"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Friday, March 09, 2007 Dinner and Dancing with the Anglican Communion
Most of what I have done the last two days is sit in rooms and listen to people talk. And so I've spent a lot of space reporting what they have said. And a lot of it has been really good stuff. And so it was today. Today we heard from Salil Shetty, director of the UN Millennium Program; Helen Wangusa, the Anglican Communion's official observer at the United Nations; and Steve De Gruchy, a really cool professor of religion and theology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. I also went to a workshop on attaining the MDGs in local communities led by Grace Phiri from Zambia.
Most of it was really good and I have plenty of notes that I could just pour into this blog (as I did with some of the presentations yesterday), but that just seems way too dull. Mostly because what the MDGs are about for me is relationship ... and the healing and transformation that comes from really living a Gospel life together. And even though some of the stuff I heard was pretty compelling, as I lie here in bed on a Friday night it all just seems, well, pretty dry.
And so I keep coming back to the people I meet. Breakfast with a bishop from Burundi. An ongoing conversation with a woman from Yei in Sudan (not too far from Lui) about the continuing struggle with the Khartoum government's trying to eradicate anything that isn't Arab and Islam from the south. Dinner with some folks from Ghana ... two of whom were from Accra and knew my friend Emmanuel Quartey who I met several years ago when I (and Robin) visited.
In chapel, I sat next to a woman from Sri Lanka and we struggled to communicate because her English was below functional and I don't know her language so she was forced to struggle with mine -- we did OK, I guess. During a tea break, had a great conversation with Maureen, who teaches at CDSP. Tonight I had a chance to talk with the young adult group about EGR and pump them up to dream about what they could do for God's mission of global reconciliation -- and then got to hear Odwa (whom I'd met at General Convention) talk about the Anglican Student Federation, for which he works here in S. Africa.
Everyday is this abundance of riches of relationship. Some of it is easy. Some of it is more difficult. Most of it is probably just scratching the surface. Some of it I'm sure is just politeness ... but some really gets below the surface and goes somewhere.
And then something clicked. It happened when Janette O'Neill, who is ERD's director of Africa Programs, was introducing one of the afternoon speakers and she mentioned what an honor it was to be here ... and that bishops got to get together with people from all over the communion every 10 years at Lambeth but that this was a unique event for everyone else -- a chance for people of all orders and sorts to get together from all over the Communion.
It was kind of one of those V-8, knock yourself upside the head moments for me. Maybe it's because I've been at places like General Convention and traveled in places like Ghana and Sudan that being around people from different lands is nothing new ... but having us all together in one place is something new. We don't do this all the time. In fact, we hardly do this ever.
Maybe that's why as good as the presentations and everything is, and whatever pronouncements or plans we come out of this meeting, maybe the really great thing this gathering is is sort of a first or second date for the Anglican Communion. Sure lots of people here seem to know lots of others (the people who come to something like this are the kinds of people who have traveled a lot and tend to know one another) ... but having us all together is different.
Maybe the best thing that can come out of this is another date. A chance to do it again. A promise to call the next day that we all actually keep. Maybe more than the wonderful theology and praxis of ministry and missiont that's being shared here, maybe that's what's really going to last.
I think of this especially with the young adults -- particularly since they've been joined by some others from S. Africa and Mozambique. And even today they're talking about projects they can share. That's the future.
Tomorrow I'm ditching the TEAM conference and going with the young adults to Pretoria on site visits (AIDS hospice & AIDS orphanage). I can't wait. Mostly because I love hanging out with them and because I really want to get out and see some stuff. But I have to admit, part of my joy is realizing that I won't be spending the whole day sitting behind a table listening to someone talk!
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."