Bishop Peter Ramsden on his visit to England to attend the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury
The temperature was 33°C when I left Port Moresby and –2°C on arrival at Heathrow. I was in England to represent the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea at the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Our primate had retired at the end of last year and the senior bishop was on his way to Australia for a bishops’ meeting. Did I mind going? Not at all! Two nights at Pusey House warmed me up and seeing my mother and sons encouraged me further, then it was on to Canterbury as the substitute Primate’s substitute.
All provinces represented
Hospitality was warm and generous for the invited ecumenical and Anglican Communion guests on the evening before and of the enthronement, and as far as I could see a good sign was that all the provinces were represented, including those who had not been at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. Surrounding St Augustine’s chair we all had excellent seats at the enthronement or rather at the ‘Inauguration of the ministry of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury’ as the service programme wisely put it. Some would have made changes here and there but the overall effect was of a solemn launching of a new ministry in hope and trust. Archbishop Justin himself reminded us of Our Lord’s words to all who travel in deep waters: ‘Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.’
The bigger picture
But for me, surrounded by the Anglican primates, one statement penned personally by Archbishop Justin had significance, even though it went without mention in the press.
He turned to face us and said, ‘Knowing us to be linked by God’s action with bonds of affection, through our common baptism and history, in the presence of all here and those who over the years have taken the gospel to every point on
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the Anglican Communion, that together we may proclaim the Gospel of Christ who reconciles us to God and breaks down the walls that divide us.’ That evening at the Nikean Club dinner he had a further chance to make an addition
to the programme in the form of a final
toast – to Pope Francis. Both are good
examples of recognizing the bigger picture, the necessary picture as we pray and work for unity and truth.
No doubt March 21 was a good day to be gathered at Canterbury, it being St Benedict’s day and the commemoration of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, but it was hardly convenient for those of us with two days’ travel ahead of us wanting to be home for the start of Holy Week. Instead of attempting it I enjoyed the Palm Sunday blessings of St Matthew’s Ponders End, North London, in the fine company of Fr Michael and Claire Childs – Fr Michael as a St Stephen’s House student spent a placement in PNG four years ago. In flurries of sleet it was a cold but purposeful palm procession along with Fr Richard Knowling and parishioners from St Alphege’s Edmonton back to St Matthew’s for mass.
A special privilege
Two days later I resumed Holy Week in Port Moresby. This year I spent the Triduum in Morata squatter settlement with Fr Reginald Makele and his people and with Solomon Island students studying at the University of PNG. The Stations of the Cross took three hours in the baking sun to make our way to the tin roofed church of St Aidan. On the way the story was told which both transcends and challenges every culture in the world.
It was a privilege to represent the Anglican Church of PNG with Christians from around the world at the inauguration of the ministry of Archbishop Justin – but in this Holy Week it has been a special privilege to be made even more vividly aware of the universal Church as I have been walking and praying in Ponders End and Morata settlement with people both freezing and sweltering along the way of the cross and yet equally touched and responsive to the invitation to choose life. Alleluia, the Lord is risen indeed! ND