And if the Holy Ghost descend
in grace and power infinite
His comfort in these days to lend
to those who humbly wait on it
Theirs too the wondrous works shall be
that Jesus wrought in Galilee.
That poem is by the 14th century Persian poet Hafez are testament to an ancient Christian tradition in Iran. But some web sleuthing uncovered something I hadn’t encountered before – there is an Anglican diocese in Iran consisting of four faithful congregations surviving in difficult circumstances.
From the website of the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association:
“There have been Christians in Iran since the earliest days of the Church and the indigenous Churches continue as minorities in this predominantly Muslim country. The Anglican presence arose out of missionary work by the Church Missionary Society and the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people.Today there is a small Church which looks to the Bishop for spiritual leadership. The diocesan institutions – schools and hospitals and work among the blind – have gone but the tiny Church persists. Members of the Church need much prayer for strength to witness to their faith and for protection from the opposition. There have been martyrs since the Revolution, and the situation can only really be described, in human terms, as unpredictable.
The Diocese of Iran differs from other dioceses in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East in that it consists purely of congregations of Christians, with no medical, educational or other institutions. They were expropriated, along with institutions run by other Churches, after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. So week by week the four congregations in Tehran, Isfahan, Julfa (a suburb of Isfahan) and Shiraz meet for fellowship and worship. Their numbers are not large, but they gather faithfully, supported by prayer, by the pastoral visits made by Bishop Azad, the leadership in Tehran of the Revd Christopher Edgar and others in Isfahan and Shiraz.”
h/t: Anglicans Down Under