One of the key elements to the conference structure is the daily bible study groups looking at passages from St John’s Gospel. Today was the second meeting of the eight in our group and it feels as though we are going to work well together – five of us come from Africa, two from Europe and one from New Zealand. As we considered John 1:19-34, much of our conversation was about our context and considering the influence which a particular context has on mission and our interpretation of the gospel. Early days, but we were quickly onto real issues which faces all Christians as we seek to unfold our ministry and mission across the world.
……and so to Canterbury Cathedral for the second day of the retreat. The Archbishop began with the observation that a Bishop is bound to be both a friend and a stranger. Someone who is traveling and adapting their language to the conext in which they find themselves. Never quite belonging, but coming as a Christlike stranger with the humility to address the needs of the local community.
The Archbishop also offered us a reflection from William Stringfellow, the American lay theologian, who suggests a difference between a religious person and a biblical person. A biblical person is someone caught in the spotlight of God’s attention and call – a fearful place to be, but as Archbishop Rowan reminded us, we hear in the gospel “Do not be afraid”. The Bishops as a biblical persons know that they are never going to satisfy the demands and expectations, but hear the words “Do not be afraid”.
In the afternoon, the Archbishop addressed the theme that bishops are called to live in community not only with their congregations, but also with each other. We model what the life of the church is like.
So it was a full day and there wasn’t a single reference to events at Headingley……..but I think that we were on a kinder wicket!