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

Why a Labour split may be in the interests of both sides

Divorce may be the best option, argues Nick Tyrone. 

Despite everything that is currently happening within the Labour Party - the open infighting amongst party officials, the threat of MPs being deselected, an increasingly bitter leadership contest between two people essentially standing on the same policy platform – the idea of a split is being talked down by everyone involved. The Labour Party will “come together” after the leadership election, somehow. The shared notion is that a split would be bad for everyone other than the Tories.

Allow me to play devil’s advocate. What the Corbynistas want is a Labour Party that is doctrinarily pure. However small that parliamentary party might be for the time being is irrelevant. The basic idea is to build up the membership into a mass movement that will then translate into seats in the House of Commons and eventually, government. You go from 500,000 members to a million, to two million, to five million until you have enough to win a general election.

The majority of the parliamentary Labour party meanwhile believe that properly opposing the Tories in government through conventional means, i.e. actually attacking things the Conservatives put forth in parliament, using mass media to gain public trust and then support, is the way forward. Also, that a revitalisation of social democracy is the ideology to go with as opposed to a nebulous form of socialism.

These two ways of looking at and approaching politics not only do not go together, they are diametric opposites. No wonder the infighting is so vicious; there is no middle way between Corbynism and the bulk of the PLP.

I understand that the Labour MPs do not want to give up on their party, but I don’t see how the membership is shifting in their favour any time soon. Most talk around a split understandably comes back to 1981 and the SDP very quickly yet consider this: the most defections the SDP ever achieved were 28. If there was a split now, it would probably involve the vast majority of the PLP, perhaps even 80 per cent of it – a very, very different proposition. There is also clearly a large number of people out there who want a centre-left, socially democratic, socially liberal party – and polls suggest that for whatever reason the Liberal Democrats cannot capitalise on this gap in the market. Some sort of new centre-left party with 150+ MPs and ex-Labour donors to kick it off just might.

Of course, a split could be a total disaster, at least in the short term, and allow the Tories further general election victories over the next decade. But let’s be honest here – given where we are, isn’t that going to happen anyhow? And if a split simply results in what happened in the 1980s recurring, thus eventually leading to a Labour Party capable of winning a general election again, would members of the PLP currently wondering what to do next not consider it worth it just for that?

Nick Tyrone is Chief Executive of Radix, the think tank for the radical centre.