That is a misleading title. Although Patricia and I have made it to the Lambeth Conference, the conference is no longer hosted or housed at Lambeth Palace: the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London. Since 1978, due in part to the size of the gathering, the Archbishop of Canterbury has hosted Lambeth Conferences at the University of Kent in Canterbury. So, while we cannot see Lambeth from our window, we do get lovely views of Canterbury Cathedral. We will be traveling to London, about 65 miles away, next Wednesday, August 3, to visit Lambeth Palace for a day of presentations and discussions about the Environment and Sustainable Development.
For now, as we awaken on this first full day of the Conference, “The Day of Welcome,” we are filled with anticipation and hopefulness. Yesterday was arrivals and settling into our dormitories. It felt much like Freshman year of college: figuring out how to share the modest but comfortable space and storage in our room; wandering around the campus with a map trying to locate the dining hall and meeting rooms; and meeting so many new friends and colleagues from around the globe. The challenge will be remembering names and faces.
Everyone is so friendly and joyful. Though we are meeting for the first time, there is a sense that we are greeting dear old friends. Patricia has already made friends with Regina Appiah=Sekyere, the wife of the Bishop of Dunkwa-on-Offin in Ghana. I overheard them talking about how wonderful it would be if Patricia came to visit Ghana and taught students to sing in the choir! Maybe she’ll invite me to go along with her. There is something about meeting brothers and sisters from across the globe that stirs-up a sense of connection, hopefulness, and, perhaps, a spirit of adventure.
For now, as this first full day begins, my goal is to continue to meet new friends, reconnect with friends I’ve known for years, find my way around campus, and, hopefully, figure out what day it is? Wednesday……I think.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, sent us this message as we begin today’s welcome:
“[…The] business of this conference is to discern the Holy Spirit’s directing in what it means to be ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, as we seek to ‘walk, listen and witness together.’
We are living at a time where there is much to fragment and divide the world – but Christ calls his Church to be one in witness and in worship so that Jesus is presented to the world.
That is why the conference’s Biblical focus on the book of 1 Peter is so important.
Peter’s first Epistle addressed a church at a period of history facing many challenges. It is a book that explores themes of suffering, despair, joy, exile and alienation – the hope of Christ and the call to the Church in the midst of these.
Then and now – 1 Peter calls the church beyond the power dynamics of the world, to live holy lives rooted in the servanthood of Christ.
As we embark upon our journey together in 2022, we pray for God’s Holy Spirit to guide us, as we seek God’s will for the global witness of the Anglican Communion in the decade ahead.” — The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Justin Welby – The Archbishop of Canterbury
“We Are Here”
Today at the Lambeth Conference the bishops were in retreat at Canterbury Cathedral. The day included Morning Prayer; time for contemplation, meditation, or silence; Holy Eucharist; and concluded with a Choral Evening Prayer led by the Choir of St. Anslem. Lovely.
The Archbishop of Canterbury set the tone for our time together in his opening words (coarsely quoted here): ‘We are not here as business people to negotiate contracts or close accounts, nor are we here as warriors to fight for our cause or wind victory for our side; no, we are here as Christians bound together because we love Jesus. He is our purpose: without him, this cathedral is no more than an empty structure and we are nothing.’
It was good to be reminded that as bishops, we have no constituency we must answer to, we are bound only to Christ. Yet, for his sake and his love, we work for justice, mercy, reconciliation, and love.