Lambeth and COVID

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, delivers his third and final keynote address to the 2022 Lambeth Conference held at The University of Kent in the United Kingdom.
Neil Turner

On the evening of Saturday, July 30th, 2022, I went to bed with a sore throat. After the week I had which entailed a visit to a local nursing home and a couple of funerals, I thought I had been talking to much and just needed to give my voice a rest. The next morning with two liturgies in Deer Lake, with the 11:00 am suppose to be a baptism and a “Come Home Year Celebration” that evening in Howley, I did not feel well. It was not like a sinus infection which I had had a few weeks before; this was different. So, what did I do? I took a COVID rapid test. What was the result? Positive for COVID. In a rush to get everything covered and notify the family seeking baptism that it would not be happening as planned, I began my period of self- isolation, and I took in the sessions of The Lambeth Conference which were being livestreamed from Canterbury, Kent.

Just as sports fans look to see for their favourite player on television, I was looking for bishops that I knew; in particular our three Newfoundland and Labrador bishops. As sick as I was, I would get excited when I would see a bishop that I knew. I took in all that I could during that time of suffering with COVID, with the lack of appetite, the lack of energy and all the yucky stuff associated with it; I got excited for what I was hearing and what it is that we need to do and to be in order to be “God’s Church for God’s World.”

In the third of a series of keynote addresses delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he closed with these words taking the marks of mission of the 5 T’s: Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, and Treasure. This quotation is from him: “The Anglican Communion is one part of [the] multitude. Is it argumentative? Oh yes. Is it diverse? Immensely. Is it God’s holy people? Certainly. Let us go out together in obedience—sent out, as God’s church for God’s world.”

This gave me hope. This gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a reminder of something that I had been told before I was ordained: that I needed to broaden my view of the Church from being the little dot on the map that had a boundary from the Quarry Bridge to the West Side of LeDrew’s Road in Conception Bay South. It gave me the nudge that I did not realize that I needed. It gave me the realization that we need not just another building that people pass by and wonder what its purpose is. The purposes and the realization in this hope are that we are part of the kingdom of God, and it has a whole lot more than cassocks and collars, organs and pews, parish councils and budgets. It is something real and tangible in the here and now, just as well as it is of the future. It is the full expression of “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

This gave me the inspiration to take the gifts that God has given to me as a priest, and to know that we as a Church, if we are to be God’s Church for God’s world, need to be active. We need to be active in our congregations, parishes, deaneries, and dioceses. There are those who voice doom and gloom because of the pandemic. Now is the time to prove them wrong and be what it is that God is calling us to be. God is calling us to be faithful. God is calling us to  tell others about love, to teach them about hope, to tend to their needs, to transform their lives and to treasure this place we live in. We do not need to be bishops or priests to do this. We are all part of this, and we all need to encourage one another. After all, we are argumentative, diverse, and holy. In being argumentative, diverse, and holy, let us be obedient so that we can be God’s Church for God’s world.

I guess it was a good thing for me to come down with COVID, because it is the closet I will get to Lambeth. Now it is time of all of us to be God’s Church for God’s world.

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