A MOST ENJOYABLE EVENING BEGAN WITH ARCHBISHOP ROWAN WILLIAMS…
MONDAY 27TH JANUARY 2014
A most enjoyable evening began with Archbishop Rowan Williams on 27th January 2014 at Magdalene College, Cambridge. A gathering of guests for light refreshments. It was a time to meet our guests. Forty people joined Ben Bano [Forum co-chair] Margaret Mc Gettrick [Forum vice-chair], Arthur Hawes [forum secretary] and Georgina Long [Forum trustee], for this fundraising event. Service users were well represented and some guests travelled long distances to join us. Guests were also generous in supporting our raffle.
Arthur introduced the work of the forum and later gave an appreciation of the contribution of the late Peter Gilbert to the work of the Forum. Arthur skilfully and sensitively guided the conversation around four themes: mental health and spirituality, the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, theology and poetry. At the end of each section, audience participation was encouraged.
Dr Williams expressed his deep belief in the incarnation. We should expect to see Jesus alongside people whose lives are bruised. He spoke of the importance of relationship and considered the downgrading of the ‘’relational’ in favour of the ‘professional’, a tragedy in the NHS. When we try to relate to people with communication difficulties, it is we who are the ones with the leaning disability. Relationship can’t exist without love, which is a really demanding attention to the other. We can’t train people in how to love. We can train them to behave as if they do, and then we find they do it.
Nothing prepares a person to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the beginning he wondered himself, if it was a do-able job because of its complexity. As a bishop in Kent he tried to visit Canterbury once a fortnight, to include one parish service. With 80 million Anglican communions world wide, he made 40-50 visits abroad. He met leaders from other faiths. As Primate of all England, he had responsibilities in the public sphere within the House of Lords. He was also President of the General Synod of Bishops. As a National spokesman for Christians he was often involved with the press, which could be difficult at times. His global ministry was one of the more challenging aspects of his work because it required cultural sensitivity to diverse cultures.
A well functioning church should have a clear core with flexible edges. There has been a decline in loyalty to the Christian faith, but a feeling for the framework has not completely disappeared at times such as at times of birth death and marriage.
Chaplaincy has an important role in sustaining the well being of the institution.
With regard to his role at Magdalene College, he mentioned three current projects he is involved with. A memorial fund was being established in memory of the late Nelson Mandela, who was an honorary fellow of the college, which it was hoped would support both research and a professorship in African Studies. The college also hoped to honour the memory of Peter Peckard who was instrumental in the fight against slavery. It was hoped to connect a prize, with work on modern forms of slavery. There was also a hope to build a new undergraduate library.
Dr Williams spoke of his love of icons and poetry. Poetry helps us to listen to words in a different way. As a poet himself, he often begins with a line or an image which he then ‘lets simmer on the stove,’ for a while. Sometimes words come in a rush but at other times the words come lowly. He read a poem from one of his compilations entitle ‘Death ship’, written in memory of one of his favourite poets R.S. Thomas. It ended with the words ‘we wait poised for his spring.’ He often writes on the plane while on his numerous travels.
A relaxed, informal and enjoyable evening was had by all. Ben made a presentation to Dr Williams as a mark of appreciation.