Tuesday 12 April 2016

'The beauty of Communion: you never arrive...' - Monday's blog from ACC-16

I continue to feed from the pearls shared during our daily Bible study. The book of Ruth touches me deeply and differently from before; it feels as if I am reading it for the first time.**

The focus on Ruth and Naomi as refugees dominates our discussion. The people of the Bible are refugees, migrants and wandering people. We should not be treating refugees as other than this, since we know their pain and later vindication. We share stories of refugees in our different contexts, the risks they are prepared to take for their security and we lament how they are dehumanised. The team at our table has grown – we have been joined by an ecumenical partner who brings a beautiful and helpful mirror for us.
Ecumenical partners.

At a tea break, I wander around the Mothers' Union market. They have wonderful souvenirs – bead works, shirts and hand-made hand bags. I order two bags to support the business. The photographers who swarmed around us at the opening service are back, great entrepreneurs who bring beautifully-framed pictures and start bargaining at 150 kwachas, although they will drop their price to 50 kwachas if you have the patience to negotiate.

We spent most of Monday hearing stories about the Communion from staff members of the Anglican Communion Office in London. The Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, started, stating the need for a healthy Communion that remembers that it does not exist for itself but in service to the needy in the world. He shared the tensions that exist between the national and global, the particular and the general, and the call for the ACC to be prophetic and yet administratively prudent. He appraised us of developments in the Communion: new Provinces, the exploration of  Portuguese and Spanish translations for documents as well as where the Anglican Covenant stands.
Archbishop Idowu-Fearon (Photos: ACNS)

Staff from the following areas also gave reports: Mission, Women and Gender – on gender justice, Continuing Indaba, the United Nations Office,  the Anglican Alliance and Communication. I heard all of them saying that the mission is huge, the workers are few and resources are scarce. The good news is that the Communion is alive with challenges, determined to walk together and to continue the Indaba, giving hope to those advocating for gender justice, climate justice and the varied humanitarian crises which God's people face. We were encouraged to communicate our stories and, as St. Paul says, if needs be, use words.

I ended the day with deep and profound discussions with the Dean of the Cathedral and the Archbishop of Central Africa. We spoke about their ministry to exiles from South Africa while the exiles were based in Lusaka. They recalled how the church offered support to the exiles – remembering Chris Hani's time here – and how faith played part in ensuring the exiles did not despair.

This is the beauty of Communion: you never arrive, you are on a journey toward full realisation of Communion. Growing up in South Africa as a youngster, I would not have owned, nor would I have spoke about what was happening in Lusaka – even as I write, I am filled with past emotions, feeling as if I will be arrested on landing back at home. On Thursday, I may take a journey to some of the graves of exiles who died in Zambia and we may pay the ambassador a courtesy call. 

Being here is also a story of liberation for me, a story of redeeming past fears and of a determination to start reconciliation within whilst encouraging it without. I ended the day with a FaceTime connection with home, checking if homework and assignments were going well.

** Readers can find the ACC-16 Bible studies here [PDF file] 

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