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Adieu, Gambia’s first female presiding bishop, Her Grace Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim

Adieu, Gambia's first female presiding bishop, Her Grace Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim

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The Most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim, has celebrated the end of her ten years tenure as the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church, The Gambia with a thanksgiving service at the Methodist Cathedral. She is succeded by Rev. Banni Manga. Attended by the bishops of the Anglican and Roman Catholic missions and a cross-section of Christians, members of the diplomatic community, family members, school teachers and students, her valedictory was one of her most passionate and frank discourses during her tenure as presiding bishop.

As the longest-serving presiding bishop celebrates 10 years serving the Methodist Church The Gambia and the peoples of The Gambia.

Most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim is the first female bishop and first Gambian to hold the office of presiding bishop in the Methodist Church, in The Gambia and in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Ten years ago, on Sunday 5th February, 2012, a Gambian woman left the United Kingdom, where she had served as a circuit minister for 14 years as a reverend and came to The Gambia to become the presiding bishop, the Most Reverend, of the newly autonomous Methodist Church The Gambia. In this, she followed in the footsteps of the her father, the late John Davidson Faal, affectionately known by many as “Uncle JD”. He had served the Methodist Church in a lay capacity at Wesley Circuit, now Wesley Cathedral, until his death as a circuit steward and class leader. Her mother, the late Harriet Faal, who also had served the church as a lay leader, was able to attend her daughter’s service of consecration, together with her husband and their sons, siblings and family members and friends from UK, Germany, France, USA and The Gambia. In the same year, The Gambia Postal Service issued a set of postal stamps to celebrate her installation as the first Gambian Methodist bishop.

She is the third bishop and the second presiding bishop of the Methodist Church The Gambia, the official name adopted by the church in 2010 after it had become an autonomous church in 2009. Succession to the bishopric is determined by nomination and election. Eligibility for the office is gained upon 10 years of ordained ministry “in full connexion with” the Methodist Church.

Milestones

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The Most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim conducted her ministry over the terms of two presidencies in government over the country.

The bishop has played an important role in the Gambia Christian Council (GCC), an ecumenical body who represents the country’s Christians in public life. During several stints as the chairperson of GCC, she regularly met with the country’s presidents and vice presidents to conduct matters of religion.

Former President Jammeh was the first president she had dealings with as chairperson of the Gambia Christian Council and in the course of her service and ministry many significant church, national and international events took place in which the bishop played a leading role. These included the attempted efforts to make Gambia an Islamic state. In December 2016, she gave a public speech at State House, Banjul, in which she prophetically encouraged the incumbent President of The Gambia, His Excellency Sheikh Professor, Alhaji, Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, to step down peacefully and accept the 2016 presidential electoral results. This made a significant contribution to ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. This earned her a Peace Maker Award at the National Assembly of The Gambia in 2017.

In 2021, the presiding bishop held the Annual Methodist Conference in Janjangbureh in the provincial Central River Region in The Gambia, marking a significant moment in the history of the newly autonomous Methodist Church. The first such synod took place in Janjangbureh in the 1800s. She also led the church’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the autonomy of the Methodist Church The Gambia and the 200th. anniversary of Methodism in The Gambia (1821–2021), with a service of thanksgiving at the Wesley Cathedral, Banjul.

Connexional mission

The presiding bishop is responsible for the spiritual life of local congregations (called societies in Methodist terminology), as well as schools, medical facilities, and other organisations, including the Methodist Mission Agricultural Projects (MMAP).

The practical aspects of her ministry are reflected in the phrase “Called to Build”, a metaphor taken from the prophet Jeremiah which focuses on creating strong spiritual, communal and organisational foundations with the aim of establishing a holistic framework to ensure a sustainable future for the Methodist Church The Gambia. Towards this end, she focused on developing educational opportunities and providing scholarships through the many schools administered by the church and also for those in higher education institutions; encouraging young people in their faith; and giving them employment opportunities and seed funds to create business start-ups. She diligently strengthened the infrastructure of the church, mainly through building and renovating church properties; establishing strict financial policies that ensure the financial independence and self-sufficiency of the church through creating transparency and accountability at all levels of the church’s operations; and above all strengthened the Methodist identity of the church through promoting core Methodist values, such as evangelism and the holistic development of each person through a strong spiritual community.

The ten years anniversary is a cause for celebration and was celebrated on 20th February, as people marked this with a service of thanksgiving to God. By God’s grace, the presiding bishop led the church with humility, dignity and a sense of duty. Shalom! Shalom!!                                 

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