Claude renews link with father’s churches

Former head teacher Claude Scott will be giving a talk in Norwich at the weekend about his remarkable return to his African childhood home in Congo. Derek James reports.

The remarkable story of a former head teachers' emotional return to the war-torn African country where his father is revered as a saint will be told in Norwich on Saturday.

Back in the spring retired Norwich head teacher Claude Scott journeyed back to his African childhood home in Congo for the first time since he left in 1946, and was amazed and delighted to find that the churches his missionary parents had set up were still thriving. As reported in the Evening News in April, Claude, who was head teacher of Thorpe St Andrew School, left the country in 1946 at the age of nine.

He returned in 2010 to find the people desperately poor, the country ravaged by war – but the churches still at the centre of each community.

These were the churches he remembered his father starting. The whole family would trek into the forest, taking the Christian gospel with them. Claude, now 72, grew up speaking French and Swahili, making friends with the village children

At first he was overwhelmed by the experience of returning to Congo and discovering that his father was revered as a saint.

In village after village Claude was greeted as a returning hero.

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He met a pastor his father had put in charge of a church in 1945 – and who was still leading his congregation.

In one village he was shown a painting of his father, titled 'Apostle Douglas Scott' and treasured for almost 70 years. Now Claude, who lives in Norwich, wants to return to Congo again.

His first visit was impromptu, a spur-of-the-moment foray over the border from Rwanda, where he and his wife Ethne had been helping a church charity.

Years of war and violence had ripped the beautiful land apart.

But he found his childhood home – now being used by United Nations peacekeepers – and he chanced upon childhood friends he had played with six decades earlier. He addressed congregations of hundreds in simple village churches.

In January he hopes to go back again, not as a tourist but with help for the pastors who inherited the churches founded by his father. 'It's become increasingly clear that I should go back and do something with the pastors,' said Claude.

Through the group he and Ethne were originally working with, in Rwanda, he has managed to get some much-needed Aids and HIV training into 'his' area. 'But the pastors like to feel that there are people in the UK who have a concern for them,' said Claude.

He has found a charitable trust which had just published the first bible commentary in Swahili, written by Africans, for Africans, and has given him, for free, 120 books for the pastors.

He will be going out with the books in January, but first he must raise enough money to cover the costs of transport, food and accommodation for the pastors for a week-long training course.

The people of Blakeney church, where Claude and Ethne have strong links, have already given them a retiring offering and Claude will be giving an illustrated talk about his links to the Congo at a special event at Holy Trinity Church in Norwich on Saturday.

Claude, a father of three and grandfather of 12, was an assistant priest at Holy Trinity, before he retired. These pastors, ministering to thousands of the very poor, in an often-unstable country, are the fruits of his father's labours and Claude feels a responsibility towards them.

On Saturday at 7.30pm in Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Street, Norwich, Claude will be talking about his rediscovery of his father's work in Congo.