A Journey of Rediscovery
Like every Muslim needs to do the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his/her lifetime, every Anglican needs to visit England at least once in his/her lifetime. A former priest, together with three priests of this Diocese, believed in this. They waited for years to get a chance to be “sent” to England by either the Church or any other organisation. When they realised that this was not happening, they decided to save money so that they could pay their way towards the fulfilment of their dream of a Journey of Rediscovery.
On the 13th of September 2015 this dream was fulfilled when the Revds Mzomuhle Sibiya, Sifiso Dhlamini, Sea Masinga and Nhlanhla Ntshangase (Diocese of Natal) left South Africa for a 9-day visit to England. They were hosted by the Dean of the Chelmsford Cathedral, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall, together with his lovely wife, Christine. They were called “Zulu priests”, and for the sake of convenience, Sfiso and Nhlanhla assumed “easier” English names, Jacob and Blessing respectively. During their stay in England the Zulu priests hardly touched ground as Dean Henshall had prepared a packed itinerary for them. Their trip was started by visiting the oldest church in the County of Essex, the Church of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Blackwell-on-Sea. The church is said to have been constructed in 654AD and is considered a “mother church”, irrespective of its size.
On the days that followed they undertook religious tours of Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford, Oxford University, Ripon College, Cuddesdon, in Oxford, Westminster Abbey Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral. The highlight of the visit was a tour of Lambeth Palace where they met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Hon Justin Welby. The meeting was in the same room that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was sitting in when he wrote the Book of Common Prayer in 1548. They could not contain themselves when the Archbishop prayed for them and, to their surprise, asked them to pray for him.
During their stay they also met with Bishop Humphrey Southern, principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and Bishop of Chelsmford, The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell. It was also an honour for them to meet with the sub-dean of Christchurch Cathedral and Deans of St Paul’s and Canterbury Cathedrals. Canons, staff and members of Chelmsford Cathedral, their hosts, made their stay as pleasurable as possible.
On the “non-religious” front, the priests also visited Buckingham Palace, No. 10 Downing Street, British Parliament, Big Ben, London Tower Bridge, London Eye and many other attractions. They also had the privilege of being Dean Henshall’s guests in his BBC Essex radio programme where they were interviewed and were asked to review newspapers.
They rounded off their journey on a high note. On their last day in England the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis invited them to celebrate the Eucharist in isiZulu, in the Jesus Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral. For the first time in history, the walls of Canterbury reverberated with the melodious singing of “Nkosi Sihawukele”, “Makudunyiswe uNkulunkulu ophezulu” and “Mvana kaNkulunkulu”. There was no better way than this for these “Zulu Priests” to end their Journey of Rediscovery.