Saturday, August 23, 2008
An RU grad student
Thursday, August 14, 2008
By Allie Graham
Having spent the past month across the pond, I can say it's good to be home! But in a way it often felt like I was home the entire time. For the past four weeks I've had the honor of serving as a Steward at the Lambeth Conference – the decennial conference of all the bishops in the Anglican Communion – at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.
As a brief background, the Anglican Communion is made up of 39 provinces, which are basically national churches, of which we – The Episcopal Church, USA – are a part. All of these national churches are descended in some way from the Church of England, and are all united through “bonds of affection.”
Bishops and spouses from all across the communion gathered to discuss and grow in their ministries and faith as well as to discuss issues facing the church and the world. We as stewards were there to provide support, security, facilitate events when necessary, answer questions, move objects, and to generally be there for the conference organizers. The stewards were Anglicans between the ages of 19 and 35 from 18 different countries spread over six continents. Between all of us we spoke 30 different languages not including Hebrew, Latin, and Ancient Greek. There were eight Americans, each from a different diocese, who brought very different viewpoints and experiences to the conference.
While the media, who were restricted in where they were allowed, generally portrayed the conference as something that was either negative or futile, as someone who was in allowed in almost all of the venues and sessions, I would have to say that it was a very positive event. While the hope of many Americans and Canadians – the full inclusion of all of God's children into all orders and sacraments of the church – was not attained, there were steps forward. For a communion that many in the media claim is “broken,” all of the stewards heard bishops saying to each other:
“I like you, I'm drawn to you, I see God in you, but I disagree with you strongly, and I don't know what to do with this information.”
This was an accomplishment.
This however might not be where many of us in the west wish we were, but it is a far better place than we were in before hand. Much else was discussed as well-- poverty, the environment, improving ministry, the role of a bishop, and young adult issues were only some of the issues covered.
But more importantly, we were Anglicans, celebrating our faith and history together, worshipping together, eating together, and meeting the queen together. Yes, really. Well, not all of us met Her Majesty, but we all got within a few feet of her during the garden party at Buckingham Palace. Prime Minister Gordon Brown also dropped by our lunch at Lambeth Palace in London to give one of the most dynamic speeches of his time as PM.
I had the opportunity to hang out with both of our bishops and their spouses (+George and Ruth Councell and +Sylvester and Eva Romero) as well as with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife Jane. After the conference, Archbishop Rowan actually joined the stewards for almost all of a two day retreat! I was actually able to sit across from him at lunch, and we all had some fun conversations.
For whatever the press reported, the Lambeth Conference – though weakened because there were some could not or did not attend - helped to strengthen the bonds of affection within the communion, and at the very least, left the status quo and provided a wonderful time for worship, fellowship, photo-ops, and growing in God's love.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I think it may be one of the most well-thought-out and realistic things I've read in the media.
Friday, August 8, 2008
I was only able to attend the first day and a half of the three day youth retreat. The retreat was organized by the chaplains of University of Kent at Canterbury and Canterbury Christ Church University. It was organized to give us an opportunity to reflect on the past few weeks, relax, and get to know the Canterbury area and its history.
The first day began with reflections with Archbishop Rowan. We gathered in one of the classrooms and really discussed our experiences. While he was at the front of the room, I was surprised as to how much of a true dialogue the event was. He was surprisingly honest with us, and we had the opportunity to ask him any question we had. I asked "What do you view your job as the archbishop of Canterbury to be, and how do you see yourselves in that role?" Other questions included "Since your wife is a theologians, do you disagree about anything?" (answer:Unfortunately, no) as well as questions about his kids, publications, life before and after being appointed ABC, etc.
This lasted about three hours, before we broke for lunch, during which I sat diagonally across from ++Rowan. He wasn't wearing is collar, and it was amusing as he stood behind me in the lunch queue and people kept pointing and whispering (is that him?). He told of us times when he would be walking and people would stare, and if he said something, those staring would would say "Sorry, I thought you were the Archbisop of Canterbury." His would respond "Oh," shrug, and walk away.
The afternoon was divided into sessions to choose from: "Christianity and Evolution," "Ten things every Christian should know about Islam," and "Walking the Labyrinth." Although I originally intended to attend the session on Evolution, I was feeling a bit anxious, so I ended up walking the labyrinth that was just finished being built last week. That evening we went to the movies... some of us saw Dark Knight, others saw Mamma Mia.
The next day I packed up and then we all left for a tour of East Kent. We began at St. Augustine's cross, then went to ruins of an old castle. I had to leave after that but the rest of the group continued to a few other places, ending with mass at St. Augustine's abbey, led by ++Rowan.
During this party we realised that many of the remaining staff had gone out to dinner together, and we decided that we should greet them. We went to the bus stop about half an hour before the staff was scheduled to return, as we were unsure precisely when they would arrive, so we kept ourselves occupied by singing hymns and Beatles songs. In our last task as stewards, wearing our bright orange jackets, we surprised the returning staff and welcomed them off the coach by us standing in two lines, forming a tunnel, singing "Amen Siakudumisa."
We then went inside where we gave some of the staff members small gifts of our appreciation and then all went to one of the bars in the building. We got to talk to some of the staff members we hadn't had the opportunity to before, danced to the tunes of a jukebox, and had a lot of wine. We went back into the common room to finish the party and then most of us went to bed so as to have some energy left over for our time with ArchieRo the next day.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
To be honest, I wasn't greatly excited by most of this Eucharist. The bishops sat in the nave and we were in the choir with the volunteers. Since the service was celebrated in the nave we could hear a little but couldn't see anything. The music wasn't fabulous and I wasn't particularly motivated, but by the end of the service it was my favourite part of Lambeth.
Many of the members of the Lambeth Chaplaincy Team were from the Melanesian Brotherhood/Sisterhood. In 2003 seven Melanesian brothers were (simple version) killed while trying to bring peace to the Solomon Islands. During this Eucharist, following communion, the brothers chanted a litany in their very moving and distinctive style, first forming a circle around the compass rose in the nave and presenting the names of the brothers to the Archbishop, and then processing back through the choir to the Chapel of the Saints and Martyrs in our Own Time (which is behind the choir). When they arrived they found Luiz's incredible icon of the seven brothers. Prayers were said over the chanting. It was the first time I've really felt moved in the past few weeks.
After the service there was a reception complete with Big Band/ Swing music and plenty of dancing!
An American Brother and Bishop Roskam, after she taught us how to Charleston!
Lucy, a steward (and the best dancer of the lot), after she asked ++Rowan to dance. He was quite good - and she got £5 out of it.
Michael Sniffin with the Lord Mayor.
Today we moved out the bishops. My shift began at 2:30 am (for bishops who needed to be at the airports for am flights), so none of us bothered to go to sleep. It was rather quiet, and I had some good conversation with another steward.
After we got off duty we went to morning Eucharist at 6:30am. This was previously a morning prayer. Fr. Richard, who works with the Melenesians celebrated, and the whole service, with 33 people - a mix of religious, stewards, staff, and bishops, all sitting on prayer stools was beautiful, especially as we knew the next step would be breaking down the Prayer Place.
It has been a marvellous day, but I'm already getting anxious to leave.
Our youth conference with ++Rowan starts tomorrow, which should be interesting.
Anyhow, I will be posting my reflections over the next few days, so please do check back.
A Lambeth Steward
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Last night four stewards were invited to the dais to present their thoughts on the conference, the steward's programme, and the place of young adults in the church. The presenters represented four continents and an eight
year age span. The included an American youth leader, A British parish assistant, a South African biology student, and a DJ and youth leader from Seychelles. The Brit, Penny, stole the show, being both honest and cheeky. She mentioned that she hoped to pursue ordination, by the end of the presentation a few English bishops offered her the chance.
As stewards we spend a lot of time in our common room. Last night we had fun singing and playing guitar and violin.
This morning we helped lead morning worship. We were the readers, interessors, and choristers. The Choir, made up of stewards under the direction of steward Christopher Johnson of Christ Church University was excellent. This is from the final rehearsal, apologies that the sound quality on my camera isn't very good.
One major aspect of the Lambeth Conference that seems to hardly get mentioned at all is the 540+ spouses who gather daily for their own conference.
Like the bishops, the spouses meet daily for worship, meals, plenary sessions, bible studies, and self-select sessions.
The team that put together the Spouses' Conference, under the direction of Jane Williams, had a very difficult task. They had to build a conference for a group of people who appear to have very little in common other than having spouses with similar jobs. They are, among other things, mothers, wives, fathers, husbands, clergy, professionals, professors, seamstresses, and full time bishops' wives.
While the bishops were discussing issues in the church, and learning about episcopal ministry and each other. There spouses were learning about world issues, each other, taking trips to different parts of England, making art, praying, and for many of them, being introduced to many of the issues facing the church. They had the opportunity to discuss struggles in being a bishop's spouse. A few commented that it was good being able to see the work that was being done around the communion in person.
Many of the spouses have had very different responses to the sessions, with some attending every option available, and others attending only bible studies and plenaries and spending the rest of their time reading, praying, and walking. All of the spouses seem very appreciative and excited about the bible studies, which, unlike the bishops', only have five members. The diversity in the group added to the full experiences, and, as Jane Williams noted in her ending address, the community added to the full study of the passages (which were, as with the bishops, the "I am" statements from John).
While more of the spouses than bishops don't speak English, the bible study groups all seem to be making it work.
A few of the male spouses seem to have stopped attending many of the events, but there significant attention paid to remembering that there were male spouses when the programme was designed.
Though exhausted, the spouses do seem to be enjoying themselves. The fear that was obvious in many attendees has lessened and the atmosphere is surprisingly light, and most of the spouses have seemed to find the experience of meeting other spouses, learning, and exploring the area worthwhile and rewarding.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
"The first draft summary of yesterday's indaba group discussions on homosexuality are available here as a PDF. Some of the bishops seemed rather unhappy with it, and felt that it did not reflect their group. Others also questioned what good it would particularly do or where "we can go from here."
Over the years I've met a large number of people my age who were really excited about being a Christian. But here, I've managed to find a number of people my age who are really excited about being Anglican - about the communion, about the worship and the liturgy and the history.
Last night a number of us met at an on campus bar and ended up spending two hours singing hymns - some where well known, others more obscure, but almost everyone knew all the words (and it ended with a rousing version of "God Save the Queen," which was sung by almost everyone in our group... including the many members from ex-colonies - the US, Canada, Australia, and NZ).
Friday, August 1, 2008
I've avoided all that. There isn't anything I can contribute, and there is no point in my getting upset over it until they decide what they are going to say. I've been listening and talking to bishops, but the hearings are just too much.
Instead, I've had interesting times with worship, getting to know the other stewards, attending lectures, and eating.
Last Friday we put together a Eucharist for the stewards and chaplaincy team in the crypt of the Cathedral (Our Lady Undercroft). I was blown away by the group. Everyone who did anything in the service was a steward. The three organists and choir director were stewards, as was the excellent choir. The readings were selected by and read by stewards as were the intersessions. The acolytes, thurifer, concelebrants and deacons were all stewards as well.
Our preacher and celebrant was +Ralph Spense, our chaplain. The service was marvelous, and we are having another one - a bit lower, tonight.
Saturday was photo day. All of the staff, followed by all of the spouses, followed by all of the bishops lined up on bleachers for the infamous Lambeth group shots. Photos of the women bishops were taken as well. These were both exciting the number of bishops in them, but also sad by the small amount of progress made in ten years regarding those numbers.
On Monday morning the Province of the Indian Ocean celebrated Eucharist. While in the past all of the con celebrants have been men, there was a woman in the group. A priest who was sought out to be a woman in the group. Many people are sad that there haven't been any women celebrating, but others fear some wouldn't attend Eucharist for that reason. Regardless, most of the provinces leading Eucharist don't have female bishops (this was to get more developing nations leading services)
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa led evening worship, which was fun and interesting, although, a few of us noted that the use of the standard worship group (all white) looked a little colonial. That evening the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations, Sir Jonathan Sachs, spoke. Although I was unable to attend, the entire lecture, I will say that he was one of the most dynamic Rabbis I've ever heard. His style was almost evangelical in nature (although a bit more academic).
On Tuesday I was able to hear some fun African drumming by LGBT Anglicans before going to hear their stories.
For the past few days I've spent a lot of time waiting and reading. I've been assigned to venues like "spouses bible studies" which involves sitting in the courtyard waiting for questions, or sitting outside of self-select sessions or guarding some sort of gate for insurance reasons. This was the case on Wednesday where I had little of note to do until 6:00pm. Each night +Rowan and Jane throw a small party for about 150 bishops at either the Old Palace (behind the cathedral) or in one of the banquet rooms on campus (if there is an evening plenary). Two or three stewards are assigned to each reception, where we load buses, walk the people to Old Palace, stand around and drink wine and eat snacks, get back on the coaches and arrive in time to meet the other stewards at the pub.
It was held in a lovely garden, and Natalie, the other steward and I had the opportunity to talk to Jane Williams. We asked her for a photo, and she decided she needed to call her husband over as well.
Today I attended morning Eucharist led by the United Church of Pakistan, which would have been far more useful had it been translated into English (I found myself trying to follow along with the Spanish translation over the headsets). It was, regardless, a lovely service. After each morning Eucharist there is a five minute video (courtesy of Trinity, Wall Street) recapping the day before. Today's actually focused on staff and stewards. YAY! I had breakfast, sat outside the spouses bible studies, and did some shopping.
I'm about to head into Canterbury to finish that, and hope to meet up with some people this evening.
A Lambeth Steward
Sometimes, I think they just don't get it... the rest of the time I know it.
Today's issue of the Lambeth Witness managed to ruin much the credibility the Inclusive Church Network has managed to build, and saddened and angered many of us.
People need to understand, Lambeth is a PROFESSIONAL conference... it is not a general meeting of Christians. IF this were a conference for Math Teachers, English Teachers would not be able to attend, and everyone would understand that. [edit: I've had some people comment that this is different because it is a church funded event... most of these people are priests... three words for you: Diocesan Clergy Conference... you may not see that at exclusionary but some of the lay people in your parish do] This isn't your (our) conference. This is a conference for bishops and spouses, therefore, often, press, volunteers, etc are not allowed to attend. It isn't about press, its about improving episcopal ministry.
Press, get over it, this isn't your conference.
More to the point, if you could get in, so could those who have greatly different opinions than yours, and they would distort it (regardless of which side you are on).
In today's Lambeth Witness the Very Revd Rowan Smith, Dean of Cape Town Cathedral in South Africa wrote an article which equated the colour-coded lanyard system we use here (described in an earlier post) at Lambeth to apartheid.
Um, come again?
Apartheid was used to keep people down, this system is used to ensure that those who are not Bishops aren't let into sessions which are for bishops... people need the ability to speak openly without the fear of being quoted or photos being taken.
That statement was way out of line and unfair to the conference organizers.
His article was filled with errors and inconsistencies that led most to believe that he made up his example. He said someone tried to enter the Big Top for mass, but was turned away by a "Steward" with a "yellow lanyard." Stewards wear GREEN lanyards. Canterbury volunteers wear YELLOW lanyards BUT Canterbury volunteers AREN'T allowed at the Big Top.
[edit: I was recently informed that this was for the later Eucharist which allows all participants to attend, not held in the Big Top. There likely was a volunteer at the door, but volunteers are not stewards. They are not briefed every day and likely didn't understand the instructions regarding colours of lanyards, or simply misinterpreted the instructions, however, most attendees do know the differece between stewards and volunteers (yellow sashes vs orange jackets.]
The tactics used by some of the member groups of the Inclusive Church network have already been off-putting to many attendees. The Lambeth Witness is the only paper publication at Lambeth, so the Inclusive Church Network is already a privileged position in this regard.
I feel that people are so used to be excluded unfairly that they don't notice when they are being excluded fairly.
These are all things that I have heard from other attendees. At first I thought that no one else would notice, but these errors were the talk of the dining hall (I said nothing). Most of what I have written was taken from what I over heard.
The people who have been working on the Lambeth Witness have put an INCREDIBLE amount of work into it. They've done a fabulous job at getting out their message. But what takes years to build can take seconds to ruin.
I get so annoyed when groups that are trying to do good things rip themselves down.
I'm not saying I agree with all of the decisions Lambeth has made... or that history doesn't show that bishops need to be monitored, just that organisations need to think about how what they published will be recieved by those who read it... the same way that what the bishops say will be recieved by those who hear it.