Lambeth 2008 has begun. I, along with 600 plus bishops from around the Anglican Communion gathered together on Wednesday evening July 16th to officially open Lambeth Conference 2008. Many spouses and support staff are also present raising that number. The spirit here is warm and inviting. We began the evening with a welcome from Archbishop Rowan Williams and greetings from those supporting the conference through the great efforts of Design, Volunteers, Stewards, Hospitality, Chaplains, so many who have made this come together. We began learning and singing together.
We gathered in a large beautiful tent that rises above the University of Kent campus called the Big Top. It does indeed look a lot like a circus tent and I am sure some are already making some connections here, but those could not be farther from the truth. It is a most worthy shelter and serving its purpose quite well. After the introductions we were sent off to dinner and, for many, an early night of rest after long hours of travel.
Worship begins at 7:15 a.m. each day and this day was no different. We gathered for Eucharist in the Big Top. Worship today was provided by the Lambeth Chaplaincy team. Each morning the Eucharist will be offered by a different province of the communion. The most moving moment in this and also when we said our prayers in Canterbury Cathedral earlier in the day, was the Lord's Prayer, when we are always offered and asked to pray in our own language. The holy and rising murmur is really moving.
After breakfast, we moved into our first Bible Study. We are, as many of you know, focusing on the Gospel of John. There are some 81 small groups for Bible study, by my count, and these are made up of roughly 8 or so people. I am facilitating one of these groups. We began today studying the Prologue of John. We will hold Bible Study each morning of the conference save Sundays and the London day. We will also be meeting in larger Indaba groups. These are made up of a combination of five of the Bible Study groups. You can find more about Indaba groups on the Lambeth website.
After the Bible Study we left the University of Kent for Canterbury Cathedral. Although they offered buses I, along with a few others, decided to walk the short distance down to the Cathedral. I need the exercise! One of the light parts of the day were the 45 minutes we had just before going into the Cathedral to begin our retreat. Some of you who have been to Canterbury know there is a Starbucks literally attached to the gates to the Cathedral. There was quite a diverse and wonderful line of bishops present there! They were all offering a bit of aid to the economy of Seattle!
The Archbishop gave two very good meditations on the topic of "God's Mission and a bishop's discipleship." We were allowed some silent time after each meditation with prayers following. We will repeat this schedule tomorrow. The Cathedral precincts are closed to the public for these two days so we have it to ourselves which is quite a luxury and a great blessing. I have had two brief but quite nice discussions with the Archbishop. You can view photos of each day along with much other information at www.lambethconference.org.
I blessedly got to spend some time this evening with my Bishop's Colleague Group and now I am settling in for the evening. I want to commend the tremendous hospitality of so many volunteers from the Church of England and youth and young adult stewards who are everywhere on campus to help us, and who have been here a week already preparing for the event. They come from all over the Communion, and they are just superb.
On a personal note, I feel so blessed to be here, and honored to represent you, the people of the Diocese of Olympia. Nedi is here doing that as well and I know she shares this sentiment. I am humbled by that honor and will do all in my power to honor you in it. I miss my family already. My son was very sad when he hugged me goodbye at the airport. He said, "Dad, this is just too long!" It is, and yet I think about so many who have to go so much longer, and at such much greater cost. I think of our soldiers and their families, missionaries who give of their lives away, so very many.
I am not sure if I will blog each day but I will try to keep up with this as I can. Please keep us all in your prayers, those who chose not to be here, those told not to be here, those who simply could not be here, and those who did make it here, many at greater sacrifice than I will ever know in my life. I give thanks for you daily as you go about the mission of the Body of Christ each and every day. Pray for us, as I will pray for you.