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.
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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era