Thursday, July 3, 2008

Building links of love

What is the life of a Minister General, Superior or Head Brother or Head Sister of an Anglican Religious Order like? Here we are, yesterday, weeding on a dull English morning. Sr. Catherine Rosa, Head Sister of the Sisters of Melanesia (on the right) and I have memories of digging a water supply trench in 1996 (in pouring rain and 90 degree heat) and preparations for many feasts involving cutting up pigs and chickens, chopping, grating, squeezing, baking food over roaring fires on all night cooking marathons. The Headquarters for the Sisters of Melanesia is next door to the Society of St. Francis training house in the Solomon Islands. Br George, Head Brother of the Melanesian Brotherhood (the largest Anglican religious order) and Br. Commins were also part of the weeding detail. The ulterior motive behind the work in the gardens is bonding and friendship. Our goal is to bring the group of Chaplains together into a working unit, demonstrating our Christian commitment and joy, to “be a praying heart” at the Conference. Sitting down in discussion is part of our time together on this 10 day preparatory retreat; we have daily Bible Study, and time for conversation. Yet these don’t quite get us over the hump of finding connection and solidarity since our cultural contexts make our statements virtually opaque. But questions surface as we work side by side. I think I know what we are talking about, then a brother will ask as we weed or shovel manure (today’s task): “What is homosexual?”

We are finding it hard to talk about these things, but we keep reaching across the cultural impasse as best as we can.

Obviously we are not being asked to lead the discussions at Lambeth, but we will lead much of the worship and offer prayers during the Eucharists, as well as offer a ministry of presence each day.

The brothers and sisters from the Church of Melanesia will be leading the Eucharist one day during the Conference, and they have sent an enormous box of traditional costumes and instruments. The box arrived today and we will begin serious rehearsals tomorrow, I think (all made it through customs, made of shells, wood, feathers and leather: who says miracles never happen!). At Mass today, the Hilfield Friary rang with the melodies of the South Pacific: ancient, polyphonic, fast paced.

Prayer, work, conversation, laughter and song: a humble recipe for gospel life.

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