Christmas Letter from Bishop James

Bishop’s House, PO Box Private Bag, Mtandi, Masasi, Tanzania

bishopjamesalmasi@yahoo.com

+255

Christmas 2023

Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end”.

It is our joy to share Christmas Joy with you in this Advent season 2023 with this Isaiah’s wonderful prophetic word in chapter 9 verses 6+7. We do thank and praise Almighty God, for all we have seen and experienced of His Love and Protection, His Mercy and His Grace this last year among our people in our Diocese of Masasi. 

We are so thankful to God for the peace and unity we enjoy amongst the priests and congregations. We give Him all the glory and praise. This year has been one of rich blessings and some big challenges which I can share with you in my letter. 

Pastoral: 

Ordinations: Fifteen Deacons are now in training in the parishes and next year on their ordination we shall create and name fifteen new parishes where they will be installed as priest. This is in line with our 2026 Centenary Goals. 

Theology Students: we do rejoice in the number of men who are coming forward for training as priests: there are three at St Mark’s College; seven at Morogoro Bible College; three at St Phillips College, Dodoma; two at Bunda Bible College and one is at St John’s University, Dodoma. Meanwhile Father Linus is in his second year of study at university in Montreal Diocese, Canada. 

Kwitonji Bible School, Mtandi: two ladies completed their three years of study for the ‘Certificate in Theology’ at Bunda (Diocese of Mara). They will join the staff at Kwitonji Bible School, Mtandi with a new term starting in January, 2024. 

We are trusting to open the new year with forty five catechists from across the Diocese on training for three months as we work towards another Centenary Goal of training most, if not all, of our catechists in theology. We are so thankful to God for the leadership of Captain Catherine Lagunda (CA) for the success of the work at Kwitonji. 

Diocesan Office: Mama Joyce Liundi has taken over as Acting Diocesan Secretary in addition to her many duties in the Mothers Union.

Rondo Junior Seminary:  Father Phares has moved to Rondo as the Principal. We are facing many challenges here due to the reducing number of students. The harvest this year was not good, now the last few years, and this impacts on the economy of the Diocese and the whole of Southern Zone. This reduction in cash flow affects the income from fees and thus the number of staff we can employ. 

There are now one hundred and five students and we are striving to ensure that they receive a good education and that Rondo Junior Seminary is a great place to study. We are hoping to invest, subject to the receipt of new funds in a new laboratory, new dormitories and new toilets: these are critical challenges which we face so as to improve the facilities at Rondo that will attract parents and students. 

WASH Project:  this project is now in its second phase as we bring running water to more rural areas of our Diocese. 

Partnerships: 

We do thank God for our many wonderful partnerships. It is through them that the many great developments and the wonderful training opportunities have been made possible by our generous partners: Diocese of Hereford, UK; Anglican Aid in Diocese of Sydney; CMS, Australia; Diocese of Montreal, Canada; The Grille Foundation, USA; the Friends of Masasi and Minchinhampton Parish, UK. 

Increased partnerships in Tanzania: we are thankful to God for the increasing partnerships with other Dioceses in Tanzania including Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Southern Highlands and Western Tanganyika. We are enjoying and blessed by the opportunities for studying, for Choirs to exchange visits, for Mothers Union visits. As Bishop I have also had opportunity to lead conferences and seminars in the Province: recently I enjoyed a week of seminars and preaching at Mzumbe University in Morogoro. I much enjoyed this week with so many of our young people.  

Challenges: 

Income: the harvest in 2023 was once again very poor due to the lack of rain at planting time and later in the growing season. This was particularly so for the Diocesan Farm where the cashew crop amongst others suffered much; here the costs nearly outweighed the income. We are praying for the rains this year to be plentiful and to come at planting time for all the people in the Diocese and region. 

Transport and the Bishop’s LandCruiser: the challenges for me in carrying out my pastoral duties across the Diocese are significant now as I have no Bishop’s car just now. The problems over the LandCruiser are not resolved as yet. This makes travelling for Confirmations, for my preaching and pastoral visits, pastoral care and ministry very difficult. We thank some parishes in USA and Friends of Masasi for their support in this challenge for transport. God knows: so we are trusting Him for resolution. 

Bishop’s health: my health is not good due to the spinal problems caused by my constant travelling many miles over the years in Masasi and elsewhere in Tanzania. I have this year been four times to Mihimbili Hospital in Dar es Salaam but there is as yet no real resolution as I write to you. I am expecting to have an MRI scan in 2024. The generous help of friends has enabled me to fly from Mtwara for these appointments. I do thank you very much for your generosity to me. 

Mary, my mother: Mary had been living with us since December of last year but has recently returned home to Sindano. Mary needs full time care and I am so grateful to the one who is giving this for her.

Priests in poor health: Canon Matteus Binamu (our former Vicar General) suffered a stroke this year. He is paralysed and has lost his speech. While Canon Danstan Mbagwe also suffered a stroke. Both of these brothers and great servants of Masasi Diocese are living at home cared for by their families. 

Family News: we do thank God for His faithfulness and goodness we see in our children. Farajah is now at Mihimbili University doing his second degree studying for his Masters in Public Health. Hugh is volunteering at the National Bank of Commerce in Masasi while Farahah is in her second year at the University of Dodoma reading Development Studies. 

As a Diocese we pray the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all; your families, your Churches and all those for whom you pray this Christmas and through the New Year 2024.


May God bless you and encourage you in your faith and love for Him this Christmas time as you celebrate “His inexpressible Gift” at this nativity season.


Sincerely, and with my love in Christ.

Your friend and brother,
+James
Rt Revd Dr James Almasi Bishop of Masasi, Tanzania

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