February 2024 letter

Dear Friends

Let me introduce some of our Anglican friends from North Argentina (see photos below by Alan Rickards).  They visited St Luke’s for an evening in mid-January and some of you may have met them personally, but for the rest of us:

   

These six people come from the Diocese of Argentina Norte. There are over a hundred churches serving a vast area of sparse population across the Gran Chaco, together with a few large cities in the Andes foothills. Our link parish is in Salta, a city of 700,000 souls, from where the northern diocese has been administered.

In the centre of the main picture are Dany, his wife Flavia, and their daughter Sofi, together with young adults: Alejandro, Gloria and Agustin.

Previously Dany was the vicar of San Andres, Salta, a strong city centre church, with a weekly meal-for-the-homeless ministry, and a heart for local Christian witness and world mission. San Andres has planted a new church congregation in a slum on the outskirts: Gran Bourg. We support the newly trained young pastor, Marcos, as he leads this new work, helping with employment opportunities, and introducing Jesus Christ to people who have migrated from the rural areas, and who are a bit hidebound by rather syncretistic superstitious Catholic religion. Alejandro is an enterprising young man who has pioneered a bag/rucsac design and manufacture business, which has brought jobs and income locally.

We discovered during this visit that Dany has been made Vicar General of the whole diocese (which stretches from the High Andes to near the Iguazu Falls by Brazil). That means he is able to act as bishop when there is no bishop. Many of the churches are in the areas traditionally inhabited by indigenous people groups: the Wichi, the Toba, and the Cherote (Agustin – the one in a hat – is a Cherote from the remote interior, on the banks of the mighty Pilcomayo River).

The indigenous tribespeople make up the bulk of the parishes and the clergy, but they have little to live on.

English missionary workers established a base (near where Gloria lives) amongst the tribespeople in 1910, because the Spaniards and Argentinians had ignored the welfare of these people groups, who had been pushed into the interior by the colonising settlers. For this reason, the tribal leaders insist that only an English Diocesan Bishop is acceptable for them. So Dany carries on, offering leadership training, practical help, and helping defend their land rights against the Government, all in his new role of Vicar General. We help support him in this demanding work across a vast area, because the indigenous churches have little income to contribute. Their people live mainly by fishing in the river and foraging in the bush.

It is a very important thing for the Anglicans in North Argentina to have close links with English churches. They are so grateful that our forbears took the Gospel of Jesus to their neglected corner of the world. The pioneering missionary, Allen Gardiner, went on the same ship that Charles Darwin took, on his way to the Galapagos. Many lost their lives, but 150 years of brave, patient, openhearted Christian work and God’s mighty hand, have produced a lively outpost of the Anglican Communion in this oft-forgotten part of the South American sub-tropics.

At St Luke’s we are glad to be developing a direct link with our brothers and sisters in Salta, who are not so different to us, and from whom we can take great inspiration.

Please pray for Dany, Flavia and their leadership across the Diocese, for Marcos and the new church plant in Gran Bourg, and for our fellow Anglicans across the north of this large nation.

Yours in Christ,

Rob