Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Vibrant Gospel Message

The Lambeth Conference opened today with a terrific liturgy in the Canterbury Cathedral. It was marked by upbeat musical offerings (The Missa Luba, a Mass in Congolese style), and the Franciscan and Melanesian Brotherhood brothers and Sisters of the Church and Sisters of Melanesia dancing the Gospel to the center of the Cathedral, with music performed on bamboo pan pipes. The hymns were beautiful, with an inclusive message. The sermon, preached by The Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka) was a show stopper: warmly delivered and emphasizing peace, justice, inclusiveness. It was one of the most beautiful Cathedral services I have ever attended.

The Procession was nearly half an hour, with hundreds of people filing into the Cathedral, two by two. We were representative of everybody, and the vast nave soon was a bit like Noah’s Ark.

Sitting in the midst of that crowd I felt a strong feeling of hope that we will be able to come to a new understanding about what it means to be Anglican, what it means to be a person of faith in the world today. That feeling of hope was a surprise to me. I’ve been feeling pessimistic and sometimes cynical.

The Liturgy set a positive tone and framework for the rest of the day, which was spent back at the Big Top listening to speeches outlining the process of the conference. The Bishops will meet everyday in Bible study, and “Indaba” groups, a Zulu word for a gathering of people meeting to work out a problem facing a community. There are people trained to “animate” each group, people set apart as recorders, and other teams of people meeting to pull all the different strands into documents which will reflect the voices and thoughts of every bishop attending the conference, as long as he or she participates. Best of all, the process is planned to go beyond the Lambeth Conference. They are avoiding trying to force some kind of quick decisions on the conference, but seeking constructive input into the groups working on the Windsor Response Group, and the group working on the Anglican Covenant. Even the covenant sounded different to me today, at least the possibilities the Archbishop outlined for it. We’ll see where it all goes. There have been a few dissenters, and I’ve heard about Bishops avoiding the Bible Study groups, some who chose not to come to the Archbishop’s retreat, and even a few who thought the sermon was “appalling.” Bless their hearts.

Here’s the text to a hymn we sang today, we also sang it at my Installation as Minister General November 1:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
And all can safely life,
A place where saints and children
Tell how hearts learn to forgive;
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome,
All are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

No comments: