Life at the Lambeth Conference
I have arrived in Canterbury, ready to assume my duties. I’ll be working for the Anglican Communion Office, serving as a photographer. I’ll post a few photos here, but you can see most of the photos over at our new flickr set. There are going to be several of us working on the photography team, so you’ll see all of our work there.
Time permitting, I’ll do some blogging. This will not be a place to get news or gossip. I won’t post anything that has not be released publicly, so don’t check here for rumors. I’ll try to describe what it’s like here, at least from my perspective.
This afternoon, I arrived about 2:30 p.m. First thing was to wait in a queue to drop off my bags to be delivered to my room. I waited in line next to bishops from Guinea, Alabama, and Toronto. Spirits were high, though the queue moved pretty slowly. Considering the massive logistics of hundreds of people simultaneously descending, speaking many languages — and some still jetlagged — it was going well. Then I walked over to the place for registration. Here was another queue.
As a “staff” member, I had to wait in the same line as the bishops (media were in another line, and I guess volunteers were somewhere else too). This one stretched out quite a ways. I think I waited nearly three hours. Here too, everyone was pretty amiable, taking the wait in stride. It wasn’t hard, since the day was stunningly beautiful and volunteers kept coming by with water, tea, and coffee. This time I waited with bishops from Mumbai, Maryland, Northern Ireland, and somewhere else (where English is not spoken!). I had time to catch up with some media types I had met in Dar es Salaam, and I got to meet several of my Anglican Communion Facebook friends in person. That’s always a treat. I even got to chat with our Presiding Bishop for a few minutes — she seemed very popular with people from around the world.
The Lambeth Conference is being held on the campus of the University of Kent. It’s a modern campus, with architecture to match. Some find it repulsive, but I rather like some of it. Accommodations vary from en suite bath to standard college dorm rooms. I’m in the latter, though my view of Canterbury more than compensates for an ascetic room. Not sure who’s on my hall, but I think I’ll get to know them well, as we share a bath and a shower. Food is served in dining halls, and my first meal was quite tasty — vegetable ravioli with a suitably decadent chocolate cake for dessert. I ate in the staff dining area, where I was amazed at how many people are here to make this conference run smoothly. In communications alone, there is a very large team of people: photographers, website editors, video crews, writers, media relations, and more.
The central venue is called the “Big Top.” It’s a large tent where the plenary sessions will be held. To allow the bishops and their spouses some privacy on this open campus, there are “stewards” hither and thither to check ID badges at the doors. The Big Top itself is surrounded by a large fence. It seems reasonable to me that conference attendees have some privacy. Some of the media acted indignant, but the security measures I saw seemed reasonable and appropriate.
The opening conference was a mixture of inspiring things and the usual opening-of-the-conference logistical announcements. There were quite a few of the latter. On the inspiring side, I found the Archbishop of Canterbury to be in great form, speaking clearly and powerfully. Since his remarks have not been posted, I won’t describe their content here. The other bit of inspiration was in the singing. We sang music from around the world, both folk and traditional. Wow. Every time I sing with people from around the world, I am given a glimpse of what the heavenly choir must be like. There must have been well over the thousand people in the tent, and the volume and harmonies were breathtaking.
I’ll have more to say tomorrow, if time allows. The bishops will be enjoying a private retreat in Canterbury Cathedral. I have a book somewhere that tells me what the spouses are doing, but it’s not handy. I have a feeling I’ll be photographing them, so I hope to be able to say more tomorrow about what they’re up to.
Pray for everyone at the Lambeth Conference — volunteers, staff, bishops, and spouses. Pray especially for the Archbishop of Canterbury, his with Jane, and the other leaders. By God’s grace, healing may begin here in Canterbury.