Wayne Smith's occasional blog of pilgrimages and journeys

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mission Trip to New Orleans, Second Full Day

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live
in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day,
who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never
forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BPC, 133)

I had intended to post an entry last night, after the missioners' first full day of work in New Orleans, but I confess to exhaustion. I could not even stay awake to type. Today paced my work a little better, and the group had no after-work meeting, as we did yesterday. So I am able to write before physical collapse sets in.

Seventeen of us from the Diocese of Missouri arrived late Sunday night for our lodging at St. Paul's Homecoming Center in New Orleans, where we are staying for the week's work rehabbing a house. The Diocese of Louisiana is well organized to welcome missioners willing to devote time and energy toward this city's recovery, and we are all grateful recipients of their hospitality. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, next door, is in the Lakeview section of New Orleans and was itself flooded during Katrina. The Homecoming Center is an extension of St. Paul's ministry, as well as the ministry of the Diocese.

The scope of the work left to be done in the residential areas of New Orleans is so enormous that the mind can hardly take in the magnitude. Years remain before recovery could be called complete, even if private, governmental, not-for-profit, and faith-based sectors were engaged optimally. Such engagement is hardly the case. Our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Louisiana, however, have devoted themselves to aiding those who otherwise would have no help, those whose resources from other sectors have run out. It is the sort of post-disaster ministry that seems right to me.

The missioners from Missouri will, for the most part, spend our eight-hour days doing our small piece in restoring a house in the 7th Ward, a house left with a severely damaged interior within a mostly structurally sound exterior. The damaged interior has been ripped out--gutted, as they say. All the damaged walls, flooring, ceiling, fixtures, and everything else down to the framework had been removed previously. Plumbing and provision for utilities have been roughed-in. Sheetrock has gone up. We have come in at just the next stage, finishing the sheetrock. Mostly we have worked sanding surfaces and joining the sheetrock at corners. For those who know the lingo, mudding is the bulk of our work.

The work is hardly backbreaking, but it is physically arduous nonetheless. The August heat in New Orleans is exquisite, although I must admit that it is a bit cooler than normal, and cooler than any of us expected. But still, the physical labor is no small thing for folks who, like me, are mostly not accustomed to such things. The collect at the head of this entry has come to mind often during the hours of physical work, as I have been acutely aware these past two days of the gracious exchange that makes possible the life we live, an incarnational sense that indeed "our common life depends upon each other's toil." Especially as physical toil has been my willingly accepted lot for the week.

Twenty-five years ago, or longer, I read in a biography of Charles Simeon some of the usual counsel he would give to his students at Cambridge. He told them that every day he would walk to the two-mile stone (a mile marker from the University) to make certain that it was still there, and he would commend such practice to anyone engaged in the "reading life." A four-mile daily walk is not a bad discipline for anyone engaged in what is otherwise a sedentary livelihood and manner of life, and I have managed to approximate that discipline for the past several decades (not, I will admit, a daily practice). But I am also clear that I can choose not to engage in that discretionary exercise, on any given day or for stretches of time, whether for reasons of ill health, travel, a bum knee, or good old-fashioned laziness. Such a choice is not available to billions of people in this world, whose very life will depend on hard physical work.

Such labor does not deserve any condescending glance or foolish romanticism. But we do well that Benedict, in his Rule for Monks, described a spiritual life existing in a three-fold balance: (physical) work, study, and prayer--all of which is to be undertaken for the sake of the community, which is the matrix of the monk's spiritual life, and for which there is no substitute. That is hardly an unreasonable balance--work, study, and prayer. Physicality is all the more necessary for anyone desiring a deeper spiritual life, especially since spirituality, misguided, can seduce a person into forgetting the body. Anyone who has ever engaged in a demanding course of study, or a mentally or emotionally challenging vocation, to cite but two examples, will have faced that challenge. Sometimes the option of Charles Simeon is the likely one available, and if so, then let us choose it.

But let us not forget those for whom such a choice is not an option; hard physical work is their life. if that renewed insight is the only one that comes to me this week, then it will have been worth the pilgrimage.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday, August 2. The Conference winds down.

As I glance back over my early posts during this peculiar pilgrimage, I am aware of a weariness having set in, during these most recent days. There is a Groundhog-Day quality, I suppose, to any conference marking an intentional rhythm to the day. But that everyday sameness, coupled with the spiritual and emotional intensity of the work set before us, has left me ready for the Conference's end. As one colleague put it, "When we first arrived in Canterbury about six months ago . . . . " And then today I awoke with a cold. I want to go home.

The awareness of a few millions praying for us around the Anglican world has been very close throughout the Conference, and no more so than during Bible study this morning, when we considered the text John 18:1-18 and pondered the question: What makes it possible for a leader to lead the way Jesus led? Whatever else, we all agreed, the prayers of many are crucial. Whatever provisional successes this Conference has arrived at--the palpable deepening of relationships, the near absence of poisonous statements, the tendency away from grandstanding, a desire for solidarity in mission, the fact that no one stormed out in protest--has happened in no small part because you have prayed, and that your prayers joined the prayers of millions. That we have arrived at these most modest achievements is no small matter, given the gloomy prognostications of many beforehand. I say "provisional successes," partly because not all the bishops were here, as you well know. They are provisional also because of the fragility of many relationships, despite their having grown during our time together. They are provisional, because they have yet to be field-tested among the whole of the baptized. Even so, the bishops are mostly trying to find ways to walk toward one another, and that gives hope for sustaining the unity in baptism that is already ours, through Christ Jesus.

Another reason for the provisional successes lies in Archbishop Rowan's spiritual leadership. Framing the Conference in prayerful listening by beginning with a retreat set the tone, and he was responsible for the content of the retreat, its shape, and the tone thereby set. It modeled the discipline of careful listening at the heart of all we have tried to accomplish. Archbishop Rowan has taken, and continues to take, many hits for his manner of leading in the Anglican Communion over these past years. Well, leaders have feet of clay, and hammers for smashing those feet are readily available. He has absolutely been in his element at Lambeth, and he shaped the Conference according to his own deeply held spiritual sensibilities.

Indaba today discussed the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group, a report of which can be found in the Episcopal News Service daily report from Lambeth. There is nothing more that I want to say about a work still in progress, but I do know that there will be more.

And tonight under the Big Top, we heard from a panel of four stewards, representatives of the fifty assertive young adults from fifteen nations who have made the logistics of this large conference possible. It simply would not have come off, without someone to tell us all which bus to board, and when, and without someone to block, ever so politely, the occasional uncredentialed member of the press from entering a venue. It was very good feedback to hear from them, and even better to hear their expression of faith.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday, August 1. Windsor continuation & the covenant.

The pace today was markedly less intense, and I imagine that this pace was built in by design to allow the Reflections Group time to catch up. Their succeeding drafts show greater clarity, and they are working tirelessly to produce a readable document, trying, I believe, to be faithful to the "mind" of the Conference. Some of this work became evident in the hearing the Group held this afternoon. I know how full my days have been, and these folks have devoted every free waking moment and have cheated sleep a good deal, in order to serve the rest of the bishops here.

Bible study had us considering the text John 15:1-17 ("I am the vine and your are the branches") as a prelude to consideration of what it means to be so united in Jesus.

Indaba met two times today, the usual morning session and then again in late afternoon. This morning we produced a "memorandum of solidarity" to submit to the Reflections Group, one of many such resolutions to speak out against violence and divisions in various nations of the world. This one was sparked by the presence of a bishop from Zimbabwe in our Indaba, and we collaborated to lend Lambeth's voice to his as an act of solidarity. We expect to see a dozen or so similar memoranda tomorrow, through the Reflections Group.

Then we devoted the rest of our time together to consideration of an Anglican Covenant, first as a concept and then the particulars of the St. Andrew's Draft. The notion that a Covenant is necessary or desirable was by no means accepted by everyone in my Indaba, and the Appendix to the St. Andrew's Draft was found helpful by only a few. There were many specific edits suggested, as we came to the draft text itself. The shape of any Anglican Covenant, from what I can see, remains an open question.

Tomorrow we continue with work on the Covenant, and then we tackle the Windsor Continuation Process.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday, July 31.

I listened to BBC4, the British version of NPR, as I was dressing this morning, and heard a report on "sex day" (their words) at the Lambeth Conference. Certainly we dealt with issues of sexuality and mission during Indaba, but mine at least seems to be one of the convergent Indabas. There was remarkable understanding among the thirty-seven of us, as well as a desire to remain together in communion, even as we dealt with tender and often personal issues. From the grapevine I know that that was not an uncommon experience but by no means a universal one. BBC4 exagerrated the extent of conversation about sexuality by calling this "sex day", as the press might, but one should know that sexuality has been either text or subtext throughout the Conference. What I want to communicate is that it was not at all an uncomfortable conversation today, at least in my slice of the setting.

Bible study dealt with John 13:31–14:14, the portion of Jesus' farewell discourse including his words, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

The afternoon took me to the hearing held by the Reflections Group (see yesterday's post), with more editorial refinement of the report-in-progress.

Nothing remarkable in either of these two settings.

Perhaps the most disappointing session of the entire Conference for me was the special self-select group held late afternoon to discuss some alleged "fresh possibilities" having arisen from Indabas and from general conversation around the campus. There were some genuine new ideas expressed in this meeting, coming from various bishops and from groups of bishops, but the meeting itself got mired down in a room that was mostly white and largely British, with this bishop and that one holding forth, usually with nothing to say specifically about the initiatives presented but taking some other largely unrelated tangent. It was not a good meeting.

Tonight I went into Canterbury for a reception held for bishop trustees of the University of the South, in a lovely restaurant with one of those close English rooms I have unhappily come to expect, a room with a low ceiling, no open windows, and well designed to hold the heat. A pleasant enough reception among friends whom I know and like despite the physical atmosphere. The outdoor dinner some of us had next door at the Bishop's Finger pub (who could make up a name like that?) was simple and pleasurable.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 30. Waiting.

This feels like the most unremarkable day of the entire Conference. Worship. Bible study. Indaba. A hearing in the afternoon. A free evening. Everyone seems to be waiting for something to come out the other side of a process we have all been part of.

The theme for the day was "the bishop and the Bible in mission," and, obviously, we considered matters of Biblical interpretation, both in Bible study and in Indaba. The text in front of us today was John 13, the unbinding of Lazarus. Each bishop, using three hundred words or so, was to interpret the passage during Bible studdy. It was a fascinating exercise, and one that showed a convergence of methods and interpretations. We continued the conversation about Biblical interpretation in Indaba, during which, again, there was much more common ground than not. It was a heartening conversation, in both venues, and it showed clearly, how from such diverse contexts, there is very much a common approach to scripture, and one that is life-giving. Moments like there are among the most heartening of the whole Lambeth Conference, moments in which there is visible unity.

During the afternoon, the Reflections Group (those gathering up the strands of conversation from the Indabas) held an open hearing. It was mostly an exercise in nuancing an increasingly large draft report and wordsmithing it. But we are all obviously waiting for that coalescence of ideas from the Reflections Group, as well as the outcomes from the Windsor Continuation Group and the Covenant Design Group. A lot will funnel into the Conference during these last days in Canterbury. Do continue pray for the bishops, as the Conference comes to its end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 29. Equal in God's sight: when power is abused.

Praise to God for rain overnight and a much cooler weather today, although the forecast calls for the return of heat toward the end of the week.

But having spent the entire morning in the Big Top, I am grateful for the relief, especially as we dealt in a joint plenary with spouses on a sensitive issue that leaves many without defenses, the issue of gender violence. Seating in the tent was divided in half, one side for women, one side for men, because the issue is not safe to talk about for everyone. Jenny Te Paa, principal of the theological school at St John’s College, in Aukland, New Zealand, introduced the topic, after which came a play depicting various encounters of women with Jesus in the gospels. Then the Conference Bible study convenor, Gerald West, from the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, led a Bible study on 2 Samuel 13:1-22. It's hard to imagine a Bible study with 1400 of one's closest friends, but Dr. West, with the others on the Bible study team, managed to pull it off. Jim Naughton has a fine summary here.

Here is a place where the Lambeth Conference can exert real influence, both in our various cultures and in our Churches. I was very glad that we did the work, and the dynamic across the divide of the room, women's side and men's side, was instructive. At various moments it became obvious, from the level of applause and other noise, that there was a point which the women especially wanted us men to hear. It was both thrilling and humbling to be under that great blue canopy.

Let us be clear that gender violence still occurs at startling rates in our own country, in our state, and in the communities where we live. There are parishes and ministries in the Diocese of Missouri who have devoted themselves to responding to this injustice, in the name of Jesus. We just need more of these responses.

Tonight after Evensong, Archbishop Rowan delivered his second presidential address to the Conference. He gave us a sobering assessment of our situation, and of the challenges facing us as the end of the Conference draws near. I hope that you read his address, and that you will note his daring to speak for the two sides across the divide in our Communion, as well as his asking each side for a gracious love as we make decisions. It is a clear and compelling diagnosis, I believe; the invitation into a "covenant of fate," described last night by Rabbi Sacks, may provide a template for finding a way forward, from the diagnosis offered.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday, July 28. An ordinary day at the Conference.

The weather here is hardly what you would call hot by Missouri standards, with today's high around eighty degrees Fahrenheit, but the meeting rooms are deadly. Obviously designed to hold the heat, they fulfill that function quite well. Bible study room, hot. Indaba room, hotter. The Big Top, hotter still. Not a hint of breeze in any room, anywhere.

The hottest of all was the room where the bishops met this afternoon for a hearing with the Windsor Continuation Group. It is a most impractically large room in the University's sports center, a room designed to let in a lot of natural light, rather like a gymnasium-size atrium. With a difficult subject before us and hardly any air to breathe, the atmosphere was more than stifling. The testimony provided by some twenty-five bishops gave more heat than light, with really not much new said, and I need time to process the content of the report itself (as well as the testimony). The only clarity I can find is that there is no consensus, at this point. The afternoon press conference will surely be filled with details of this hearing, and I urge you to remember that today's work was but one step along the way with the Windsor process. The Lambeth Conference will not "vote" on anything coming out of this Group or on the Windsor Report itself, but the Continuation Group will funnel data from the hearings and the feedback from Indabas into their final report, which will go to the Anglican Consultative Council next April. There the decision, if any, will be made. I find that Lambeth presents multiple points for reactivity, and I am no good in responding with care, whenever I give in to reactivity. And after five years of commissions and reports and such, each seeming dire on initial glance, I am finally learning to tamp my reactivity down.

Everything, however, seems languid with the heat, including today's Bible study (John 10:1-10) and Indaba. The topic for Indaba was an important one--bishops, Christian witness, and other faiths--and I do believe that my group gave it our best shot, though we met in a room that left everyone gasping for air.

Under the Big Top tonight, in a plenary session, we heard from Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He awed the gathering with his explication of covenant as a crucial idea in our world--and gave us some hope, both for the world and for our own internal difficulties. He differentiated the commodities of covenant (love, friendship, trust) from the commodity of politics (power) and the commodity of economics (wealth), thereby arguing for the urgency of covenant, the natural language of religion, in an age awash with the signs of power and wealth and their misuse. He also noted the ill effects for a world in which covenental goods disappear--anxiety, loss of identity, substance abuse, and on and on, and he challenged us for the sake of society, not for our own sake alone, to sustain the presence of covenant.

Then he elaborated a distinction between the covenant of faith, which binds a people together based on common hope, identity, and purpose, and a covenant of fate, which binds people together through shared hardship or even disaster. In a world faced with global climate change, economic disaster, warfare, and other life-and-death matters, he pushed us to stake a claim in such a covenant, one of fate, that bears the potential for binding us together when so much is at stake. This summary hardly does justice to the brilliance, the forcefulness, and accessibilty of his presentation, but it will have to do.

Rabbi Sacks won a standing ovation from a crowd that is typically reserved in its such displays. And what a sight it was to see Archbishop Rowan embrace him, at moment the sound of applause only increased.

(I can also commend from my own reading Rabbi Sacks' 2002 book, The Dignity of Difference.)

UPDATED July 29. You can find Rabbi Sack's address here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday, July 27. In Marden Parish.

But first a word about yesterday, which was busy enough to keep me from blogging after returning to my room about 10:00 p.m. Bible Study continues to grow in its fruits, as was certainly the case with yesterday's engagement with the whole of John 9 (A Man Born Blind Receives his Sight). And my Indaba appears to be one of the few without hiccups, engaging the process without much anguish. Yesterday's session dealt with the Bishops and the Environment, as well as possible Anglican responses to the ecological crisis facing our world.

Then in early afternoon came the official Lambeth photograph, an exercise in patience, on the bishops' part, and organization and artistry, on the photographers' part. If you follow the links, you will find me toward the bottom on the right. First locat a bishop in a green stole on the second row, right side, and move one up and four over; you will find me there. Otherwise, it is like looking for Waldo.

Late afternoon, Presiding Bishop Katharine hosted a reception for TEC bishops to greet bishops from Sudan, Congo, and Liberia, with a fair turnout on a busy day. Evening Prayer was led by TEC and featured the Bishops' Choir, who presented our Province in a good light. Theirs is an uplifting voice. Then Trinity Church, Wall Street, hosted an evening for renewing relationships from the Walk to Emmaus Conference held last summer near Madrid. This was an international consultation of fifty-eight TEC and African bishops (with a scattering of bishops from elsewhere) for purposes of deepening relationships and collaborating for mission. Both Bishop Bullen and I were in Spain, and he and I were at table together last night.

I had chosen not simply to go to the Eucharist at Cathedral, the path of least resistance, but I had instead offered myself to one of the parish Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. Marden Parish and I were paired, and I spent most of the day there, first preaching and presiding at the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist and then enjoying a leisurely lunch at the Vicarage. The service was one increasingly familiar to me, taken as it was from Common Worship, the texts of which are similar to TEC's Rite II. The ceremonial style was rather simpler than that in most of the parishes in Missouri, but it felt familiar enough to be to put me at ease. There were about seventy-five in worship, and I received a gracious reception from everyone there.

I will admit to you that this afternoon I am chosing not to attend the Civic Reception for the Lambeth Conference, hosted by the City of Canterbury. Given the pace of the Conference, there are moments when I simply have to say, Enough! This is one of them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday, July 25.

The pilgrimage to London yesterday made for a long day, divided in two halves. First, most of the bishops and spouses present participated in the Walk of Witness along a mile-long route from Westminster to Lambeth. Never having been to London before, I was surprised to see how close together these landmarks are--the Houses of Parliament, the Prime Minister's residence, Lambeth Palace, all of which are more or less strewn along the banks of the Thames. It was a remarkable experience from the marchers' side, with fifteen hundred marchers, give or take, walking the most important streets of London. I have been disappointed, however, to see the media's reaction. To cite one example, the Guardian buried the story deep inside the print edition, and led that story with another headline altogether. There at least was a good photograph. Episcopal News Service has provided the most comprehensive coverage I can fine.

Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, lies on the south bank of the Thames and historically had access from the river, although no more. It is, how shall we say, the very picture of shabby elegance. From a dais raised to one side of the open entryway to the Palace the Archbishop addressed us, as did the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, both speaking passionately and eloquently about issues of global poverty. Hellen Wangusa, the Anglican Observer at the UN, concluded the speeches with her own brief but compelling statement. To stand under the cloudless English sky among so many brothers and sisters of faith and to hear these ringing cries for a Biblical justice was one of the most moving moments of my time at this Conference. It was both humbling and thrilling to stand in such a place.

The luncheon at Lambeth and the reception at Buckingham Palace came next. I apologize to report that I don't have much to say about either of these perfectly lovely events. I could tell you menus and protocols, all of which are interesting enough. The one little detail that I will give you, from the Queen's reception, is this. Bishops from previous Lambeths have said that the chocolate cake at the Queen's tea was the best they had ever eaten, and it's all true.

When I returned to my room at 8:45 p.m., I was exhausted from a day spent either standing in the sun or else sitting on a bus.

Today a small number of Sudanese bishops and their American colleagues sat down for a private conversation over lunch, and the words we exchanged were honest but encouraging. I was able to speak some the words I have heard from you in the Diocese of Missouri, and they were graciously received. That's about all I want to write at this moment, but I do expect that there will be more to say in the near future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday, July 23. Late afternoon.

The more I encounter the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the more I am made aware of differences-- and aware of what appears to be God's great delight in diversity. We so easily misunderstand one another, from the vastly worlds we inhabit, though I must admit that I am still recoiling from the shock of yesterday's events. I am beginning to understand that they came from the fact of those different worlds we inhabit. Jim Naughton has had the advantage of being out and about, not cooped up in meetings (in rooms with all the air circulation of Apollo XIII), and you will find his good summary of the Sudanese matter here. There is still much work to do, in conversation with our Sudanese colleagues, but now twenty-four hours after the news release and news conference, having productive conversation at least seems possible.

I will admit to some emotional exhaustion, over the past day. Worry about Sudan, worry about Episcopalians back in Missouri, but no real worry at this point about the broader issues of communion. Or perhaps I should say that I am not anxious about these issues, remaining cautiously hopeful about finding a way, some way, any way forward. Somehow the larger Anglican world can by the grace of God find a means, perhaps some brand new, yet unthought-of means, to remain connected to one another. I could be wrong, but I think that can prove the case. Enough about this, until more becomes clear, in due time.

Indaba group yesterday was chaotic and frustrating, but most of that was because of an incomprehensible process that the planners had put before us. Indaba goup today was much better, after some overnight tweaking by the group leaders, along with the planners.

Bible study, on the other hand, is consistently very good, taking us to deep places through the direction of the scriptures before us, and doing that rather quickly. We have been at this not quite a week, and yet here we are, already at a place of mutual vulnerability and concern for one another. What a riches and surpirse scripture holds for us.

I just now returned to my room from a self-select group (workshop, we would say in American English) on "Human Sexuality and the Witness of Scripture," led by Richard Burridge, a Biblical scholar and Dean of Kings College, London, assisted by Philip Groves, coordinator of the listening process on sexuality for the Anglican Communion, and by John Holder, Bishop of Barbados and also a Biblical scholar by training. This was the first part of a two-part precis of The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008), published just in time for the Lambeth Conference. It was a surprisingly diverse crowd packed into the room. And the presentation was excellent, leaving me to look forward to the next installment.

Tomorrow to London, with the Walk of Witness, and the two palaces Lambeth and Buckingham. We return to Canterbury late in the day, so I may not post again until Friday.

Wednesday, July 23. Early.

Those of you who have been following the news coming from the Episcopal Church of the Sudan will know that my life has suddenly become very busy. Blogging will be at a minimum for a day or two. I plead with you for your prayers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday, July 21. Indaba groups begin.

Following today's Bible study, I joined a group of thirty-six other bishops to begin the discernment of some of the substantive issues before us. The whole process, which makes its way from these smallish groups to the whole Lambeth Conference, is labor-intensive, and I will say that we worked very hard. The outcome, if the process works, will be in some consensual statements arrived at by the end of the Conference--no debating on the floor, no voting, no working of parliamentary procedures. Indaba is a concept of working toward consensus and, a process adapted for Lambeth from a South African culture. The purpose, as I understand it, is to prevent yes-or-no votes, polarizing statements, winners and losers. Consensus steers toward that which resonates with a group as a whole, that which people can live with; by definition, it lacks a divisive edge. We shall see how the process has worked, at the Conference's end.

Our first assignments in two sessions today had to do with the ministry of bishops and Anglican identity. We have an "animateur" (a bishop) to facilitate every Indaba group, and we also have a "reporteur" (not a bishop) to record the discussions of the group. Both roles were handled adeptly, and they were both obviously well prepped for the work given them. The product our group arrived at on these two issues will then be collated with the reports of all the other groups, the point being to look for those places of agreement. Representatives writers from every group will then work together, with these reports before them, to prepare a draft statement, which will then go to the whole Conference. God willing, we will have a mind-of-the-Conference position at the end of the work.

Then tonight, in a plenary session, we heard Brian McLaren's presentation on the dynamics of making disciples in a rapidly changing world. His point, not a new one but one which he convincingly presented, is that the ways of the modern world, to which the Church for five hundred years has accommodated (or over-accommodated) are losing their currency. He also suggested that in the three basic cultures in place in the current world--non-modern, modern, and whatever it is that you want to call the one after that--the Church has yet to find a voice. He pointedly challenged this Conference to work in finding one, saying that the Anglican way has within it distinct gifts to do so. The coexistence of the three cultures, he also said, has in it the makings of many of the conflicts in a world-wide communion like ours. A long evening well spent.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday at Canterbury Cathedral & Opening Plenary

It has been a rich day, with somewhat dissonant messages.

The official opening of the Conference proper, that is, following the retreat, came with the Eucharist today at the Cathedral. I saw little of the action, since my seat was far behind the Chair of Augustine, from which Archbishop Rowan presided, technically in the part of the Church called the presbyterium (the place set apart for the Cathedral priests). The Cathedral is arranged in the medieval two-room model, with one very large room for the liturgy of the word and another very large room for the liturgy of the table. The two rooms are separated by a solid screen of carved stone, and the action in one room in not visible from the other. The invitation to confession in the historic Prayer Books, preserved in our own Rite I, "draw near with faith, and make your confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling," was a originally a physical invitation these two-room churches, an invitation to those intending to receive communion to move from the place of the word to the place of the table.

I had about the worst possible seat in the large room for the liturgy of the table. I sat directly beside the tomb of King Henry IV, and I think that he could see about as much of the action as I could. That being said, the pieces that I could see and what I heard were quite good, especially the sermon by Bishop Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The gospel procession was another spectacular piece, including as it did Melanesian dancers and singers. The drums, the other percussion, the flutes, and the singing sent a chill down my back. That which is deeply English and historical, in the Cathedral, and at the same time deeply representative of the diversity of our Communion, its present and its future, in the persons of singers and dancers from far away, brought together in one moment who we are as Anglicans. I hope that the service is availble soon as a webcast, and I imagine that it will be. The Melanesian dancers and singers, along with Bishop Duleep's sermon, would be worth a glance, if nothing else from this two-hour long Eucharistic celebration. Meanwhile the Episcopal News Service article about the service can be found here. I especially commend the description of Bishop Duleep's sermon, a transcript of which is here.

The other aspect of the service that I found both moving and humbling was the sheer mass of all those people clad in scarlet and white, bishops among bishops. We have been together already but not dressed up as bishops, most of us actually wearing casual attire for our meetings, to tell the truth. But seeing and being a part of these 650 bishops processing into the Cathedral, a sizable number but still a crowd lost in the space of Canterbury Cathedral, was something akin to gazing into the Milky Way on a summer's night. I was keenly aware of the necessary smallness of any one diocese within the life of the Church universal--but at the same time I was aware of the rightness of all these bishops being together, bringing the smallness of their own particular locales into something much bigger than themselves.

Then came a plenary session of the bishops later this afternoon, during which the mechanisms pertaining to the Indaba groups were laid out. These are groupings of forty bishops--five Bible-study groups--who will deal with the substantive issues of the Conference.

Following that briefing came presentations from the Covenant Planning Group and the Windsor Continuation Group. I need time to ponder on the sobering words from these reports, especially those from the chair of the Windsor Continuation Group, Bishop Clive Handford, former Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East. The words sounded very hard for the Episcopal Church, but it may be that the hardness of the words clearly sets before us all the work we have to do in interpreting the Episcopal Church to the rest of the Communion. I think that we are not well understood, and I know that some of the facts as stated in the report are incomplete. I will not attempt to outline the report, which should be available on the web soon enough.

Archbishop Rowan's Presidential Address was much more hopeful, though realistic in the expectations stated. An account of that address is here, and there are links to a transcipt of the address and to to an explanation of the Indaba groups at the bottom of the page.

Tomorrow the work of the Lambeth Conference begins in earnest.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday, July 19. End of the retreat.

Before you do anything else, take a look at Dave Walker's cartoon for his customary understated church humor. He has the position of Lambeth's Cartoonist in Residence, a well-deserved role, and like many of us here at the University of Kent he has noticed that there are bunnies everywhere. You can pleasantly waste a lot of time working through his cartoons on line, like this one, or that one. Don't really believe this one, but it is clever enough.

The bishops' retreat continued yesterday and ended at noon. For me the most compelling idea from Archbishop Rowan came from his expanding on a quotation from Tertullian: "A single Christian is no Christian," a principle that brilliantly summarizes core teachings of the New Testament, but one which is sometimes at variance with popular expressions of Christianity in Western cultures. The Archbishop went on to apply that communal norm to the life of bishops--within the communal life of their own dioceses, yes, but in their life together with other bishops. He challenged us to deepen that sense of belonging, both at home and in the whole world, during a time of profound tension within our communion. He did not put it this way but I will: A single bishop is no bishop.

He described two particular resources from the tradition for the work ahead, and I think that the resources have bearing for all Christians, not just bishops. Archbishop Rowan first cited the Desert Christians, those ancient ascetics who fled the cities and populated the deserts of Egypt and Syria beginning in the third century. He noticed something about them I had never before recognized, that while they were absolutely rigourous about their own lives, both spiritual and material, vigilant never to give in to false fantasies about themselves, they resisted the impulse to apply that same rigor to the lives of others. They held themselves under continual judgment and at the same time practiced the principled suspension of judgment toward anyone else. What a concept! In conflict made toxic by the immediacy of communication, when judging the other is as quick as a few key strokes, what if we practiced another discipline? What if we were to scrutinize self without reserve but refuse to confess the sins of anyone else? These wildly excentric Christians from the past did just that, and their devotion to prayer without ceasing made it possible.

The Archbishop cited the Rule of Benedict as a second resource, especially appropriate as we were gathered in a cathedral whose very existence grew from the work of Benedictines. And in particular he talked about obedience, a hard word for moderns to hear, but one that can be oddly liberating. He encouraged us to hear Benedict's idea of obedience not as a hierarchical one but one that is radically inclusive. The word of every monastic, according to the Rule, may become the word to be obeyed--and that includes even the young and inexperienced. In a community, theirs might be the true word of wisdom. Transposing that insight to the Anglican Communion, he encouraged the bishops to attend to the small Churches, and the newer ones, the marginalized ones--and to expect wisdom to emerge from unlikely quarters. Again, it is the life of prayer which undergirds such life-giving obedience.

Finally, today Archbishop Rowan expounded on Hebrews 10:19-25, to describe a style of leadership that might be called Christian and to state the obvious: The only way for a Christian to lead is to follow where Jesus has gone before. Hebrews suggests that there is a way cleared for us already, and Jesus is the one who has done the clearing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday, July 18. The retreat continues.

My post from last night did not appear until today, because of user error, for which I apologize. I thought I had posted it, and even saw it live (I thought) on the blog site. But there was an error in the html, which prevented blogspot from accepting it. I corrected it this afternoon, and successfully posted it after I thought that I had simply everything I had written. Whew.

Almost ten o'clock now, and I am exhausted from the day and from an evening-long conference with other bishops (ok, it was in the pub, but a conference nonetheless for the locale). The retreat ends at midday Saturday, and I should have time to catch up in the afternoon. It has been a rich and full day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday, July 17. In Canterbury on retreat.

The day began with the Eucharist, simply and joyfully celebrated, in the Big Top. The music we made there and at Canterbury Cathedral, later in the day, was almost worth the trip for me.

Following that came the first session of Bible study, with the group of eight bishops. The first principle the Design Team used in shaping the groups was a common language. Thus everyone in my group is a either native English speaker or else a bishop fluent in the language. There are bishops from the USA, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, and West Africa. We began our Bible study with the beginning, John 1:1-18, the prologue to the gospel and the prologue to getting to know one another.

Then to Canterbury Cathedral, where the bishops met in retreat, which will continue through Saturday. The cathedral and its precincts were closed to everyone except the bishops and the conference staff, and Archbishop Rowan offered two meditations on the nature of episcopal ministry, basing his reflections on the Pauline epistles. Suffice it to say that he describes the sort of bishop that I would like to grow up to be. He began to detail a life in which every Christian is able to say, with Paul in Galatians 1:16, that "the Son of God has been revealed in me," and that bishops have a special responsibility to that awareness in their own life, and an eye to see the presence of Jesus in others.

In the second meditation the Archbishop went on to elucidate 2 Corinthians 11:28-28, suggesting that bishops have a special responsibility to the new humanity revealed in Christ, in which all humankind is being drawn into a life together. That is, whenever one person is held back in such a life, then all are held back; when one person is hurt, then all are hurt. In a world where it is more and more possible for people to shield themselves from the pain of others, both far off and near, he challenged the bishops to speak a contrary vision of hope. There is no room for defensive boundaries within such a life, and bishops are to be apostolic witnesses to the hope for such a radical life together. Again, that is the sort of bishop I hope to grow into.

This is a bare synopsis of his rich meditations, the content of which I trust will become available in other reports on the web.

We had a lot of time for silent reflection, in and around the Cathedral, and it is a place that is in a deep sense home for every Anglican, with its roots in the Benedictine foundation established by Augustine of Canterbury and his monks in 597. Although Henry VIII oversaw the obliteration of St. Thomas Becket's shrine and his bones, the place of his martyrdom remains as a a holy place. It was to this shrine that Canterbury emerged in the middle ages as a place of pilgrimage, and the blood of the martyrs, for me, remains as a powerful witness. Not only is it a place of Thomas' death, but it is a place made holy by the prayers of Christians and pilgrims for centuries. My emotional and spiritual sense tweaked in the presence of the place of his death, and no less so in the chapel set aside for pilgrims to pray for those suffering persecution and martyrdom in our own time.

Another place of spiritual awareness for me came on the approach to the Chair of St. Augustine, the ancient cathedra (bishop's chair) in the Church, remembered as the episcopal chair for all the Archbishops of Canterbury (though probably not quite that old). It is massive in size and simple in design. I held my hand on its cool marble for a good long time, offering thanks to God for the legacy that this chair represents to all Episcopalians, and for all Anglicans around the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday, July 16. In Canterbury.

The trip from Dorridge to Canterbury was almost all motorway (or freeway, in standard American English), and such roads seem all the same to me. They are good if one is in a hurry to get from one place to the next, and I almost always am, but they make it difficult to take in the landscape. But a good three-hour plus journey with my host and driver for the day, Duncan Hill-Brown, vicar of the parish. Good conversation and a good nap.

The landscape of the University of Kent would look familiar enough to Missourians. It's a campus, typical enough, with classrooms and halls and dorms, very clean, just to the north of the city of Canterbury. A distinguishing mark for the Lambeth Conference on the campus is a large double-tent set toward the middle, put up for worship and for plenary sessions. No jokes, please, but it is called the Big Top.

And there we met late this afternoon for the usual and customary briefing about logistics and words of welcome. We did sing, and the ability of this short-term community lift our voice in song was pretty impressive, right off the bat. The very first thing we did, as an act of convening, was to sing an alleluia from South Africa. Fitting, this song of victory and resurrection's hope.

There is a buzz of excitement and anticipation all around the campus as bishops, spouses, and guests continue to arrive for the conference, with the renewal of friendships and acquaintances, and a presence of belonging, simply because we are Anglicans, simply because we are Christians. I sense that whatever disagreements we Anglicans might have, and have them we do, they are the the sorts of disagreements that occur within the family. Family spats may, in fact, be the most disagreeable sort, but the belonging does not thereby become void. There is no doubt in my heart or mind that these peculiar people, and I happily include myself among the peculiar, all belong together and to one another. The challenge during the days ahead may be to rely heavily on the bonds that already exist, through our belonging established in Christ Jesus and our baptism into his body the Church. Archbishop Rowan spoke forthrightly this afternoon about the wounds in our communion and emphasized that relationship alone will not close the wounds--but apart from relationship, with one another and together with God, then there is no chance for healing.

Philip Aspinall, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia and principal spokesperson for the bishops at the conference, briefed us all about various aspects of communications during the our time here. And he emphasized the importance of confidentiality, especially for the Bible studies (groups of eight bishops) and the Indaba groups (forty bishops). So I will not be posting about them, except, following Archbishop Philip's suggestion, as trends develop from these groups become clearer in the whole conference. But no names whatsoever, and nothing directly from these crucial small- and middle-sized groups.

At the heart of the Conference this time is Bible study from John's gospel. There is a companion booklet here, suggested as appropriate for personal or group Bible throughout the communion. The booklet prepared for Lambeth, available in seven languages, is about twice as large but also includes the whole text of John. I have glanced through the two booklets, the one for the Conference and the one available on the web, and they do closely mirror one another. It is one way to join with the work of the conference.

I do ask that you join what we are doing here with the support of your prayers. It has been humbling these past few months to hear the assurances of prayers for Lambeth, as I have traveled around the Diocese of Missouri. It has been poignant to hear the urgency of assurances around the Birmingham Diocese these past few day. It is no small thing, and Archbishop Rowan remarked on the unity of prayer for this conference, from all around the communion, and how important it is. I hope you realize this importance, also.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday, July 13. Two Celebrations of the Eucharist.

The parish Church in Dorridge and Bentley Heath has two venues for worship. St. Philip's, Dorridge, is a nineteenth-century structure in need of some repair. Although not strictly neo-gothic in design, it would seem familiar enough to most Missouri Episcopalians. St. John's in Tower Grove comes to mind, although St. John's is much larger. People at St. Philip's complain about the cold, and the sight-lines are not good at all, not to mention the structural issues. It also is nearly invisible from the road, little “curb appeal,” as we would say. There are some initial conversations about renovating the property, but any work with an older building, whether rehabbing the current structure or developing a completely new site plan, boggles the mind with the expense.

But St. Philip's is not where I worshiped this morning; I was at St. James', which worships in a local school's multi-purpose room. Bright, not overly large (sometimes worshiping communities in the USA get lost when they have to use a public school's gymnasium), the room draws out an informal style without forcing irreverence. I liked it.

The seeming distance between Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral last Sunday and the Eucharist at St. James', Bentley Heath today shows the breadth of practice in the Church of England and indeed Anglicanism everywhere. The Eucharist today took its shape from Common Worship, the Church of England's most recent step in liturgical revision. Common Worship is a collection of resources and not simply a Prayer Book, and you can peruse what it has to offer here. Indeed, no Prayer Book is to be found at St. James', all the texts for worship and song being projected onto a screen. No organ, no choir. A small band, an electronic keyboard, an acoustical guitar, and a drum set, accompanies the singing.

Not a vestment in sight, the Vicar, Duncan Hill-Brown, presided wearing a simple clergy shirt. There was a single reading, from Acts 10, the story of Peter and Cornelius. Duncan then preached a fine expository sermon on the text, a style of preaching not all that common in the Episcopal Church but very familiar to worshipers in evangelical Churches in the USA and in the evangelical wing of the Church of England. Expository preaching treats the entire text, section-by-section (sometimes almost word-by-word, as I remember well from my Baptist upbringing) to set forth insights and explanations directly from the scriptures.

The liturgy of the table was reverent but uncomplicated, and would have been recognizable to any Episcopalian. But this sort of low ceremonial, Evangelical Anglicanism is not very often seen in the Episcopal Church.

Then after lunch with the Hill-Browns, Duncan drove me into St. Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, England's second largest city, after London. At 1.5 million population, it is about the size of metro St. Louis. There at 4:00 p.m., the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, presided at the Eucharist. Birmingham is a “modern” diocese, not one of the historic ones, so St. Philip's, once a parish church, became the cathedral in the early twentieth century, a process not unlike our own Christ
Church Cathedral, itself previously simply Christ Church. The Anglican cathedral in Birmingham is actually a little smaller in scale that ours in St. Louis.

The style of worship was more toward the recognizable mainstream of the Episcopal Church—procession, choir, organ, and vestments. The liturgy once again came from Common Worship, very similar to the American Prayer Book Rite II. But in place of a sermon, one of the cathedral canons interviewed two of the visiting bishops, Peter Lee, bishop of the Diocese of Christ the King in the Church in Southern Africa (not Peter James Lee from Virginia in the Episcopal Church) and me. The questions were three: What is it like to be a bishop in your diocese? What are your hopes and concerns for the Lambeth Conference? How might we pray for you specifically and for the whole Conference? The congregation in the nearly packed cathedral received our comments graciously.

Besides Peter Lee and myself, there are three other bishops enjoying the hospitality offered by the Birmingham Diocese: James Tengatenga, Bishop of Southern Malawi; William Anderson, Bishop of Caledonia in the Anglican Church of Canada; and Peter Beckwith, bishop of Missouri's neighbor, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

And I now find my thoughts and prayers turning more directly toward the Lambeth Conference, with the service this afternoon and a few serious conversations with my colleagues from around the world, over drinks and dinner at the bishop's palace in Birmingham, a phrase that properly sounds odd to almost anyone outside the United Kingdom.

I leave for Canterbury Wednesday, and I am not likely to post an entry again until I arrive there.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday, July 11: The Feast of Benedict

My trip to Birmingham went off without event, and I arrived safely at the home of Peter and Vicky Heywood late yesterday afternoon. All the dioceses in the British Isles have offered hospitality to bishops coming for the Lambeth Conference this weekend, and there are six bishops visiting the Birmingham Diocese. The Heywoods are lay leaders in their parish, St. Philip's, Dorridge, and St. James', Bentley Heath, just a few miles outside Birmingham. Today is a welcomed day of not much activity, for which I am grateful. Tomorrow I go hiking in the Cotswalds and probably will post nothing. Sunday I spend the day with the vicar of the parish, Duncan Hill-Brown, his wife Rachel, who is also a priest, and their daughter Maddy, born just this April. Church at St. James' in the morning, afternoon with the Hill-Browns, service at the Cathedral, and then dinner at Bishops Croft.

My reflection today is on the Feast of St. Benedict, a figure with inestimable significance for the Anglican way of being Christian and the destiny of my pilgrimage through England. The Church at Canterbury began as a monastic foundation in 597, a small group of missionary monks having been sent by the bishop of Rome, Gregory the Great, himself a Benedictine monk. Augustine, the leader of the community, was soon afterward ordained bishop, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. These monks did not bring the gospel to the England, for the British Isles had known Christianity for some centuries by the time of their arrival. But mission is not a one-time proposition, and the Celtic Christianity of those earlier centuries was neither supplanted nor superseded by the style of Christianity brought by these missionary monks. Their remains a Celtic genius within the Anglican way, for which early leaders like Patrick, and Chad, and Hilda rightly receive veneration.

Mission is not bluntly a bringing of Christianity to the “pagans,” and still less is it a bringing of the “right” kind of Christianity, in this case the Latin, to a the “wrong” kind, in this case the Celtic, who very much had their own dignity. Mission at its best, I think, arises out of a holy curiosity about God's other children, and a desire to meet them in the name of Jesus, and because he would have us do so. (Those of you who have read Mary Doria Russell will recognize a paraphrase of the Jesuits' mission, in her fabulous science-fiction work, The Sparrow.) It is in the meeting of the steady monkish manner of being Christian with their wildly imaginative Celtic forebears in Britain that Anglican Christianity finds its voice. For the mission undertaken, we Episcopalians owe a debt, for we are richer for the divine economy that is the result of the encounter, one with another.

Benedict wrote his Rule for Monks around the year 540, and the spirituality expressed in that Rule affected the Church in England far beyond the walls of monasteries. After Augustine came to Canterbury, monasticism spread throughout England through the following centuries, and many ordinary people in the countryside encountered Christianity in its Benedictine expression, simply because the monks were there and no one else was. So pervasive was the Benedictine influence that when Thomas Cranmer in the sixteenth century went to work shaping the daily office for the Book of Common Prayer, Morning and Evening Prayer, the Benedictine routine of daily prayer provided the raw material for his adaptation and translation. It was a logical resource.

The Benedictine spirituality of balance also affected the English Christianity to which Episcopalians are heirs. Benedict taught that life in community is crucial, and that within that community everyone should work, and study, and pray. He formulated the basic monastic vows—stability (not flitting from monastery to monastery looking for some non-existent perfect monastery), obedience (with an emphasis on the root meaning of the word, which is listen), and conversion of life (because growing in Christ is life-long, or, as Urban T. Holmes III wrote, Anglicanism is more of a marinade than a glaze).

So on this feast day, I also invite you to remember the living presence of Benedict and his rule in the Episcopal Church—for the community of monks at St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan, of which community I am a confrater (a non-monastic associate, obligated to adapt the vows to my manner of life and to pray for the community); the Order of the Holy Cross, who follow an adapted rule; the Order of Saint Helena, monastic women who do the same; and the Community of Hope, who teach lay chaplaincy and pastoral care, basing a rule of life on the resources of Benedict's Rule. There Missouri currently has two centers for the Community of Hope, and you can read about them here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday & Wednesday, July 8-9. The Conference.

The more I learn about Sudan, the more I realize the complexities facing that country and all who care about its people.

Here is but one example. Archbishop Daniel began the first full day of the conference with a keynote address, detailing twelve priorities for the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) during the next few years. Now, most serious planners would argue that twelve priorities suggest a lack of focus, that when everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority at all. That being the case, all twelve of Archbishop Daniel's points nonetheless carry a certain urgency. None of them is really an option. He listed them in time sequence of necessity, so the first three, although requiring some financial outlay, are not as confounding as those lower down the list. Here they are:

1.Paying provincial (that is, ECS) debts and arrears.
2.Basic communication for the office of the archbishop.
3.Provincial office refurbishment. (The archbishop has neither desk nor chairs.)
5.Peace-building, reconciliation, and advocacy.
6.Rehabilitation and relief for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees.
7.Agriculture and food security.
10.Capacity building and leadership development.
11.Reconstruction of churches.
12.Professional mission personnel (that is, missioners from the professions—teachers, agriculturists, engineers, teachers, experts in finance and accounting, etc., not professional “church workers” in the usual sense)

It is interesting that while many westerners present mostly struggled to make sense of the list, especially the first items, the Sudanese bishops spoke as one voice in support. Therein lies a gap, and a challenge for westerners not simply to impose external sensibilities onto the stated needs of brothers and sisters in Sudan.

The Bishop of Sherborne, Tim Thornton, one of the suffragans in the Diocese of Salisbury (every English suffragan having the title of a city within the diocese) came next and suggested just one more complexity to be observed. He cited Archbishop Daniel's sermon from last Sunday, in which he had pleaded for a new frankness among all the Sudan partners. The conversation after Bishop Tim's address shifted in tone, especially with Archbishop Daniel welcoming without anxiety those initial, cautiously frank remarks. The waters had to be tested. There was general agreement in the room that we need to go deeper, take risks with one another, and trust the grace of God to sustain us.

My reflection on the two addresses is this. The answer to the issue of priorities for all the partners involved is not straightforward, and more complicated than one party or the other having the “final say.” The partners in Sudan deserve the integrity of being able to name what is important for them, without western imposition. Having the initial say in this situation may be more significant than having the final say, and this privilege does in fact go to Sudan. It is paternalistic for westerners to survey the Sudanese landscape and say, “Here's what you need,” as if knowing better from the outset. The discipline of waiting is not a bad one for westerners, and the initiative rightfully goes to Sudan. And yet giving carte blanche to one partner is another kind of paternalism, rather a more doting kind, not helpful in the relationship into which all partners are called.

I believe that we are called into deeper, messier, and riskier conversation for the sake of what God is doing in Sudan and in the west. And I hope that you notice my avoidance of the terms, we-and-they, us-and-them. I believe that when it comes to mission, we are in this together—and that we are being saved together, or not at all (to let theologies of mission and salvation converge).

It is worth noting that there is much emotion and worry around the referendum coming in 2011: Will Southern Sudan continue in a federation with the North? Or will it become an independent nation? People in the South will get to vote on the matter, one Sudan or two. Bishop Anthony Pogo, of the Diocese of Kajo Keji, said in one of the addresses given in response at the conference's end, that he, though older than forty, has never voted. No one in the entire country knows what it is like to vote! There are no traditions of voting, no customary practices. And yet much hinges on the decision in 2011. Bishop Anthony asked: What is the role of ECS in preparing the nation to vote? He assumed that there is one, and he implied that western partners, who are after all accustomed to voting, might lend a hand.

This was a very good meeting, well worth the time and effort to be in Salisbury. And I have yet to process all that I have heard.

Two final notes about Salisbury and Sudan. Saturday at the Cathedral will be the dedication of a statue of Canon Ezra, a martyr of Sudan killed during the civil war and a colleague of Bishop Bullen, who was with him at his death. Canon Ezra was also the translator of scripture into the Moru language. More important, the statue is emblematic of the 2.5 million Sudanese, mostly Christian, who died in the 1983-2005 war. Archbishop Daniel will preside at the dedication. The statue was put in place just today, and I will take a walk over for a look, when I finish this post. My wife, Debbie, by the way, has noted with a little scorn that I do not even own a digital camera, and that I might have to relinquish any tourist credentials I might otherwise have. See my first post. So I cannot provide a picture. But I can give you a link, here.

Then Sunday Archbishop Daniel will preside at the Cathedral eucharist, and the preacher will be Presiding Bishop Katharine. It is a big weekend for Salisbury Cathedral.

Monday, July 7. Sudan Partners Conference Begins.

I had wondered why the Conference was slated for the Salisbury Methodist Church instead of the Cathedral, until I learned that the Cathedral has no programmatic space. There is the nave, several chapels, and the chapter room. But there are no Sunday-school rooms, no conference rooms, no parish hall or even an undercroft. So the Cathedral community is accustomed to meeting off-site. Center-city Salisbury is very compact, and they tell me that everything is an easy ten-minute walk. True enough in theory, but that does not take into account my ability to get lost. Street names change, often block-by-block, and Google Maps is less helpful than one might think in cities laid out on a medieval grid.

The meeting convened at this historic Methodist Church, with early connections to John Wesley and where Samuel Asbury served as rector, prior to his departure to North America in 1771 at Wesley's invitation. All but two of the Sudanese bishops are present, with the other two to arrive in course. Four bishops from the Episcopal Church are here, Cate Waynick (Indianapolis), Neff Powell (Southern Virginia), Rob O'Neill (Colorado), and myself. Bishop Bullen is here, and he looks tired but otherwise well. He asked me to convey his greetings to everyone in Missouri, which I am glad to do.

The evening was rather casual, allowing time for conversation and catching up. Salisbury gave a brief but impressive multi-media presentation, a copy of which I would like to get my hands on. We ate finger-food and had drinks (juices, of course) for dinner. An early evening, and then back to my hotel.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sunday, July 6. Arrival in Salisbury.

My travels thus far have been uneventful, even seamless—St. Louis to Chicago to London. Taxi from Heathrow to Waterloo Station. Train ride to Salisbury, and then a short taxi ride to the White Hart Inn.

Having arrived too late for morning worship, I made up my mind for evensong at the Cathedral, just blocks away from my hotel and whose tallest-in-Britain spire is visible from my window. The gothic structure of the building strikes a silhouette recognizable to anyone who has ever thought about medieval architecture, and inside the building are treasures enough—the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta is in the Cathedral here, and the clock in the tower is claimed as the oldest time-keeping mechanism in the world, still in use, just to cite a couple of examples.

On journeys like this one, I try to practice the art of pilgrimage, and not tourism. It is not easy to do, when I am tired or distracted. But the curiosities of a place are easier to deal with than the place itself and its people. When I am in tourist mode, I pass through the place; but when I am in pilgrim mode, I am able to do as someone taught me long ago, and I allow the place to pass through me. A tourist collects things—souvenirs, cards, relics, data, photographs, checkmarks on the to-see list. A pilgrim risks conversion.

I have enough native curiosity to make a pretty good tourist, but I pray for the spiritual attentiveness required of a pilgrim. I was at least alert enough to recognize that these stones had overheard the prayers of believers for three-quarters of a millennium. The building is saturated with the prayers of the faithful, as apparent as the grooves worn into its steps, made by all those feet who have gone over them. It is a beautiful place, yes, but more to the point, it is palpably holy.

But back to evensong, my reason for coming to the Cathedral. There is familiarity and comfort in the 1662 service, sung in choral fashion, and sung in the gothic choir. This is not the style of office that I want for everyday diet, mind you, what with its archaic language and framework of professional participation only, all others being allowed to watch and listen. But it is a style that fits Salisbury.

And even in this old-fashioned, somewhat stifling template for prayer, the Salisbury Cathedral has found a way to do something brand new. There is a separate girl-choir, who take turns singing on an equal basis with the more familiar boy-choir. A girl-choir! And it was they who sang the office, and what a wonder it was to see them and to hear them. They premiered an extraordinarily difficult, almost atonal anthem commissioned for them, these girls, all younger than thirteen. The music was sublime, almost lyrical in the modern composition. The text for the anthem uses a sonnet by George Herbert, who spent most of his ministry as rector of Bremerton, just over a mile distant from the Cathedral. Here is the text:

Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angels' age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days'-world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices, something understood.

I am very glad that I opted for evensong.

My reason for being in Salisbury is that the Sudan Partners are meeting here, Monday through Wednesday. The Diocese of Salisbury has a thirty-five year link with the whole province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, and they are graciously hosting a pre-Lambeth meeting for all the Sudanese bishops and bishops from the companion dioceses.