Friday, July 18, 2008

Retreat


Enfolded as it were in the spectacular confines of Canterbury Cathedral—painstakingly cut stones, soaring arches, hand carved wood, ancient and brilliantly colored stained glass, stone steps worn away over centuries by the feet (and knees) of pilgrims—it can be challenging to move internally from that sense of being a tourist to the reality of being a retreatant called to sit quietly and prayerfully in the perfect presence of the living God.

That may well be the point—that as we bishops gather from around the world, the very stones that surround us serve as a tangible reminder that we are all but one small part of a divine work that is much greater than any of us individually and spans both space and time.

Today we are mid-way through the bishop’s retreat that precedes the official opening of the Lambeth Conference this Sunday. It is just the first of many significant changes that distinguish this conference from past ones. We have been treated so far to four superb talks by the Archbishop of Canterbury inviting all of us to reflect on the nature and work of being a bishop. The talks have been set in a context of prayer and song (harmonies that literally fill the Cathedral), and while not everybody is disposed to keeping a strict silence during the times set aside for reflection, many are. The simple fact of seeing so many bishops from around the world sitting in the nave, or in the choir, or in the crypt, or up around Saint Augustine’s chair, quietly studying scripture, or writing in journals, or sitting quietly in contemplation, is in itself inspiring.

That also may well be the point (and not just for bishops and not just for a conference held once every ten years)—that if we wish to see Jesus among us, and if we wish to be those through whom the Christ is revealed, we would all do well to let go of those things that so distract and preoccupy our affections so that we, by the grace of God, no longer tourists, might live out of a deeper place.

As Paul writes to the Colossians: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ….”

1 comment:

Tom Reyburn said...

The environment must be a strong reminder of the strength and presence of the Lord.

Martha and I continue to pray for you and all the Bishops.