Tuesday 30 October – I cannot help but weep with the people in the US and Canada as they face the natural disaster, displacement and death that Hurricane Sandy is bringing. I weep as I send condolences over deaths in the US to our American colleagues here, led by the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. I share their anxiety and sadness at this tragedy as this storm continues to impact.
Natural disasters remain a mystery to me, and to us all. Today we passed a motion on the need to care for creation, and the particular calling for us as Anglicans and Episcopalians to be good stewards of our creation. I could not help, in my personal prayers tonight, to beg that creation might also take care of us, asking God to hear our prayers as he always does, but also asking God to incline his ear nearer to hearts for we are pained and overwhelmed by the mystery of these natural disasters. I was particularly conscious that on Sunday I travel to preach in Wellington, not too far from Christchurch, which has suffered so much from earthquakes in the last two years. Bishop Victoria Matthews of Christchurch has been present with us, and I wonder how much she and the people in Christchurch are having sad feelings evoked by this natural disaster.
So at our choral evensong I also quietly poured my soul out as the cathedral choristers, on average 10 year old, lead us in singing the psalms and prayers . I felt them bringing me closer to those who suffer , whether deep in the mines of South Africa, or those affected by the storms , or those facing their family tragedies unnoticed and unknown. Yet they also drew me closer to God, because ‘our hope is in the name of Lord’. In our Bible Studies we have also been reminded that wisdom entails attending to God in our relationships, and that our competence is from God (2Cor:3:5).
Today we also met in regional groups. Our group covered the SADCC countries, and we discussed some of the key development challenges that we faced, and possible relief as well as advocacy strategies. Governance, of governments, corporations and churches, was identified as needing attention in our region, as well as sustainable and practical economic empowerment initiatives for women. These will help make the churches in the region become more self-reliant, and pragmatically grounded. We agreed that we needed to map our resources for effective intervention.
We ended the evening with a challenging presentation on how to stop abuse within families. We were given a very good presentation that powerfully brought home the reality of children and women abuse to this highest chamber of the Communion. The reports of the Anglican Alliance, and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, the resolutions we considered, and the presentation on stopping abuse all brought the best of our doctrine and theology into engagement with our lived reality, and empowered us with skills to think deeply and plan practical action around these challenges.
On my way home to the hotel I could smell the aroma of jasmine, and spotted the hydrangea, agapanthus, beautiful orchids, ivy and grasses which which I am familiar. So I feel at home and connected with the environment here, and its people in their challenges to connect with their context: with their past and with whatever future they hope for, whether at the centre or the margins of this place. And I also feel connected to God, even as I kneel to pray for those affected by ‘Superstorm’ Sandy. Please join my prayers