Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday (St Charles, King & Martyr)

The theme of this final day of our conference was "the bishop as human being." Ponder that.

We met for Bible study after breakfast, again in All Saints' Chapel, and again under the capable leadership of Ed Condry. We looked at a rather obscure passage in Luke (obscure in that I don't think it ever turns up in the Sunday lectionary) wherein Jesus in effect promises that he will gird himself up and wait on those who are themselves his servants. The point is that those who regularly minister to others run the risk of forgetting to allow Jesus to minister to them, which can have devastating consequences. Our time in that setting was concluded with a rather sweetly intense period of extemporaneous prayer. The Spirit's presence was palpable.

For the later half of the morning, we were joined by Jane Williams, wife of Archbishop Rowan. Though she is a seminary professor and theologian in her own right, she was among us today as a bishop's spouse, to talk about issues arising from the bishop's family and home life. Her observations were perceptive and the conversation lively. I was strucks by the comfortable and integrated way she is able to talk about her own personal faith in the context of the high-octane life she and her family lead.

The early afternoon was free time, which I used to take care of some errands and get some more walking in on the old city wall, which is even more interesting in the daylight. At 4 o'clock, Canon Condry led us on about a quarter-mile hike east of the cathedral to St Augustine's, which began life as "the other monastery" in Canterbuy (i.e. not the one at the cathedral), then lay underused and fallow for about 300 years, then was rehabilitated and added-on to in the 19th century as a missionary training college, and is now part of a boarding school campus. There in the chapel we exchanged the gifts we had been asked to bring for one other, something that represents the environment in which we minister. I presented a book of sayings from Abraham Lincoln to a bishop from Malawi, and received from a Nigerian bishop a decorated wooden bowl. Again, a rather emotional moment as our time together draws to a close. We were served tea in yet another chapel the walls of which are covered with stone plaques commemorating missionaries who were trained in that place and then were sent all over the world (or all over the British Empire, at any rate) and who never returned home. The closest to Illinois any of them made it was western New York state. Oh, I should not neglect to mention that we were allowed to spend a moment in what is now a classroom/conference room, but was once a bedroom. Are you ready for this: King Charles I spent his wedding night there. Now, since today is actually his feast day, the anniversary of his martyrdom at the hands of Calvinist Puritans, that's pretty cool, right? Well, I certainly thought so.

Dinner tonight was at the Deanery, the home of the Dean of Canterbury, the most gracious and Very Reverend Robert Willis. Walking there (it's just on the other side of the cathedral from where our lodgings are), I felt like I was in a Susan Howatch novel. The Deanery started out as a medieval Great Hall, and was converted into a home in the sixteenth century. Every Dean of Canterbury since then has lived in that house, and each one has a huge portrait of himself hanging somewhere in the walls. I would estimate the living room is sixty feet long by 25 or so feet wide, with two fireplaces, a grand piano, and a harpsichord. We were joined by members of the cathedral chapter and their spouses, divided between two large rooms, and served an elegant dinner with grace and efficiency. What a wonderful capstone to what has been a truly formative and spiritually nourishing experience. I am one incredibly grateful bishop, and one incredibly grateful human being. I am immensely eager to be home, but very sad to be leaving this place.


  1. You make me want to start all over again with the Howatch novels.

  2. And perhaps even throw in a bit of Anthony Trollope.