There were fire eaters and six different choirs when the Revd Canon Bob Cooper, vicar of Giles and St Mary's, Pontefract was installed as a Canon of Musoma Cathedral in Mara, Tanzania.
And for Father Bob, it was a humbling and joyous moment. (pictured below right at the orphanage in Mara)
For Bob has been a regular traveller to our link diocese in this part of Africa since 2000 and has just returned after a month’s visit – part of which included introducing a group of ten 17-year olds from Lightcliffe Academy to Mara and giving them a flavour of what’s going on there including different agricultural projects, primary schools, secondary schools, the orphanage, and saw them help with painting rooms.
Said Bob: “They come back changed, there’s no doubt about that.
“And it’s the same for me.
“I’ve been going since the year 2000 and I love it. It’s like going home. I love the people, the simplicity of life, the joy and appreciation they have for every aspect of life.
“It’s not easy to live there, it’s pared back living, back to basics, but it’s all that’s important,’ he added.
For Bob it is the practical outpouring of faith; those simple practical steps that can change people’s lives forever, that makes Mara such a wonderful place and have drawn him back repeatedly over the last 17 years.
For example, Bob was in a village primary school class one day last week and asked how many of the 120 pupils had lost a close relative to malaria. Over 100 of them raised their hand. When asked how many had mosquito nets at home, the number was closer to 20.
Bob had secured sponsorship to take 100 mosquito nets out with him and gave them to the village - that practical step could almost wipe out malaria in that particular village.
Said Bob: “I just love the way the diocese does faith in action and I always feel I’ve received far more than I’ve given; in love, welcome, faith and all kind of ways.
“And to be made canon is such a great joy and I was so unbelievably overwhelmed.
“This is not just for me, but for all those who have worked together - and continue to do so - since the link was first established back in 1988,” he said.
Pictured below is Fr Bob with Bishop George of Mara.