Today was London Day, which meant getting up even earlier, about 6 a.m. for breakfast, then on the bus at 7:15 a.m.. We drove to London to Whitehall, where we unloaded and began walking in the Walk of Witness which was purported to be the largest walk for hunger and poverty ever in London. I don't know about that but it was huge. We walked past 10 Downing Street, past the Houses of Parliament, over the Thames, and into Lambeth Palace. We were treated to a very nice meal (kind of a contradition in a walk to eliminate poverty) but there you have it. The Archbishop and his wife Jane were simply wonderful in their hospitality. Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined us for a while and spoke to us as well. He gave a superb and inspiring speech to us and that was echoed by all I spoke with today.
We were there about 3 hours, and then back aboard the buses to head to Buckingham Palace. Having stood outside these gates two years ago almost to the day, it was surreal to actually enter into them. For this entry we had to have our special invitation, our passport, another form of indentification. We were then taken into the inner courtyard, which is just a large gravel yard, much like what you see in front of Buckingham Palace. After a short wait, we were taken through the Palace and into the beautiful back yard, where huge tents with tea, sandwiches, deserts awaited us. There were two bands in two seperate parts of the garden. After a time, the Queen and Prince emerged and were ushered down a corridor of people which we formed on two sides. People were randomly, at least that is how they put it!, selected from the crowd to step out, where advance people took down the names in the party on cards, and prepared you for meeting either the Queen or the Prince. I was not selected. I am not nearly interesting enough. Nonetheless we were just feet away from them both and I must say they did take time and talk as they made their way down the line. Then they made their way to the Royal Tent, where a few more dignitaries, much farther up the food chain than me, were offered entry. After a while the corridor of humanity was formed again and the Queen and Prince walked up the aisle and back into their home. The weather was magnificent.
We then boarded our buses and took the road back to Canterbury. I think Nedi and I represented you well. I have no pictures as it is against policy to have cameras in either Lambeth or Buckingham and since were not allowed to bring bags or have anything we could not carry on our person, I could not have done it. I wish I could have! Also, we wore our cassocks all day long and those don't exactly have lots of storage space!
I have to say, I consider myself quite fortunate to experience such an event and yet the irony is keen. As I stated before, the march for poverty as we marched toward a fabulous meal that many never would get to enjoy, and then on to visit a monarch, who met many who eagerly lined up to meet her; who will not make in their lives, and perhaps even three or four of their lives, what we spent on those three hours in that garden. Perhaps this will all go toward, in some strange way to help that situation. One of the highlights of my day was sitting with John and Joseph, both from Tanzania. They are youth stewards, those who are helping make the conference flow, pages, guides, gophers. They are youth from all over the world. We shared tea and dessert at Buckingham Palace. Perhaps that is one small sign of the Kingdom, what it is supposed to be. That was the glimpse I will take from this day....
A day which started with a them, to eliminate poverty, and to promote the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals. You can find out all about these at http://www.undp.org/mdg/ We have done much with promoting these in our diocese and we will be doing more. I have shared with you my personal committment of giving .7% of my income each year toward them, because it has been calculated if we did, all of us, we could see the goals achieved. My fervent hope, and there is certainly some momentum building here, is that these goals, and other important issues like protecting our planet, will be the real issues we galvanize around in these next days. Keep praying that we can see and hear God and follow in the path of grace and graciousness.