Glocal Companions - Bishop Nigel’s article in the Courier and Advertiser


Glocal Companions

“Glocal” is a word I found myself using recently. It captures the world today in which the global and local have become compressed into the same thing, largely because of the internet and twenty-first century technology. The political, economic and cultural circumstances of one place collide with somewhere else. As never before we know about other places as information and goods, people and services rapidly traverse the globe.

So do we really understand more about others? The mobile phone may symbolise the glocal yet there is no substitute for face to face encounters. For centuries Scots have built friendships around the world as missionaries, engineers, doctors, farmers, teachers and so forth. Now the flow also comes the other way and a city like Dundee is ever more international in character.    

Since the Second World War twinning between communities in Europe and North America has been a popular way of learning from each other across frontiers. Dundee has several twin city friendships and many parts of Courier country have similar overseas links.

So too do the churches: my Diocese of Brechin has two overseas Companions. In 1982 the Episcopal Church in Iowa in the American Midwest linked with us, then in 1989 the Diocese of Swaziland in southern Africa joined with us both. So we have shared a journey across three continents for many years.

They say a companion is someone who shows another where bread may be found. Swaziland is much criticised for its lack of full democracy, it’s social and economic ills and suffers greatly from HIV/Aids. We visit and sensitively contribute regularly towards education, work for women and feeding pre-school children in a beautiful country with such eager people.

However I sometimes think we learn as much by welcoming visitors to our country and listening attentively to their questions and polite critique of what they experience. The relative wealth and accompanying sense of entitlement in British and American culture is a real shock to Swazis.  

The Bishop of Swaziland, Ellinah Wamukoya, was last year the first woman to be elected bishop in Africa and is visiting Dundee shortly. So too is Bishop Alan Scarfe from Iowa. We have a Celebration Synod at Dundee University Chaplaincy next Saturday morning 19 October when as three bishops we will be sharing our thoughts on the opportunities and challenges that face us as glocal Christians. The day concludes at 4pm with a Celebration Service in St Paul’s Cathedral Dundee at which Bishop Ellinah will be installed as an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral. Courier readers are more than welcome to come along.

As the global and local meet together I am sure our visitors will inspire and inform us. We have much to learn. Likewise I am confident that Courier country will impress them too.


The article appeared in the Courier on Friday 11 October 2013 under the title “No substitute for meeting face to face”

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