Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Community of Lambeth

Part of the joy of the Lambeth Conference is the gathering of the Anglican community. Everywhere you go there is someone new to meet and to talk with.

In our little community at Paley House, in addition to Gretchen and me are the Bishop Suffragan of Toronto, the Bishop Suffragan of Alabama, and the Bishop of the Virgin Islands. Since there is only one shower, we had an important meeting last evening to determine the morning shower schedule. We're learning things about each other I'm sure none of us planned to share.

Today the Lambeth program began in earnest. We started at 7:15 am with Eucharist. The service was brief: opening sentences, confession, OT, alleluia verse, Gospel, intercessions, communion, and closing hymn. No sermon.

After a quick breakfast (quick because time was short and lines were long), we met for Bible study.

My Bible study group, named "Cyprian," is made up of eight bishops. Among them are an old friend from the Diocese of Huron (Canada), three English bishops, the Bishop of Canberra (Australia), the Bishop of Dallas, and the Bishop of Chile. We had no designated facilitator, so the job fell to me as the junior member. Fortunately the study guide is easy to follow. We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and then plunged into a study of the Prologue from the Gospel of John.

The spouses also began their program this morning. The spouses were welcomed by Jane Williams, whose theme for the morning was "Privilege and Gratitude." The theme for the conference is "God's People for God's Mission." The spouses heard a presentation from the Executive of the Mother's Union about their work in 78 countries. This was followed by Bible study groups. After lunch, the spouses met in Provincial groups. During the day Gretchen had conversations with spouses from West Africa, the Congo, the Diocese of the Arctic (Canada), and Auckland (New Zealand).

Bishops' and spouses' programs were completely separate today because, after their Bible study, the Bishops left for Canterbury Cathedral and the beginning of a three day retreat.

The day consisted of several brief worship opportunities and two reflections by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first reflection concerned thanksgiving for our ministries and ordinations as bishops. It is an extraordinary gift and opportunity to serve the people of God as bishops.

We had a break for lunch in the courtyard of the International Study Center which is adjacent to the Cathedral. During lunch I had an extensive conversation with an English bishop about church perspectives on war and peace and the difficulty for both our countries now that we are so thoroughly entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The afternoon meditation lifted up the importance of compassion in Episcopal ministry. A strong leader is one who suffers with the weakest members of the community.

The retreat day ended with sung Evening Prayer led by the Cathedral Men and Boys Choir. Exquisite.

After returning to the campus, bishops and spouses were reunited for supper. Following supper, I attended a meeting for blogging bishops and Gretchen attended the launch of Jane Williams book, Marriage, Mitres, and Being Myself.

A long full day, indeed.


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