Monday, November 3, 2014

Settling in day . . .

     Today was a day mostly getting to know one another and cramming in naps or sightseeing.  As I write this post, I have met only about half of those participating in the Consultation.  Bishop Alastair Redfern, Bishop Eraste Bigirimana, Canon Delene Mark, Holly Allan, Dr. Luis Benavides, Ms. Fulata Moya, Rev. Terrie Robinson, Rev. Rachel Carnegie, Ms, James Kofi annan, Noah Bullock, and Subarshan Sathianatan.  As one can tell by the names of those I have met, we represent quite a cross section of the Anglican Communion.  It was an interesting experience to ear all of us recite the Lord’s Prayer in our native tongues as we celebrated Compline.  At the risk of embarrassing myself and my memory, I will not necessarily place names with mission fields . . . yet.  I am sure that as I get some sleep and hear more stories, that will be easier.
     I met Terrie almost a year and a half ago at the Presiding Bishop’s Churchwide conference on Human Trafficking.  Terrie threatened that the Archbishop of Canterbury was serious about marshaling the Anglican Church in the fight against modern slavery.  Turns out she was right!
     Holly works with an NGO in the Philippines that works primarily with domestique slave labor—au pairs, ammas, maids, and butlers.  The poor in the Philippines are often trafficked to other countries to serve as help for wealthier families in Asia.
     Luis works in Brazil.  Specifically, he seems to be focused more with the government’s efforts to grant/deny asylum to those who have been trafficked into Brazil from other countries.  I say “seem,” as Luis does not speak English well, and his translator will not be here until 7pm this evening.  After then, he should be able to describe for us in more detail his work, and we should be able to ask him questions.
     One of the ladies works in South Africa trying to prevent the trafficking of children.  Not surprisingly to those who are familiar with the diocese of Swaziland (she met about two dozen missionaries there when they brought the water purificatory from some big bike ride—talk about a God-incident!), there is a tremendous recruiting effort among the rural poor.  Gangs and entrepreneurs will buy children from parents who cannot support them.  
     Noah comes to us from El Salvador, though he was born in Syracuse, NY.  Noah has spent a bit over a decade seeking to get asylum and permanent resident status in El Salvador for those who have been trafficked there.
     As we mingle more, I am sure I will get the stories and names straight.  Plus, I expect to hear the stories of those whom I have not yet met or listed here.  We also have representatives from the World Council of Churches, the Salvation Army, the Tear Fund, and Episcopal Relief and Development.
     As to my first day in Rome, I opted for the sightseeing rather than a nap, so that the jet lag would pass quicker.  Though the coffee and espresso have been magnificent, I would rather not drink it in too much quantity to stay awake!  I headed down to the Ancient City.  My love of all things classic pretty much made that an easy decision.  I made it to the forums, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and a few other smaller places.  I looked for the aqueduct, but had bad luck spotting it.  Hopefully, the pics will give an idea of some of the scale for those unfamiliar with Rome.  

     After the afternoon gathering, I decided to try and make St. Peter’s.  Given our schedule the next few days, there was no expectation I could make it.  This meant a visit after dark.  I got there just as they were closing the Basilica to any new visitors, and I got to see the changing of the Swiss Guard.  The guards asked if I was a priest (pointing at a cross given me for ordination by Frank Thornbury).  I nodded my assent and they convinced the guard they were with me.  Brain-dead me forgot to video the changing of the Swiss Guard, though I did get a couple nice grainy pics.  The only place to which I can compare it is Canterbury, those it is far more ornate than Canterbury.  It has that “solid permanence that reaches for the heavens” kind of feel.  One pleasant surprise to me was the simple faith on display at the various chapels.  There were very few people in the Basilica when I got there.  But there were small groups at the various chapels worshiping and praying to God, often in silence.  There were no flowery prayers being said aloud, no shows of emotion, just sincere prayers offered to God in silence through the behest of whatever pope or saint.  It made for an interesting observance on this day that we celebrate the Feast of All Souls.  To my utter chagrin, the Sistine Chapel was closed.  If I don’t make it back this week, I am determined to the next time I am here.

     The Domus where we are staying is part of the “hostels” that serve as headquarters for the college of Cardinals.  Many of the mid-level functionaries in the Vatican reside here, including the man who penned the Anglican Ordinariate.  The building is relatively new, having first been erected in the 12th Century.  Prior to this function, it has served as a palace, a seminary, and a few other roles since its erection.  There is some beautiful artwork, though I have not yet recognized any of the names.  Hopefully, as the week passes, I will be able to post some.  Part of that will be dependent on our work schedule.  The wifi only works in one room.  My room, naturally, is on the other side of the Domus.  So I will have to figure out a good schedule for posting updates.
     For those members of or those who follow the Roman Catholic Church closely, this is the Domus where then-Cardinal Bergoglio ate dinner the evening before being taken to conclave.  As Archbishop David shared with us this evening, somewhere with that next 48 hours, Bergoglio decided to take the name Francis and identify with the least and the outcast and to live as simply as possible.  Those who know the story well know that this is the Domus where he returned to pay his bill in the white cassock, nearly giving the concierge and staff a heart attack! 
     The first “official” function of the gathering was a welcoming statement by Archbishop Justyn and then a theological reflection given by Archbishop David.  Archbishop David reflected how Scripture informed the fight against slavery in ways far superior to the secular attitudes of justice, freedom, and good moral behavior.  He also reflected how part of his job this week is to remind each of us that one person can make a huge difference in the kingdom of God.  Paul, those imprisoned for the Gospel maybe a mile from here, sought comfort and sustenance from the Lord.  Though he spent just over two years imprisoned in three rooms, God rewarded his faithfulness in the midst of seeming failure in ways he could never have expected.  So, David expects, will it be for us.  At St. Alban’s we speak often in terms of glorious failures.  We fail.  A lot!  But the incredible thing is how God comes along behind us and redeems our failures to His glory.  That will be some of the story that I will share this week.
     Speaking of glorious failures, I have been assigned to Prosecution as my big “P.”  Those who have seen any number of the press releases know that we are addressing the six P’s at the conference.  Knowing the failure we have had in the QCA to get law enforcement to take an active role in the fight against human slavery, and knowing that all here have experienced all kinds of failure, it would seem that it will be my job to encourage us to see God’s redemption in the failures through unexpected fruit.
     There’s probably tons I have forgotten, even though this was just a “settling in” day.  The day ended in Compline (British version).  The real work begins in earnest tomorrow.  Our days will run from 7am to 9pm locally, so keep us and our work in your prayers!


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