From Battersea to Addis Ababa

Why 2007 was a landmark year for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the UK

Today, by the grace of God, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has two branches in London: the Reese-Adbarat St. Mary of Debre Tsion church in Battersea and St. Mary of Tserha Tsion.

The two churches are directly under the umbrella of the Mother Church in Ethiopia. Each Church has a parish council that looks after the administration, chaired by the priest in charge.

By the grace of God, the Holy Synod in Ethiopia established the church in London during the 1970s for our western-born Caribbean and Ethiopian brothers, sisters and sons and daughters of the Diaspora. Our churches have been serving the community in the UK ever since.

Of course, anyone is welcome to join our services and we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us. See our website for more details.

The Mother Church in Ethiopia supports our church with much love and great interest. To aid its development and further expansion, members of the Holy Synod of bishops, as well as clergymen and scholars, have been regular visitors to the UK from Ethiopia, leading and participating in services and enhancing the growth of both branches.

Perhaps the single most important event in the history of the UK church occurred in 1979 when a member of the Holy Synod, His Grace Archbishop Yeshaq, consecrated four western-born deacons to serve it for the first time in this country.

By the blessings of God, our membership has grown immensely since then, so in order to serve the fast-growing Ethiopian community a second parish was established, St. Mary of Tsion, in Central London at the end of the 1980s. It was established for the benefit of English speakers and the Caribbean brothers.

Soon afterwards, three western-born deacons were invited to Ethiopia to further develop and expand their spiritual services. They stayed in the monastery of St. Gabriel in Zewai, also known as the Zewai clergy training centre.

On the January 28, 1988, the three deacons were consecrated to the office of priesthood at St. Mary's Church by the Patriarch His Holiness the late Abbune Teklehaimanot, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Holy Synod then gave them a mandate to return to the UK and spread the Orthodox Tewahedo Faith to the lost sons and daughters.

Today, one of the outstanding features of our church, is that services are conducted in both Geeze (the ancient liturgical church language) and English.

Following our tireless endeavours to buy our church building, this year, not only marks the 30th anniversary of our first church, Reese Adbarat St. Mary of Debre Tsion, but also the year in which we finally acquired it.

But we still have a lot to pay and there remains plenty of work to be done. We also have plans for a school, for our children, where they can learn about our Christian tradition, history and culture in a way suitable to their age and experience. Finally, we aim to continue carrying out regular visits to hospitals, prisons and the homeless.

Arch Deacon Dawit Gebreyohannes Woldetsadik, moved to London from Ethiopia as a young man. He writes in the faith column about the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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