Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting Ready: Come Holy Spirit

Arriving in Canterbury last Friday, we have spent the past few days getting familiarized with the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral, meeting and making friendships with the young stewards who have come from all over the world to serve the Conference, and figuring out the incredibly complicated “programme” (96 pages long).

Our “Prayer Place” (as it is called) is the University Senate building, and it is an octagonal building. Br. Colin Wilfred SSF has helped design the worship space in this building and today we pitched in setting it up. At the door, a large glass bowl of water and a huge reproduction of a medieval depiction of God creating Adam. Across from this is an icon of Mary with Jesus, the Incarnation. In the center of the room is a large, empty, wooden cross. Flanking the central panel of the room are a Bible and a Tabernacle. In the center panel is the icon of the Trinity. Against the back wall is a digitalized image of a painting done by one of the stewards, a young Brazilian man. It is vivid and alive with colors. It reads: I AM, the theme of the daily bible studies the Bishops will have. I am entranced by the Bible Br. Colin found to display. It is one of the original Bibles authorized at the time of the Reformation to be put in parish churches across England so that the people would have Bibles available to read, in English. I found it a real thrill to hold this 450 year old book. It is called the “treacle” version since in Chapter 8 of Jeremiah it refers to the treacle of Gilead, not the “balm” of Gilead.

All the plenary sessions and most of the large Eucharistic liturgies will take place in a huge blue tent erected on the university grounds. It is called “The Big Top”. “We’ll soon weary of the obvious comments about that,” Colin moaned as we passed it going into the dining hall.

Several of us are really concerned about what “counseling” a Bishop might involve, having never done more than shake a hand before this, and so we have had fairly detailed hypothetical conversations. Always we are reminded that we are to pray with people: listen carefully and respond warmly to the person in front of us and lead the conversation to prayer. People coming to speak with us have reminded us that the Bishops are hurting, many feel deeply sad, some are angry, some even feel they have failed themselves or others and need encouragement. We point to Christ and God’s love.

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