18 February 2007

Sunday: Akinola missed out

Today was the day when the primates and sundry hangers-on (yours truly included among them) went to Zanzibar for a festive Eucharist. I think if more people experienced Rowan's preaching and African singing, we'd all be in better shape. The service was held in Christ Church Cathedral, built over the site of the last slave trading post. The image and reality of good triumphing over evil is powerful indeed.

All of the primates went on the trip, with the exception of dissenting bishop Peter Akinola. The other so-called Global South primates attended the service, but appeared to not receive communion. Interestingly, +John Chew did not receive communion, but he was willing to serve in the liturgy distributing consecrated bread. I don't quite understand why one would be a liturgical minister in a service to which one objects in principle, but I'm sure he has worked something out.

For me, the highlights of the service were the music and the sermon. The service was pretty traditional high church liturgy, with bells, incense, and all the trimmings. Most of the service was in English, though parts were said and sung in Swahili. A vested choir led the procession and sung glorious anthems. The congregation -- numbering some 500 -- sang with great gusto, mostly from memory and in four-part harmony. Hundreds more sat outside under tents, watching the service on televisions and listen on loudspeakers.

+Rowan's sermon was brilliant. Delivered in English with interpretation into Swahili, +Rowan spoke a message of God's love and its ability to open us for greating things. He challenged bishops, especially, to be humble. He talked about joining at the Eucharistic table in a rainbow of diversity. And his main point was that there was one thing bishops should say to other bishops: "I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior."

The sermon began with +Rowan's observation that his family's home parish has a memorial to Frank Weston in its entrance. For readers who may not know, Weston had global influence as bishop of Zanzibar, challenging people to live lives that take seriously the Incarnation. That meant, in Weston's view, that one should see each person as Christ. +Rowan also talked about
the slave trade -- and its end. At one time, +Rowan said, this evil was accepted, but light gradually dawned. He wondered what else we might need to learn.

It was hard not to see his sermon as a challenged to the primates to be open, to let love triumph over hatred and fear, and to find ways to stay together. Unfortunately, +Peter Akinola missed all this. He stayed behind in Dar, presumably working with conservative leaders on his next move.

What if his next move was complete love? What if he said to the others: here is where I will begin to sacrifice, and I would like to hear your views? What if he had been fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus with his primatial colleagues? Alas, that was not to be.

NOTE: I'll have many photos up shortly. ACNS should have a sermon transcript up in the next day or so (please read the whole thing). You can read the AP report here.

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