It was an almost overwhelming experience of being welcomed to the Lambeth Conference. It all began at the registration desk by the person dealing with practicalities; then by the Ecumenical Administrator who was hovering; then by a friend I haven’t seen for several years; then at the Ecumenical Participants Welcome where it was getting a bit more formal; then by my Host Bishop Pradip Kamble; then by Archbishop Rowan over tea on the lawn; and then at Evening Prayer, which included a formal welcome by Archbishop Rowan and a homily with a particular focus on the ecumenical participants, concluding with a procession onto the platform for an official photo accompanied by applause from the rest of the conference. Phew! But actually it was rather wonderful!
There are about 650 bishops from all around the world – I enjoyed an evening meal with Pradip from India and Doug Stevens from Australia - and 75 ecumenical participants.
Geoffrey Weaver is responsible for the music and looking through ‘Lambeth Praise’ it should be a rich experience of worship from around the world.
The homily included a reading of St Dorotheus of Gaza from 6th Century:
‘Imagine a circle marked out on the ground. Suppose this circle is the world, and that the centre of the circle is God. Leading from the edge of the circle to its centre are a number of lines, and these represent the paths of ways of life that men can follow. In their desire to come closer to God, the saints move along these lines toward the middle of the circle so that the further they advance towards the middle of the circle the nearer they come to both God and one another. The closer they come to God the closer they come to each other; and the closer they come to each other, the closer they come to God.’
Rowan linked this to the New Testament reading from 1 Jn. 4, ‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we ought also to love one another … if we love one another God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.’ Very simply, ‘the deeper we sink into God’s love’, to use his phrase, the deeper we sink into the love of God for our neighbours. In short, it felt very, what’s the word I’m looking for … welcoming.