Just in time for Christmas, there was an uplifting story this week from an old acquaintance bravely hanging on in Zimbabwe, who wrote of a "cleansing ceremony" that was held in Harare's main cathedral on Sunday.
That sounded somewhat pagan, like a ritual requiring buckets of blood drained from a conquered enemy's virgins. And God knows how much cleansing the Anglican Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints may need, so defiled has it been over the years. Had the British empire's retreat from Hong Kong been more like its departure from Rhodesia, St John's in Central would have been turned into a wet market.
But the ceremony of which my old colleague wrote was a Christian one, to rededicate the cathedral to its original purposes. Bishop Chad Gandiya, according to Angus Shaw's report for Associated Press, "struck the main doors three times with a pastoral staff to have them opened. He blessed what he called the 'defiled' interior with signs of the cross ahead of the first Eucharist service by mainstream Anglicans since they were often violently banished from churches and missions seized nationwide."
God himself, working in the usual mysterious ways his wonders to perform, may have had a hand in St Mary's return to the true church, but the bishop was allowed back in at least partly by Zimbabwe's judges, who earlier had declared the seizure of church property by "Bishop" Nolbert Kunonga to be illegal. Kunonga, a supporter of President Robert Mugabe, has occupied church property across Zimbabwe in a way that has resembled the more secular confiscation of farms and businesses. As Angus puts it, church buildings "were turned into dormitories and food kitchens for Kunonga's supporters. Others were turned into flea markets and drinking halls that attracted prostitutes."
This bit of good news is a sign of gladder tidings, we may hope, that other confiscated property, such as farms, will be restored to their owners. We may even hope that one day all Zimbabweans will be able to return to their homes, despite this week's reports that Mugabe is girding his ageing loins for another shot at president.
Such wishful thinking may be too optimistic, but, hey, it's nearly Christmas, not so?