Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Bishop Singh's Pilgrimage in Ghana

February 27, 2015

Episcopal Relief & Development journey traced the roots of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade 

Feb. 13, 2015

 I grew up in India where a community known as the Dalits was treated as ‘untouchables' for several centuries. A culture of discrimination was normalized using interpretations of scripture, tradition, and commonly assumed sense. Similarly, these United States, now our home, has a horrific history of slavery that was nurtured by Trans-Atlantic slave trade that also was justified by interpretations of scripture and more.

I will make a pilgrimage to Ghana where slaves were held in inhumane ways before they made their passage to these United States. This pilgrimage is organized by Episcopal Relief & Development.  As we prepare for the season of Lent, I invite you to make time for self-examination and examination on behalf of our diocese in preparation for our service of healing and reconciliation at our Diocesan Convention in November.  May the old hymn of hope in Christ that reminds us, “there is a balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole…” be true for us.


Feb. 15 & 16, 2015:


We had an amazing Sunday liturgy at the Cathedral with a brief time at the Youth Service at 9 and the principal liturgy at 10. An amazing experience of hybrid liturgy with indigenous and colonial history blended in exuberance, solemnity and joy. The highlight, for me, was the joy and vibrancy of the offering, which lasted a good fifteen minutes or more. The evening was a beautiful reception with the staff and families of Episcopal Relief and Development's regional office. We also had the honor of meeting and greeting the Archbishop of West Africa, the Most Rev. Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, his wife, as well as the Bishop of Accra, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Torto. Lots of amazing drumming, dancing and food. A group of committed staff with the leadership of Sam O!

Monday got us up and out early heading to the airport after 4 a.m. to fly into Tamale in the north, where after breakfast we drove for three hours to Bolgatanga. A fabulous visit to the Anglican school greeted us with vibrant communal dancing by school children. The hospitality was mind boggling in the abundance of generous spirit. We then met with Bishop Jacob Ayeebo and the staff of the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization (ADDRO) in the Diocese of Tamale. The narrative of the work on the ground is fascinating in the areas of health, food security and livelihood. We will visit sites and engage them directly as we proceed on this pilgrimage.Exhausted after a long day, and buoyed by the tangible work of healing embodied by dancing children in a hurting world.


More photos...

Feb. 17, 2015:


A heavenly day visiting projects engaged by Nets for Life, and several that focused on empowering women like the one using donkeys for ploughing during the planting season and for transporting after the harvest season. We witnessed a women's cooperative working to make Shea Butter, snacks out of groundnuts, parboiling rice in environmentally sound and more efficient ways, etc. Had a liturgical stop at St. James, where we met a strong and engaged women's fellowship and the former bishop of the Diocese of Tamale, Bishop Immanuel. Their church building in process was made possible through a United Thank Offering grant! We also witnessed the work of carpentry initiated by John who became deaf due to cerebral palsy. He is training about 30 young men in the art of carpentry. All of them are deaf and mute.

A rich and full day of witnessing to some of the impact of the development in the ground catalyzed by the work of Episcopal Relief & Development through the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization in the Diocese of Tamale. Nothing like good collaboration! Presiding Bishop Katharine was as usual an inspiration to all and especially to the women and girls, who had only met a woman bishop for the very first time. Heaven comes down in slices and this certainly was a good slice!


 More photos...

Feb. 18, 2015:


PHOTO GALLERY: The Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage in Ghana continues, with stops including a former slave camp in inland Ghana. At this site, people ate from "bowls" hewn into rock before being taken to port and, ultimately, a life of enslavement in the Americas. These places, such as the Pikworo slave camp, were home to mass graves and sadistic punishments for those who tried to escape. Slaves who tried but failed to escape would be bound to a "punishment rock", left to bake in the unrelenting sun.

More photos... 

 Feb. 21, 2015:


PHOTO GALLERY: The Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage in Ghana continued with visits to Elmina and Cape Coast castles - where slaves were held before their middle passage across the Atlantic. "The horror of normalized treatment of other human beings is unimaginable," Bishop Singh writes. "The past three days have been some of the most intense in my life."

More photos... 

Conclusion, Feb. 27, 2015:


According to W. Walton Claridge, in A History of the Gold Coast and Asanti, the Portuguese started what would devolve into the Transatlantic Slave Trade as early as 1441. This practice of seeking slaves eventually led to an institutionalized norm of Trans-Saharan and Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Thanks to the efforts of Wilberforce and several others, An Act for the Abolition of Slave Trade was officially enacted on March 25, 1807.  However, it lingered for nearly century after that in practice in parts of Africa (as late as 1897 in Zanzibar Province).  

Rue is what I felt as I sat near the five hundred and thirty year-old Elmina castle where thousands of my brothers and sisters made in the image of God were held in captivity for the purpose of feeding the consumerist institution of slavery. Their humanity robbed, their sense of self disintegrated, their families separated, their personalities gravely wounded, these children of God took the brutality of ignorant and greedy consumers flaunting as explorers, and lost their sense of God-given self for generations.  Countless generations would follow them feeling a sense of worthlessness, the deep scourge of internalized racism, because of this heinous crime against humanity and all that is good.

I have raging questions for the religious and other leaders of the time who were Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist.  "What were you praying?"  "Wasn't there someone in the clergy or laity who said this was wrong and did something about it?"  "Wasn't there someone who said that this was not Biblical?"   "Why were black people selling out their own brothers and sisters?"  "Was cultural and consumerist Christianity the norm as early as 1441?"  "Was pie in the sky when we die enough of a common belief system that it did not matter we were systematically mistreating people made in the image of God?" 
Many unanswered questions continue to rage within me.  At our General Convention we resolved to take some actions with regard to the legacy of slavery and slave trade.  http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2006-A123
I ask you to prayerfully study this resolution and consider joining me in journeying as a diocese toward a holy place of repentance for the sin of racism, and our religious, economic and psychological complicity to this problematic worldview.  I ask you to join me in moving to a place of clarity where these baser human proclivities are opposed, and overcome in our time in the ancient and modern expressions of slavery that continue to thrive in several pockets world.  I invite you to save the date for two special events in November: an agape supper on Friday evening, November 13 and a liturgy of repentance, healing and reconciliation on November 14 morning.  Both events will be open to all and will be held in Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The Key Noter and Preacher at these events will be The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry.  This summer, look for GET ON THE BUS pilgrimage opportunities when the Antiracism Committee and I will lead a Stations of Repentance, Healing and Reconciliation bus tour.
                                 O Freedom, O Freedom,
                                 O Freedom, over me; 
                                 Before I'll be a slave,
                                 I'll be buried in my grave,
                                 And go home to my God,
                                                  And be free.
                                 From: Children of the Moon
                                 W.E.B.DU BOIS (1920)