Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 12th Blog written on the 13th

Yesterday was a special day, with much festivity, and partying, so writing a blog late last night made no sense at all. Actually, the blog would have made no sense. Thus the heading is honest, if not scintillating.

Our Bible Study began the last day of meetings…our friendships in the small group have built to a point where it was hard to finish off and say farewell to that configuration. With the huge differences in Biblical interpretation and knowledge within the group, and with the cultures of the Far East, Cuba, England and Wales, Nigeria, New Zealand Maori and Canada represented, we were able to develop good dialogue, careful listening, and new learnings together in such a short time. My new Nigerian episcopal friend and I joked towards the end of the meeting about our capacity to get along, to try to understand each other’s views, the most unlikely of matches considering that we come from opposite ends of the theological spectrum, and cultures so distant from each other. He’s even invited me to stop off in Nigeria on my way to New Zealand (where the next Council meeting takes place in three years)! That may never take place but it indicates how far we have travelled in our small group developing what true Communion can be.

A final round of resolutions got dealt with rather well, almost a breeze compared to what we had been through with some others. And then we went for a final round of our Discernment Groups, this time to reflect on what messages we would take home from ACC-14. By now, our Group was quite diminished in size, but not in capacity to articulate! We focussed a good deal on the need for ACC to find a way to address the involvement of youth in the church, a problem common to all our churches. And then we began to talk about how this meeting was so different from Nottingham (certainly was for us Canadians and the Episcopal Church because of our need to be there, but not speak, and to endure insults from speeches.) And it was different from what we expected. We had come, most of us, full of fear, burdened by making choices (some had come thinking that we would have to settle the homosexuality topic on the spot), and we all said we were going home with a true understanding of what Communion can be…that, despite our differences, and they are still considerable, we are committed to being with each other as the Body of Christ and would be deeply saddened to lose the participation of any of our members. The deeper question was answered, I think, and that was, “can the Anglican Communion stay together or not?” A resounding yes!

The Archbishop has been clear about saying that the mess is not cleaned up, that the Communion still has some rocky road ahead, but we in the group are firm in believing that we anyway will do all we can to hold it together, while still respecting each other’s right and requirement to minister in their own particular settings.

Michael Peers used to quote Desmond Tutu about the Anglican Church being a Church because it meets. I think that we proved that this time. As one of our members said, “I don’t take ACC back in the form of resolutions: I take you back!” Bishop Michael Pryse from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (a valued ecumenical partner to these deliberations) said that we sure “looked like a Communion” to him.
So, we emerged from the business and discussion sessions with profound hope, and I think, a strong willingness to put considerable energy behind that hope. I can’t think of a better solution, a better ending. It’s way beyond what I expected to experience.

I have a whole lot of new friends. Not just the Nigerian Bishop! New Zealanders continue to have strong connections with all of us Canadians because, I think, we have so many challenges and perspectives in common, but are enough different to really learn from each other. And being in the dame small group with the Archbishop of Canterbury was a special opportunity up close and personal to see the profound gifts of the man who leads us. And I’ve just realized that if I go on to enumerate all of those others whom I will continue to be praying for, in touch with, thinking of, this blog won’t finish in time for me to catch the plane home! Suffice to say that I will come home satisfied, replenished, charged with energy, spiritually challenged to pay more attention to learning about the Bible and my faith, and ready to take on anyone who says that the Communion isn’t working. It won’t solve Canadian Anglican problems for us, nor will it give permission for us to do what we may need to do in the future, but the ACC will continue to value our contribution to our denominational issues which we can address better together than apart.

The final service was in Spanish Town at the Cathedral. Allow me to say in all humility and some embarrassment that one of the most amazing thrills of this whole event was being in one of three buses barrelling above speed limit to, and coming home from, that service with a police escort! Sirens blaring, traffic held up for us to pass through, led by the Archbishop in a flashy BMW, it was unlike anything we Canadians would ever have expected or been able to pull off. The gaping mouths of pedestrians as we passed by were enough to set us into an Alice in Wonderland state. You can see a picture of Bishop Sue Moxley and me with one of our escorts after the service outside the Cathedral on the Anglican Journal website today. if I remember correctly.

The closing service was again loaded with Jamaican music, rousing singing, pomp (but relaxed pomp if there is such a thing). Our new Chair, Bishop James Tengatenga, and Vice Chair, Elizabeth Paver, and the Standing Committee were commissioned for the onerous tasks ahead of them. And Bishop John Paterson, retiring after 21 years on ACC, and two terms as Chair, preached. The line I remember most was “The bonds of affection are back in place”. You can get the whole text of his excellent sermon on the ACNS website

The evening was a gala event, saying thank you to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, to the West Indies, and to each other. There was gift-giving, acknowledgement of hard work completed, piles and piles of food, and a reggae band, with a Jamaican singing star who electrified us. Just as we left Nottingham with the bizarre look of all these members of ACC in Robin Hood hats at a dinner at the Castle, this time, the parting memory is the whole room full of us (well over 150), singing and dancing along with the musicians and the marvellous singer, to Bob Marley’s One Love, One Heart. It went on for a good 15 minutes of absolute joy. Then, the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, in both the Maori tongue and English, in words and in song, welcoming us to their home Province next meeting. Then came the partings, the really meaningful and heartfelt ones left to the very end because we didn’t want to leave each other.

What God has given! We are Resurrection people!

Blessings to all those who have been journeying with me. Don’t forget to go to the websites for more accurate information, for details and pictures, for various perspectives. I hope to do a reflection of the whole Council meeting to share with the Canadian Church, and it may appear here or somewhere else. But right now, it’s too close to really get the perspective I need to do that yet.


Monday, May 11, 2009

May 11 Blog

We began today with the Eucharist celebrated by Stephen Andrews, our priest (within a month and a half of being a bishop) member from Canada. A good start to the day for sure, with a few Canadian Anglicanisms put into the liturgy for good measure!

Bible Study and the first session included at my table Elsie Aarons, a Jamaican from St. Andrew’s Parish Church here in Kingston. (It occurs to me that I’ve never shared who is in our little group…Christina Alvarez from Cuba, Turi Hollis from New Zealand, Bishop Ikechi Nwosu from Nigeria, Bishop John Gladstone from South India, Archbishop Rowan Williams, and Peter Koon from Hong Kong…a diverse collection of people who have really enriched my understanding of both the Gospel of Mark and how we can build friendships through the study of Scripture.)

In reflecting on the weekend, the small groups were asked to draw a verbal photograph of the experience we had, and then we had to come up with a common theme. Among the themes were several you might have gathered from my blog of last night…hospitality, concern about young people leaving the church (not just on this island, we all said!), lively music and ministry through music, significant outreach etc. Elsie raised for our group that there is a strong need to have concentrated listening processes going on in all of our local churches…listening to young people, seniors, different traditions, ideas…and then, responding to what we have listened to.

The Anglican Observer at the UN, Hellen Wangusa, reported on both the current work at the UN on our behalf, and the challenges that the work faces in the future. A compelling, blunt person, she has a huge portfolio and carries it well, along with the others who volunteer to support various responses to commissions and committees.

This afternoon we did some small bits of chatting about the Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative (too little time to develop much of a significant response), and same goes for our time spent on the development of an Anglican Relief and Development Alliance. However, both of these initiatives gained support for their establishment, and we’ll look for improvements in our capacity to do work together. The Canadian proposal that we add a Sixth Mark of Mission (to do with peacemaking, conflict transformation, and reconciliation) met a lot of discussion. People wondered why we should add another one when a couple of the five others could be expanded to include this concept, why we didn’t have exact wording, etc. etc. While it eventually passed, I think we won’t come again with a resolution that has quite so many landmines within it. We have to learn to be much more precise, I guess.

We had the presentations on the Theological Education Network, and Anglican Liturgical Consultations. In the latter report, mention was made of the retirement in 2007 of the longstanding and highly appreciated work of Paul Gibson, Canada’s gift to this work over many years. Nice to hear those compliments for someone whose work I’ve appreciated for years.

Following Evensong, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave his Presidential Address. He spoke of our achievements, and the challenges ahead, and the n the things we have learned. While I could do a hop, skip and jump through his talk, I would rather suggest that you go to the Anglican Communion website tomorrow or the next day and read it as a piece of whole cloth. As usual, his articulate, sharply insightful, and down to earth comments framed a way for us to consider what we have experienced and created together. We were so moved that, at the end, there was no applause, just respectful silence. We are so gifted to have this man on the journey with us, both here and now and in the future.

Honour was given to Bishop Gregory Cameron who is leaving his significant post at the Communion Office to be a bishop in Wales, to George Koshy, the Vice Chair of ACC (who revealed that he was 78!!), and to Bishop John Paterson, Chair of the ACC, both of whom have completed their terms of office. While each has given so much, I will especially miss John, whose support to the Anglican church of Canada at and after the Nottingham meeting was courageous and essential.

Before heading off, let me share a website that should, if I’ve got it all correctly, give you pictures of much of what I’ve been describing, and a couple pictures of us Canadians in our glory at the opening service last week. There are also several shots of the big events, so if your curiosity has been peaked, take a look. Here goes:

Blessings, all. Maybe one more of these and then off home!


P.S. If there are misspellings here, please consider the fact that my computer has moved into a mode of taking away one or two letters if I try to edit and change one letter…so I’ve given up! Maybe even the laptop has become exhausted with this wordy woman!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10 Blog

We’ve had two full, very full, days in a parish in Kingston. I was fortunate to be with Bishop Andrew Curnow from Bendigo, Australia, and Daniel Taolo from Central Africa (for my St. Peter’s Cobourg readers, this is the Province that includes Malawi). Because of exhaustion tonight (and it’s only 8-ish), I’m going to point form two sets of comments: one, things that the visit included; two, some initial impressions from the visit.

What We Did
Several tourist events…the Bob Marley home and museum, Port Royal (full of stories of Henry Morgan and Horatio Nelson), marvellous ice cream at Devon House, the home of the first black millionaire in Jamaica, all the above with the parish priest, Jim Parkes, and the chair of the organizing committee for our visit, Margaret.
A really pleasant and scrumptious outside dinner at a private home of a parishioner with the Parish Committee (equivalent to our Executive or Advisory Board).
Overnight at a parishioner’s home, where we were surrounded by gracious hospitality, and welcomed by a most gracious host.
A 5:30 a.m. call for getting ready for church, which, in this parish, begins at 7:30!!!! However, as the day got hotter, we saw why.
A service that was reverential, steel pan band of young people, a singing group sponsored by police, a liturgical dance group, good hymns, a choir with some special soloists, one of which is the leader of our singing during the Council meeting, a good solid sermon on mission by Andrew, blessing of those with birthdays, anniversaries, travel events etc.
A chance I asked for for a few minutes to play a steel pan…no music made, but wonderful sound, even more so when you are right on top of it!
A brunch which most of the congregation attended replete with Jamaican food…salt fish and acki (spelling unsure), collard greens, dumplings, fruit salad, chocolate tea( hot), cake…get the picture? By now we were rolling in food! And treated like kings and queens.
A good discussion on mission…what were the key areas of mission in our churches, and what are theirs?
And gifts and farewells, then time for drinks and more food at another parishioner’s home.

This is a church in the city centre, but more than half of its parishioners come from outside the parish boundaries. They are trying to reach out…holding a health clinic once a week, serving families with AIDS etc., but feel much more can be done.
The liturgy is well done, music great, but it will need to involve some experimentation in liturgy to attract people who otherwise will gravitate towards the rambunctious, screaming worship leaders that we heard emanating from other churches of a different breed as we drove through Port Royal this afternoon.
Having visitors from outside the world of a parish has the potential to bring new views of Christianity, of Christian practice, of our linkage with each other in the Communion. We should be doing it more where we live.
Friendships happen fast under these circumstances. Jamaicans love to be hospitable and to entertain, and we were certainly the recipients of that love. We would be much more reserved, and far less generous.
The upper middle class in Kingston is well educated, most of the women have full time responsible jobs and family care too, and people have fun.
People here asked quite insightful questions about the ACC, about the autonomy of local Provinces vs. the linkage that ACC has been meeting about. They are educated about the Communion and about church issues. Not as easy to find where we are…we would be more focussed on parish issues. Their parishes are important, but they see farther. Is that because we came and they had been talking about it, or is that because they are an island that has many visitors, and they also travel out of the country a great deal? Or why?

Not very profound thoughts, but clearly, we all have learned much and tomorrow we will share these impressions, especially the highlights of our talk about mission. Today, instead of making decisions about the Communion, we WERE the Communion in action, and the experience was superb on both sides!

After being with an Australian for almost two days, I think the proper sign-off should be


Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 8 Blog

Well, we did it! As most of you know, I’m a process person, and would have not believed it possible. But today we did superb work and ended up with the resolutions on both the Windsor Continuation Group and The Anglican Communion Covenant.

Windsor first. We began with a draft set of resolutions developed by the Resolutions Committee which built on two sources…the first set of recommended resolutions prepared by the Joint Standing Committee (Executive in our Canadian parlance) earlier in the week, and the results of the Discernment Group discussions. And the result was this: the recommendations in the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) Report were affirmed, the moratoria were supported, gratitude was expressed to areas that had been holding to the moratoria, quick action was urged where the “application of moratoria gives rise for concern” (and by the way, there is funding to enable this), implementation of the recommendations is encouraged “as appropriate”, study of the Instruments of Communion and their relationship and ecclesiological rationale is to begin, and we are all called to pray for repentance, conversion, and renewal with the hope that deeper communion may result. That took ten separate votes! Along the way, there was a rejection of softer wording about the recommendations than “affirms”, but that was not accepted. And there was an attempt to add an additional moratorium on the avoidance of litigation, but it too was rejected. (No one likes litigation, but some Provinces are bound by law to instigate that process if property belonging to the diocese goes with a group of departing parishioners.)

The debate done in parliamentary style that still seems unduly formal to me, and sometimes not all that helpful to coming to the best conclusion, was open, honest and earnest. I have no doubt that the ways we had been meeting to discuss these topics in the first few days of our meeting contributed to the successful conclusions.

Most of us would have been happy with a few more/different changes, but we all felt heard, I think, and the listening going on was intense.

The process for dealing with the Covenant was a little more confusing at times, but in the long run, we came to agreements. Again, building on the same two sources for our starter resolutions, we began. The first topic presented allowed us to say yes or no to a proposal that section 4 of the Covenant as proposed in the Ridley Cambridge draft be detached, and sent off for a short period of consultation, coming back for the Joint Standing Committee to pull all the results together and then send out to the Provinces for adoption or acceptance. The feeling of many was that there had been excellent consultation on the first three sections and not quite enough on the fourth. This was the biggest bone of contention…whether the Covenant was ready to go now, or whether it needed this bit of extra work on Section 4 which has to do with the dispute resolution. A variety of suggestions about how to deal with this got us confused for a while, but we eventually got to the point of voting that proposal down in favour of inserting it in a following one. (Am I losing you yet? It’s quite possible because this was very complicated.)

What we ended up agreeing to is this:
We thanked the Covenant Design group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts (they really have done a superb job of listening to the Provincial input, and deserve so much credit);
We named that we thought a Covenant might go a long way to strengthen our Communion;
The Archbishop was asked to form a small group to consult with the Provinces on the problematic Section 4, reporting to a Joint Standing Committee in the fall;
We assigned to the Joint Standing Committee the task of approving a final form for the Covenant which would then be sent out for consideration and decision;
And we asked for each Province to report to ACC-15 on how they are responding to the Covenant and where they are in the process of acceptance or adoption.

So, while we haven’t got the final version of the Covenant, we have ¾ of it, and the last 1/4 should be ready by January at the latest. So, a short period, quick consultation, quick rewriting, and then off it goes. We all have a sense of urgency, and want this DONE!

While I wondered all along why we needed a Covenant at all, hearing others has made me realize that this is essential for the future of the Communion. And, while I came thinking it was ready to go out as is, I heard enough of others’ concerns to be glad we have allowed for that. I’m sure not everyone is pleased with this action, but it seemed to be the most acceptable way forward…it was a very tight decision on a couple of the parts. Oh yes, 8 more votes held on this.

Tonight, we went to celebrate at a fantastic party held at the home of the Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands…several marquees on the lawn, food galore, the Jamaican Military Band, a singer who sang well known Jamaican songs, and a steel band. Wow! We met the head of the Canadian Embassy (or maybe it’s a slightly lesser entity), several most friendly and interesting Jamaicans. And I sat down for dinner, believe it or not, beside a woman who grew up in Cobourg! I get accused by my family of moving the six degrees of separation down to two; well, tonight it went to one! We had a grand time…the night was magic! “We’ve been to a “maaaah-vellous party!” in the words of Noel Coward. And we all needed it!

Tomorrow will be business in the morning and then off to a Jamaican parish (Vineyard Town, in Kingston itself) for the rest of the weekend. You’ll not hear from me until Sunday late.

Your patience at working through this long blog deserves applause. Some crazy people like me actually like this stuff! But, whatever we think of it, the decisions today were the central decisions we came here to make, and they are completed.

Blessings to all.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 7 Blog

Thursday already and we’re exhausted! Even having an afternoon bus tour through Kingston has not provided me with a sense of relaxation or rest.

But the tour was filled with important learnings. First, to see homes for families along the route the bus took that are no larger than my bedroom, covered with what I would call corrugated steel but seems to be called zinc here, and rusty zinc to boot. After the palatial King’s House where the GG lives, this brought me back to reality of the world where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

Stores along the route also were somewhat sobering…none without great screens of iron and gates that make them look like fortresses. No glass windows displaying wares, just these grates and a door. Obviously, this city needs to protect itself from itself.

Our trip took us to two parish churches, called so because in the past they were the only churches that allowed blacks to attend. We also had a significant time in the Jewish synagogue…there used to be six or seven and now there is only one. But the Jewish history in Jamaica goes back 250 plus years. The rabbi (Reform) welcomed us by saying first that his parents were married in the Kingston Parish Church (Anglican) because his mother was Anglican. The floor of the synagogue was covered with sand…only a few synagogues like that in the world. Apparently this was done to muffle sound when Jews gathered to worship in places where congregating was dangerous.

The National Gallery was also on the tour. A short trip through paintings from the twenties to the present day helped us see how the art developed from an intuitive style, untrained and entrancing, to quite trained and marvellous, and then a gallery with what I think must be the equivalent of Maud Lewis Jamaican-style. This Gallery needs a Norma Cotter painting, though!

On the business side of things, today was a time to think about and discuss the ecumenical relations that our church is involved in. We were joined by Old Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox, the Lutherans (represented by Bishop Michael Pryse from Canada), and the World Council of Churches (another Canadian, John Gibaut) and others too. A Discernment Group was held on a variety of ecumenical topics. I attended one where we discussed local (read both Provincial, and really local) efforts at ecumenical connections. It was fascinating to hear so many examples of the value of Christian churches working together; of how, in some places, they work together to deal with the considerable threat of Islam. Rwanda and Ireland pointed to how hard they are working to come together as churches so that they may regain trust in the communities. When I was describing the deliberate connections made with Islamic leaders by our leaders after 9/11, it dawned on me that something that really represents how comfortable that relationship has become is “A Little Mosque on the Prairies”. You could see the amazement of many that this could happen!

Hanging over our heads is still the need for us to come to decisions about whether the Covenant is ready to go out to the Provinces for consideration and adoption, or not, or if we have to edit it in order to have it readily accepted. In the conversations around dining tables, we try to grapple with what is the best route. Time marches on and we will need to make those choices.

The Bible studies and regular worship maintain us, build community, and heighten our awareness of God’s presence in our deliberations. Prayers from your direction would help too.

9:45 tomorrow is labelled as a Decision-making Plenary on the Covenant and the Windsor Continuation Group’s recommendations. I don’t really expect a decision on either of those so soon. I think we may be in for some added on evening meetings in order to get there.

Going to crawl into bed and get ready!



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 6 Blog

A quick catch-up after a glorious evening at King’s House, the home of the Governor General. This was a “cultural evening” on the grounds surrounded by beautiful trees, with great food, most enjoyable folk music and dramatic readings, and the guests who included all of us from the ACC, the local clergy and bishops with spouses, the diplomatic corps, civic leaders, justices and industry leaders…my goodness, there will be no talking to me when I return. Not often one gets opportunities like this! It really was a great way to see Jamaican society in all its glory, and also get flavours of the culture.

The morning was spent in discernment groups, once again looking at the Covenant and the recommendations from the Windsor Continuation Group. The conversation is difficult, and now that we are trying to move towards some actual decisions via resolutions, it must get more pointed. There still are some major differences on both these topics, so we have much more hard work to do to come to a conclusion. Some suggestions are emerging, but it will be hard to find consensus.

Two features of the afternoon:
the Constitution that our Council of General Synod had accepted with one change passed without change by the required 2/3 majority of provinces…so we are too late. However, the proposal to involve all the Primates in the ACC died a quiet death.
Philip Poole arrived yesterday from Toronto and presented today well, very well, on the Compass Rose Society. Canadians are really contributing to the work of the Communion.

I’m probably babbling because I’m tired. Time to give up and prepare for tomorrow, where the focus is on ecumenical links. Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May 5 Blog

The other challenging matter dropped on us today with the presentation of the recommendations from the Windsor Continuation Report. The Archbishop of Canterbury took on the task of providing us with the background as to why this group was constituted…a good reminder of the sequence of events that could easily be forgotten. He then took us through the various recommendations (there are eight), saying that these are “provisional ways of containing the chaos” we find ourselves in as Anglicans. Then, in helping to explain the term “ecclesial deficit” which emerged in the Report, he made the sharp distinction that we must face…do we want to be a church where we are dispersed across the globe but considered by ourselves and others as a kind of union, or do we see ourselves as a “vague global cluster” of churches. He challenged all of us, each “side” if you like (and I don’t, but it gets said anyway by many although not the Archbishop), to be open to engaging in an honest conversation with those whom we disagree “before we say goodbye to each other”. “We owe this to the Lord of the church to have these conversations!” was his last word in the presentation.

See what I mean about being loaded down with the responsibility of this role!!

In the plenary and the Discernment Group that followed, there was talk about forgiveness…when can you forgive others who have hurt you and what you believe to be true. Rowan reminded us of the same question asked by Peter, and we all know the answer Jesus gave. And he then quoted a Welsh poet (I don’t think he mentioned the name) who writes: “Forgiveness is cutting your way through a bank of thorns to stand beside your enemy”.

We have two more Discernment Group meetings tomorrow on the two main topics we must face. These are times of frank and honest talk, of some laughter, of pushing boundaries, altogether emotionally draining. But we are trying, each of us, I think, to hear each other. The governance wonk in me says that this debate/decision-making/discussion might have been handled better over the years if we weren’t always a changing group of people in the ACC. But, the time is past for that. It might have been wise to suspend changes in membership for at least one extra session. But then I wouldn’t be here!

We went through our first resolutions this afternoon rather quickly. They were from the networks, well written, not too controversial (at least the ones we dealt with). But it felt good to get some of the parliamentary stuff moving at this point.

A very sad note which we just heard of at Evening Prayer today: the 19-year-old son of one of our members from India was killed in a motor vehicle accident. What a terrible thing to happen to any family, but especially when the father is so far away from home, and unable to leave in any hurry because of complicated and infrequent plane schedules. We feel paralysed at his grief. Life in all its terrible complexities does not stop for meetings in Jamaica.

Tomorrow we have a “cultural evening” with the Governor General at his home, so there may not be much communication from me after we finish the festivities.

Did I tell you that the local TV cable system in the hotel gives me the CBC and CITY-TV? I know about the traffic tie-up at Dundas and Bathurst this morning and see Peter Mansbridge whenever hockey is over. And, a station from China too!

Blessings, all.