Wednesday 31 October - The breeze is chilly today, so it is just as well that I brought a pullover with me! We ended today’s business with a Festal choral evensong led by the cathedral choir. The lectionary readings included Ps 1:3 (see below) and Isaiah 40:31: those who wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed, and they will rise up on eagle’s wings, they shall run and not grow weary …
These were encouraging readings, especially when read in conjunction with our Bible Study passage for the day, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. In this we were encouraged to remember our sacred responsibility to take care to set aside any ‘veils’ or masks of what are, in truth, actually intellectual ineptness or cultural camouflage, which may make us impatient dissuaders instead of patient and generous persuaders . The Isaiah passage above and Psalm 1:3 – those who delight in and meditate on the law of the Lord ‘shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that will bring forth its fruit in due season’ – summed up the day for me. It is the theme of faithfully waiting upon the Lord, faithfully connecting to the roots, the source, and so being nurtured by his love so that we can bear fruit in apt times.
This rhythm of Anglican spirituality is priceless! It encourages this waiting, this discerning and this ‘chewing the cud’ of our faith. Too often we become unreflective, and this rhythm and spirituality can be taken for granted in our busy world of checklists. So let me outline the day again, so you can see how its rhythm sustained and fed us: we shared together in fellowship at breakfast and in walking (or, today for some in the rain, driving!) to the cathedral where we broke bread together in the Eucharist; we then shared the Word together in bible studies, and then got into the days' hard work in our regional groups and in our reflection groups; and we ended up by sharing these reflections and discussing them in plenary , before then sharing in worship together at choral evening song, and finally eating dinner together.
In our work within the regional groups, we explored ways we could move ‘from words to action’ on the matter of violence and abuse in families. We asked ourselves, what preventative measures, protection and partnership are plausible within the SADCC region, and what might the Anglican Communion do to address abuse through partnering with other groups that are gospel-shaped. The emphasis here was to ‘be both hearers and doers of the Word’ as we strive to alleviate gender based violence and abuse in service to God in the world.
In our session on matters related to service to God within the church, we discussed The Anglican Covenant and received an update of how the different Provinces (ie Member Churches) of the Communion have handled the Covenant adoption process. We are also received reports and messages from our ecumenical partners and these were discussed in groups. Within our Province the long process towards the Anglican Covenant has been discussed at Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee (see, for example, http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2010/09/statement-by-synod-of-bishops-of.html). The final text was formally adopted at our 2010 Provincial Synod, but this decision has to be ratified in 2013 for the adoption process to be completed (http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2010/10/southern-african-adopts-anglican.html).
There are concerns about The Anglican Covenant, but you know my take and the provincial position on it! I have written a couple of reflections on the Covenant, and articles in support of it, including a letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury and York. If you wish, you can read these on my blog at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/01/necessary-covenant.html, http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/03/anglican-covenant-letter-to-archbishop.html, and http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/04/alleluia-christ-is-risen-we-are-risen.html.
The Covenant is a relational and missional tool, that does not seek to be legislative nor blur Anglican polity. I am reminded of the Council of Nicaea, in AD325, which wrestled with putting a formula to articulate their faith and beliefs about what it meant for Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and his relationship with God the Father. It may be that, in our debates around Anglican identity and the Covenant, we might be doing something much more profound than we realise. Therefore it is good that we should wrestle together, in the certainty that, as we wait upon the Lord and reflect on his Word to us, our strength shall be renewed and that we shall bear fruit in due season.
More news continues to reach us, including of the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean, with many deaths there also. My prayers go out to them too. And I also think of all people who are, in whatever way, going through ‘the storms of life’. Keep your focus on God and not life’s tempests, even as you deal with whatever your challenges are, and you too will be renewed like an eagle.