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
Show Hide image

Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.