Saturday, 23 March 2013
The Christian family, far and near
To be present at the Archbishop of Canterbury's enthronement on Thursday was a real privilege. The Methodist Church in Britain was officially given one ticket and I was graciously offered the opportunity. Those processing needed to arrive early, but I admit that I didn't need the hour allotted in the Crypt 'Robing Room' merely to adjust the VP cross! Nevertheless it was good to meet up with an old friends, including Ivan Abrahams who was representing the World Methodist Council, before the procession began. The seat allocated in the Cathedral was in the front row between the Quire and High Altar, which felt very special. Wasn't the Ghanaian drumming and dancing electric (I'm probably biased!)? And I thoroughly enjoyed the eclectic mix of hymns and songs, exemplified by the 'Saranam' from India and Charles Wesley's 'And can it be' to finish. There was a sincerity, humility and grace in the words of Archbishop Justin, very much echoing the first words of Pope Francis; both have spoken of their confidence in the people of God, which Christians in the global north so badly need to hear. Over a tea for a great multitude, it was lovely to see other Methodist chums - Steve Lindridge (Fresh Expressions) and Harvey Richardson (ecumenical officer for Kent) - and to know that Methodism's strong ecumenical leanings were being acknowledged. Transported by coaches to the University campus in the early evening, a celebration dinner was laid on, mainly for the benefit of ecumenical, other faith, and overseas guests. It was good to renew friendships with people such as Sammy Azariah (Bishop of Pakistan), and the Anglican Bishop of Colombo (from our involvement in the WCC consultation on reconciliation in Sri Lanka). I also had a fascinating ten minutes with the leader of Zoroastrianism in UK, then sat down to the meal opposite a troubled Bishop of Tanzania and next to Brother Paolo of Taize. It was that kind of evening! On Friday I returned to Banbury, to an afternoon Bible study group in the village of Adderbury with another lovely group of Christians. To round off a wonderful couple of days, our daughter-in-law Hilary gave birth to a rather large boy (England need a decent front row succession policy after the Wales defeat!) and Tim later said that he would be named Alfred. I assume, as they live near Wilton, that it's the royal Wessex connection! Isabel and I are, as one might imagine, delighted.