Today we raised queueing to an art form. From joining the queue for the bus to the cathedral at nine o’clock this morning to getting back off the bus at half past two I calculate I spent two hours in worship, half an hour in coach travel and three hours in queues. We queued to get on the coach, queued to get into the cathedral, queued to get out of the cathedral, queued to leave the precincts and queued for the coach to campus. Mercifully the people serving lunch had kindly stayed on way beyond the scheduled time, so we all got fed. But the crux is that these are not like the queues of the desperate outside a shop in some command economy nor the queues of the frustrated praying that a bus will stop. These are the queues of people who know that they will get where they’re going, and, although it will take some while, there’s some fascinating conversation to be had along the way with the strange assortment of people we find stood beside us. Maybe that’s a metaphor for the conference.
The cathedral service itself was splendid, both expectedly and unexpectedly. It was always going to be something special but in two places it excelled itself. The gospel procession, featuring melanesian religious carrying the book in a model boat whilst singing and dancing, will no doubt feature in everyone’s list of images from Lambeth 08. It was stunning. I hope the TV reports have focussed on that rather than processions of prelates. But equally amazing was the sermon preached by the Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka. Hardly using notes he reflected on the day’s lectionary gospel (the parable of the wheat and tares) and called us to three things: rigorous self-scrutiny, unity in diversity and prophetic ministry.
Hardly had lunch digested when we assembled in the tent for an explanation of the conference process. It builds on what has been most appreciated in previous conferences – the small bible study groups – and drops what has been least effective. The western pattern of resolutions and amendments is replaced by the indaba groups (5 bible study groups working together) and a robust process for collating the indaba discussions. Its a recipe to allow everyone to speak and be heard, rather than one that favours the politically astute, the most articulate and the accomplished manipulators. When Rowan rose to give a Presidential Address he got no more than a few words out before conference stood spontaneously to give him a prolonged ovation. He was visibly moved. For that matter, so was I.
Highlight of the day: that sermon
Lowlight of the day: hot water supply was dodgy again this morning