Sunday, July 20, 2008

Opening Eucharist at Canterbury

Sunday evening 20th July

I wish I could take you all with me into the vast sacred space of Canterbury Cathedral, truly the "mother church" of the Anglican Communion. After our quiet days of retreat here with the Archbishop of Canterbury leading our meditations, and the cathedral all to ourselves, it was a different place entirely at the official Lambeth Conference Eucharist this morning. Every corner of the cathedral was pressed into service; as one of the cheery vergers said, "must be topping up over 4000 here t'day". Bishops in red and white, spouses (many in the brilliant colors of national dress), ecumenical guests, local and national dignitaries (both lay and ordained), choirs and musicians, press and media...voices raised in song and prayer. When a huge chorus of voices are upheld by pipe organ and brass, in a space acoustically designed for worship, you don't just hear music normally, your whole body is one huge ear.

Imagine this vast cathedral, a place of worship for almost 1500 years. Over the centuries, millions of pilgrims have come here to pray, to celebrate, to grieve... and to walk over stones and steps worn concave by the shoes (and knees) of the faithful. Many of us may have read Chaucer's CANTERBURY TALES, stories of pilgrims of every pious circumstance (and murky motive and mischievous spirit!). Canterbury Cathedral still is a favorite destination for pilgrimages from all over the world; youth pilgrimages, peace pilgrimages, contemplative pilgrimages, ecumenical pilgrimages (interested? see

This morning' s 2-hour liturgy, using six languages, was beyond description. Christ was vividly present in our midst, through rich variety of cultural religious expression. Our Brothers and Sisters of Melanesia brought the Gospel down the nave by small boat (symbolizing how the Gospel first came to them), with signing and dancing to flutes and drums. Now, here's a thought for our waterfront congregations; to enliven your Gospel processions...

Preaching was Bishop DuLeep de Chickera of Sri Lanka, a noted reconciler in a land with serious civil war challenges ebbing and flowing. Without a note visible, but with ample gentle passion, he drew us into the all-including, all-embracing heart of Christ.

We spilled out into the Cathedral precincts after the recessional. It was a clear, slightly breezy day, so most of us lingered and talked, greeting old friends and well-wishers and scratching our heads at the odd picketer or two holding signs with incomprehensible messages. The contagious joy of the worship will carry me into the upcoming week, while we get down to "business". As you know, some of that business is pretty difficult. Keep those prayers flowing.

We understand that many of our Maine congregations will do a "virtual walk" with us during our Lambeth Walk of Witness this Thursday beginning 10:30 am London time (5:30 am for Maine time), led by the Archbishop of Canterbury to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for eradicating extreme povery. It's not to late to prepare to join us! At the very lease, pray with us during this "walk" so that awareness will be raised and funds be offered.

We believe that the MDGs represent our important Church mission, as commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ throughout his gospel. Ever yours in respect, +CHILTON

Photos above by Anglican Communion News Service


motheramelia said...

+Chilton, Good Shepherd, Rangeley used special Prayers of the People yesterday for the MDG and I have encouraged them to sign on for the virtual walk. Yours and +Steve's blogs and videos have been part of my morning routine. It is a wonderful way to connect. Thank You.

Betsy Tipper said...

Dear +Chilton,
Thank you for this beautiful description of the gathered bishops at the Eucharist. Glorious!

Our prayers are with you and +Steve. (from St. Mark's Waterville)