East Harling & Ave – sharing life lessons

Published on: 1 July 2017

The Revd Lynn Fry and her husband Tony spent eight months in Papua New Guinea as guests of the Anglican Church and returned there last Autumn to continue their work in the theological college in Popendetta.

The relationships that have been formed between their home benefice in East Harling and the Binandere tribe as a result are strong and each community has developed an appreciation of a different culture. The Binandere tribe live in the last village up the navigable River Mamba, and before independence they had an airstrip and a bush track – both now closed. Education and health care are very limited.

The East Harling gardening group was inspired by hearing about the tribe managing subsistence farming: rotating their crops and using organic methods to preserve the natural environment, in a region where the impact of climate change is all too evident. Tony appealed for any spare hoe-heads to be donated and someone paid for the shipping costs to get them out to the students and staff at the college. “You have no idea how much they value the knowledge that people from the other side of the world are thinking about them and wanting to help,” said Lynn about delivering the hoe-heads.

When they were last in PNG in 2015, Lynn was godmother to Baby “Lynn Fry” and sent back a photo of the baptism taking place in St Andrews Church in Ave, with a plastic washing up bowl as a font. This inspired some of the members of East Harling congregation to commission the enamellist and jeweller Sheila McDonald to produce a small bowl, light and easily transportable, that could be used for future baptism services.

“Sheila is a fellow of the Goldsmiths Company and, luckily for us, lives and works in East Harling,” explains local church member Sue Wall. “The bowl was commissioned as a gift from St Peter & St Paul’s in East Harling. It is made of a brass alloy referred to as gilding metal, which is a good base for enamel work; it has inscribed round the rim “Ave the Land of the Gospel” and is decorated with an enamel picture of an angel in the base.

“The design of the angel was inspired partly by the medieval painted angels in the clerestory windows at St Peter
& St Paul, and partly by the pictures of the PNG ladies in their full tribal headdresses. “Lynn and Tony took it with them on their return to Ave and were delighted to report: “The baptism bowl was used straight away to baptise Tony’s namesake!”

Sue says that they have benefited from the ongoing support to the Binandere community and the theological college as much as the recipients of the gifts have. “With the letters and photos, it feels like a real relationship has built between us. We receive by witnessing what a kind and caring community they are. We have much to learn.”

Writing home, Lynn agrees: “Far from losing anything by coming here, we gain much more. When we left this Western way of life, we found ourselves, and God waiting for us. The paradox is when we choose for ourselves we become smaller and more inward-looking. When we choose for others and for God we grow. And that is a good feeling.”

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