The Zambia link was first suggested around the time of the Lambeth Conference in 1978 when ‘Partnership in Mission’ was a growing idea around the Anglican Communion. The Rt Revd John Bickersteth was Bishop of Bath & Wells and Bishop Jack Cunningham had recently retired to Somerset after working for some time in Central Zambia. Bishop Bickersteth was keen to build on that connection.
Canon Cyril Edward Eason, Area Secretary for USPG, visited Zambia to start the first official discussions. At the time there were 3 Dioceses, Central Zambia, Northern Zambia and Lusaka. In 1995 the Diocese of Eastern Zambia was created from the eastern part of Lusaka Diocese, and in 2003 the Diocese of Luapula was created from the areas of Northern and Central Zambia north of the Congo Pedicle.
The first person responsible for steering the link was Preb Robin Lankester, from 1983. Rachel Lucas had an office in the Old Deanery as Secretary to the Link, initially on a one-day a week basis in 1988/89, and when she retired in 1998 she was working 4 days a week. When Jenny Humphreys took over in 1998 the official job title was “World Mission Adviser and Executive Secretary to the World Mission Group (incorporating the Zambia Link)” Jenny was made a Canon of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Lusaka in 2015 and retired in 2016. The role of World Mission Advisor is now held by Jane Tompsett.
What was originally known as the Zambia and Overseas Group became the World Mission Group in 1996, and incorporated the two separate Sub-Groups: the Zambia Sub-Group and the World Mission & Development Sub-Group. In 2017 the Zambia Sub-group became the Zambia Champions group.
The link grew and prospered with regular exchange visits by priests, doctors, school staff, students, diocesan staff and members of congregations. Visits to Zambia have been made by Bishop Nigel McCulloch, Bishop Jim Thompson, Bishop Peter Price, Bishop Andrew Radford, Bishop Peter Maurice, Bishop Peter Hancock and Assistant Bishop John Neale. The Zambian bishops visited Bath & Wells at the time of the Lambeth Conferences in 1988, 1998 and 2008, and at various time in between and since. They were represented in 2009 at events to commemorate the 1100th Anniversary of the foundation of the Diocese of Bath & Wells by the Rt Revd William Mchombo from Eastern Zambia and the Rt Revd Robert Mumbi from Luapula Diocese.
There are about 50/60 parish links, plus links at various times with St Francis Hospital, the Seminary of St John the Evangelist, Employment & Training Centres, Mission Stations, Street Kids Projects and schools. Some Links are much more active than others.
Over the 40 years there have been many examples of collaborative working between Bath & Wells and the Zambian Dioceses on global justice issues. These include the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, Trade Justice Campaign, Make Poverty History, and the Millennium Development Goals. Work has also been done together on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, Gender-based Violence, Environmental concerns, Climate Change, and many other issues. Representatives from both ends of the link have also been involved in clergy exchanges, clergy & lay training days, diocesan conferences, Christian Aid campaigns, USPG events, Linking seminars, Anglican Communion conferences, and national celebrations. A major Linking Conference was held in Wells in conjunction with the UK One World Linking Association in 2011 which involved clergy, schools, churches, healthcare professionals, development practitioners, musicians, artists, the Mothers’ Union, politicians and the Zambian Ambassador to the UK. It was officially opened by the Most Revd Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia and the then recently appointed Archbishop of Central Africa.
The main emphasis of the Link has always been on building up relationships through prayer, correspondence and visits. Providing financial resources has inevitably grown out of such relationships. In addition to the funding of individual links, parishes here have always been encouraged to support the Zambia General Fund which allocates regular sums to each of the bishops for use in their own dioceses on their own priorities.
The most significant donation to date from Bath & Wells to the Zambian Church was the Millennium Grant of £280,000.00 in 2000. £80,000 was divided between the 4 existing dioceses, the new diocese of Luapula which was then in formation, and the Seminary. The £200,000 (plus a USPG Festina Loan of £64,000) was used to build the 6 Bath & Wells Flats on land owned by the Zambian Church in Kabulonga, Lusaka. Other diocesan-level fundraising projects were the Bishop Andrew Memorial Fund created following Bishop Andrew Radford’s death in 2006 which promoted youth sporting events in the Zambian dioceses; and the Kit for Kids Appeal in Bath & Wells schools and youth groups throughout 2009 for Zambian young people’s projects, events and equipment.
Over the years various resources have been produced by the Zambia Sub-Group including schools packs, videos, slides, photos, tapes, leaflets, prayers cards and poster sets. Various Zambian artefacts have been acquired which can be borrowed by parishes.
An official review of the Link took place in 1994, followed by mini-reviews around the Lambeth Conference visits in 1998 and 2008. A full Appraisal of the link was undertaken at the instigation of the World Mission Group and the Zambia Anglican Council, with the support of the Bishop’s Staff and DBF, in 2015. It was led by Canon Janice Price, the Church of England’s Adviser for World Mission, and the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, Director of Mission for the Anglican Communion. This fed into a project being overseen by Canon Janice Price to ‘map’ for the first time the extent, nature and purpose of Companion Links. This project is being supported by the Archbishops’ Council and the Anglican Communion. The Bath & Wells/Zambia Link is one of three sets of links between English dioceses and their global partners to take part at some depth in the qualitative part of the project, a major outcome of the World-Shaped Mission Report published in 2012. The Report was compiled by Canon Janice Price and the World Mission & Anglican Communion Panel. The Zambian dioceses were given copies of the Report during the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka in September 2012.
A book celebrating 100 years of the Anglican Church in Zambia was written by the Rt Revd John Osmers (Bishop of Eastern Zambia from 1995 – 2002) and published in 2010 while he was Rector of the Seminary of St John the Evangelist in Kitwe.