By the Revd John Kafwanka, ACO Director for Mission
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines recently celebrated 108 years of the establishment of St Mary & St John’s Cathedral, which is also the National Cathedral of the Church.
The week long celebrations culminated in a Sunday of activities beginning with a morning service presided over by the new Prime Bishop, the Right Revd Renado M. Abibico.
The cathedral was first established in 1907 by Bishop Charles Henry Brent, who was the first missionary bishop from the then Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America (PECUSA), initially to provide chaplaincy ministry to the American and European expatriates, and later to the Filipino communities.
During the Sunday service, the preacher, the Rt Revd Manuel Lumpias (retired bishop of Central Philippines) paid tribute to the American Episcopalians (The Episcopal Church) who founded the Episcopal Church in Philippines (ECP) and the Cathedral and also became part of its development and history. In response a thunderous applause was made as a show of thanks and gratitude by the Cathedral congregation.
Bishop Manuel reminded the full packed congregation that the Cathedral was the ‘mother church’ and that it did not exist as an end in itself but to be an “instrument of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and to be a sign of God’s grace in a broken world.”
The Bishop told the congregation that Christianity is a fellowship of believers and that one could not be a Christian alone, therefore, “we are a body of Christ all over the world.”
He pointed out that the Cathedral and the Episcopal Church in Philippines was part of the Anglican Communion family, which is rooted in history and in the story of Jesus as a story of human redemption.
Referring to the image of Jesus behind the alter, Bishop Manuel said, that the open arms of Christ were to welcome all into his Kingdom; and that despite our failures and weaknesses Christ is calling all to be instruments of his love in the world.
Meanwhile, the Cathedral Dean, the Very Revd James Boliget explained that the over the years the Cathedral has been involved in outreach ministry to the female inmates at the biggest female prison in Manila, to offer moral and spiritual support to the inmates, which include counselling and material support. Mr Boliget further said that when inmates are released the Cathedral helps in ensuring that they are received and reunited with their families by providing them with transportation.
He said that ex-prisoners can sometimes experience rejection by society and it was important that they can rely on family members for support, and the Cathedral plays a role to ensure that happens.
The Dean also pointed out that as part of the outreach ministry programme, the Cathedral supports emerging or/and struggling congregations in the outlying areas to thrive and be places of God’s presence in communities.