In October this year Archdeacon Phil Andrew, the Revd Gary Grady, the Revd David Bowers and Penny Fayter left the UK for a partnership visit to two of our International Link Partners in South India – the Diocese of Karnataka Central (KCD), centred on Bangalore, and the Diocese of Dornakal in Telangana State.
After spending the first half of the visit in Bangalore where the Revd David Bowers handed over his responsibilities as Link Officer for the Diocese of KCD to the Gary Grady, Archdeacon Phil, Gary and Penny travelled on to Dornakal Diocese and spent a packed week exploring the area and visiting churches, hospitals and schools.
Here, Penny shares the group’s travel report:
Monday 23 October
We arrived on 23 October in the early morning from Bangalore to Hyderabad and were met by the Revd Abhijith Bhimala, the Dornakal Diocesan link officer and his driver, Srikan. There is a new motorway and toll road so the journey time has been almost halved. The improvement in infrastructure is very evident in this area as is the immense building projects everywhere.
We reached Khammam by mid-afternoon and visited the home of Abhijith’s parents. We were welcomed by a team of pastors and people connected to the Cathedral as well as by Bishop Padma Rao and his family. We then joined the start of the Women’s Fellowship Retreat, a three-day event, where many women from all over the diocese spend time in worship, listening to speeches, singing and dancing and exploring the role of women in the church.
Tuesday 24 October
The day started with the communion service for the Women’s Fellowship in the Epiphany Cathedral in Dornakal. We then travelled to Khammam where we visited St Paul’s Church which Abhijith used to lead, and where we learned to stick dance. Abhijith was instrumental in the building of the church from a shack to a proper church. He started with 5 families and left earlier this year with 150.
We stopped by St Mary’s English Medium School where Mrs Norah Prithviraj is the Principal. The school has increased in numbers and has classes from LKG to Class 5. It has permission to go further and parents would like the school to go on to Class 10. The school has 133 pupils and 18 teachers.
We then visited the CSI Hospital in Khammam. We talked about the challenges the hospital faces in competition with newer facilities. The US team of doctors who used to come every year to do operations for free have not been granted visas since COVID. The hospital still offers a service to the very poor. Its staff are well trained and work there because of their Christian vocation. We talked to young doctors, nurses and consultants as well as the pharmacist.
After lunch we drove on to Madripuram and visited the St Bishop Azariah English Medium School. This school was started two years ago with 20 pupils and already it has increased to 60. The vice principal, the Revd Samuel Praveen Kumar spoke about his aspirations for the pupils. The school has very little in the way of funds but the Principal and Samuel are very determined. Bishop Azariah was the first Indian Bishop who originally came from a poor village in Andhra Pradesh. He had a love and vision for the poorest and sought to improve their lives. He was very ecumenical and instrumental in the vision for united Christian Churches and the Church of South India is a merger of the Anglican and Methodist denominations.
Wednesday 25 October
A leisurely breakfast with Abhijith, Vijaya’s father and the family and then we travelled through the countryside to Kothagudem and Abhijith’s present church, St Andrew’s, which regularly has congregations above 2,000. The church is very impressive. It is situated near the power station at Palwancha, to which we visited. We met Mr Prabhakar Rao, the chief engineer, who showed us around with his daughter, Jacinth. It was an incredible experience.
From the power station we went on to the mining area and visited the open cast mines. From there we visited St Paul’s Church and St Paul’s Girls’ Hostel where we were treated to an evening of dance and song. The welcome we received everywhere we went was fantastic.
Thursday 26 October
We spent the day in Dornakal. It was the first day back after the Durga Festival Holidays and not all the children had returned to school. We visited the DDEM School first and spent some time with the children, especially the sponsored pupils by King’s School parents.
In the afternoon we visited the Lionel Shriver School for the Deaf. Both schools had been renovated and repainted. The gardens at the Deaf School were looking very green and the DDEM School had planted trees and shrubs; it also had a new garden shelter and a bore well. We had an interesting session in the School for the Deaf where we had a question-and-answer time and were asked more challenging questions – for example, “What was the provision for education for deaf pupils in the UK?” The pupils also performed a silent dance for us.
One of the DDEM pupils invited Penny Fayter to her home. Reethu aged 15, lives with her grandparents; her grandfather used to be the school cook. This was very special as it is not usual to be invited to someone’s home.
The evening finished with a farewell service in the Cathedral with the DDEM School and School for the Deaf pupils singing for us. We were garlanded and wrapped in shawls in the traditional way of saying goodbye. We had a competition to see who received the most garlands.
Friday 27 October
The last day of our visit and we returned to Hyderabad with Abhijith and Srikan. We had breakfast with Bishop Padma Rao and Vijaya and then photos in the garden. At the Novotel hotel, we met up with old friends, Shubhakar, the previous treasurer and his son, the Revd Anand and his family, and Renuka and her son, Abbu. We had a meal together before departing for the UK the next morning.
We would also like to thank all the people who donated stoles to the pastors in the Diocese of Dornakal, which were very gratefully received.
For more information about this Link Partnership, visit Dornakal, India – Diocese of Gloucester (anglican.org)