Bishops in the mountains

Bishops in the mountains

This week Gavin spent three days in the scenic north with the Council of Protestant Churches (CPR). This was at a conference of church leaders organised to encourage financial autonomy among the churches. This was august company indeed as bishops and archbishops gathered from across Eastern Africa. Historically, churches in Rwanda, and also the rest of the continent, have been funded by grants from European churches and charities. More recently, income of this kind has been in decline and churches here are being forced to become more financially independent.

Getting to the conference meant a two hour coach ride into the mountains through some spectacular scenery. The valley sides to the north become steep and sheer compared to the hills around Kigali but that doesn’t stop the cultivation. Bananas, pineapples and beans are grown on terraced slopes that seem to defy gravity. At even higher levels spectacular waterfalls tumble over the rocks to irrigate the slopes below.

The town of Ruhengeri is located in the north west of Rwanda surrounded by a semi-circular chain of volcanoes. This is gorilla country and the beasts inhabit the jungle-covered slopes of the volcanoes. Along the main street, Mastercard and Visa advertisements entice the tourists who come in their 4x4s. Elsewhere in Rwanda there are very few opportunities to use a credit card. Any cards used around here are likely to buy a thick fleece. The temperature at this altitude is decidedly chilly compared to further south.

For the bishops, finding ways of maintaining their churches is an issue close to their hearts. However, many of the Rwandan churches don’t have the resources or experience to look after their finances in a way that has become commonplace in Europe and America. We are working with CPR to provide training and support that will allow churches to manage their financial affairs more effectively than in the past.