
When a parish in Chichester links up with a parish or congregation in one of the Anglican Dioceses in West Africa or Kenya, the main emphasis is on building up a relationship, sharing in prayer, correspondence, Bible study, and other ways of learning from each other.
Sharing financial resources (usually in a modest way) often grows out of such relationships but should not be seen as the most important function of a link. It is easy for the wealthier part of the link to dominate because it has money and the power to decide how it is spent. Equally the less wealthy partner can concentrate on the link as a source of material support. This may hinder genuine partnership and friendship.
Establishing a link
There are five key steps to establishing your parish link:
1. Read these guidelines. Bear in mind that one of the purposes of a link is to assist each other in mission, in ways appropriate to each others' culture. You can also find much useful information of the UKOWLA website (UK One World Linking Association) website.
2. Invite the World Mission Officer or another member of the Diocesan Overseas Council (DOC) to your parish. They can tell you more about how a link can work, and answer any questions you may have.
3. Having decided that your parish would like a link, write a statement of your aims and expectations. Inform the World Mission Officer who will contact one of the Link Bishops asking him to suggest the name of a parish wishing to have a link.
4. Once this information has been received, your parish priest should contact the local priest, introducing himself/herself, enclosing the statement of your aims and expectations and asking for their response. This will form the basis for a review of the link in future years. If possible, the name of a link correspondent (preferably a lay person) should be given and a request made for a lay correspondent to be nominated in the local parish.
5. Display a copy of your link statement on your church notice board together with the Chichester Partnership leaflet.
Maintaining the link
Every linked parish has its own way of building up a relationship, but here are some recommendations:
1. Include prayers for your link in your worship.
2. Involve as many local organisations and people as possible: congregation, Sunday school, Mother's Union, Brownies etc. There does however, need to be a person with overall responsibility.
3. Consider holding a link service (firstly to launch the link and thereafter annually to renew it) followed by a lunch, where people can be given details about the link. Take photos and send them to your African link.
4. Send a copy of your parish magazine and other appropriate local and diocesan material. You can send by Royal Mail, using Airmail Printed Paper Rate.
5. Find out if anyone in your link parish has access to email. Some African parishes have set up a parish email address which can be accessed by the parish priest and by the Link Correspondent. Few people in East or West Africa have access to the internet at home and so it can be a good idea to send them a brief text message to their mobile phone, alerting them to the fact that you have sent an email. They then know that when they go to an internet cafe there will be a message. When emailing photos, remember to scale them down so that their dial-up connection can cope with them quickly. Ask your link parish if they would like you to forward “Faith in Sussex”.
6. If your linked parish does not have its own PO Box number, see if they can receive post via their Diocesan office, or another parish in the area.
7. Many Africans now have mobile phones (cell phones). You can get cheap rates when phoning abroad by using these prefixes: …
8. Whether writing by email or “snail mail” or if telephoning, remember to mention the bad as well as the good things; bad weather, poor harvests, unemployment, homelessness, asking them to pray for situations over here. Ask them for details of their congregational leaders (Mother's Union, Father's Union, Sunday School etc.) and their prayer needs.
9. Your link parish or school will appreciate receiving photographs, e.g. of your congregation, your area, church events. Send picture postcards of your area, or when on holiday.
10. Sometimes the link congregation is able to send photographs. If they have no camera, you could send a disposable one, ask them to take photos of their neighbourhood, church, congregation, etc and return it to you. You then have the film developed, asking for two copies of each print, one for you and one for your link. There is always a risk that the camera will be lost in the post, but several parishes have successfully undertaken this operation.
11. It is sometimes possible to send small items such as cameras with visitors returning to Africa. They can leave such items at a central place, such as their diocesan offices and they will be passed on to your link parish via the next person from the area who visits the office. It is not a speedy way to send things, but usually works. Contact the World Mission Officer for help. Alternatively, if your local school has a link in the same area as your link parish, find out if they have any visits planned.
12. Some linked parishes and schools find they get a lot of requests for specific items. On the whole, it is unwise to respond to requests for radios, cameras, laptops, etc. It is most useful to send things which can be used in self-help projects, such as equipment for sewing or knitting. Schools and Sunday schools are often very short of books, paper, crayons and posters. Take care when selecting written material that it is suitable for the African scene. Christian posters also make good gifts.
13. Treat requests for individual pen friends with caution. It usually works best if there is a common interest, such as children's leaders writing to each other, or choir leaders, or Readers. The World Mission Officer would be happy to advise on any such requests.
14. Depending on the locality of your Link Parish, exchanging CDs and DVDs is a good way of getting to know each other. You might like to record one of your church services, or interviews with members of the congregation to send. As technology develops, find out whether someone in your link parish can receive such material via mobile phone.
Every year, in a spirit of partnership, we, via the DOC, aim to allocate funds for specific projects or priorities identified by our Link Dioceses. To honour this commitment, parishes are asked to give generously to our Annual Diocesan Harvest Appeal.
Our Companion Links are accountable for the funds as they understand that we, in turn, must abide by UK Charity Law. If you are asked to support a major project in your linked parishes, please check with the World Mission Adviser, who can ask the Bishop to verify with the leadership of the Parish concerned that they have endorsed the project. This will enhance accountability.
Link relationships are primarily about: Meeting each other; Praying for each other; Learning from each other; Challenging each other; and, Each living into communion with the other. Consequently, linking is primarily about people. That being said, we, as the Diocese of Chichester, have:
• Funded the ordination training of 4 priests in Cameroon and are currently fundraising to train the Diocesan Mothers Union worker for that diocese;
• Raised money to help the Church in Guinea minister to refugees and are committed to training two of its deacons as missionary priests;
• Helped fund a building extension at All Saints’ School in Conakry, Guinea and are committed to raise funds to help put the roof of a church in Cameroon;
• Sent a container of equipment (including over 20 computers) to schools in Sierra Leone and are funding the training of a Development Officer for the Diocese of Bo who is leading training workshops in communities struck by the Ebola virus
• Committed to fund the training of an Evangelist from Masaai people to work in one of the poorest and most deprived communities in the Diocese of Kericho.
There are regular articles about our Link dioceses and those in Chichester actively engaged in link relations in our “Faith in Sussex” magazine.
Articles and visit reports are also available on our webpage.
If you would like to invite a speaker to your Deanery Synod, parish or school to speak about our links with East and West Africa or you would like to know more about our overseas relations, please, contact Fr. Ian Hutchinson Cervantes.
Your link may lead on to exchange visits, which one of the best ways of maintaining a close partnership. Ideally parishes should consider sending someone to visit their link parish every two or three years so as to strengthen the relationship. We strongly advise that you contact the World Mission Officer early on in the process of planning such visits. We are able to offer advice on travel, health, cultural expectations, contacts, etc.
The Diocese welcomes a number of visitors from East and West Africa each year and if possible will arrange opportunities for these visitors to meet people from their link parish. Arrangements can be made for visitors from overseas to stay in parishes.
How to get involved?
If you would like to find out more about our companion dioceses, support the work or even visit West Africa or Kenya please contact the World Mission Officer Fr. Ian Hutchinson Cervantes using the contact form on the right of this page