By Rachel Farmer
The Big Hello will connect attendees to their companion link diocese or provide the opportunity for new ones to be started. Photo: Lambeth Conference Company
Anglican Parishes and dioceses across England, Wales and Scotland are gearing up to welcome more than 1,000 Anglican bishops and spouses from across the globe in July 2020.
The delegates, who will be attending the 15th Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will travel from over 165 countries from across the Communion.
The event provides an opportunity to build relationships and create new ones, not just between bishops and spouses, but between churches, dioceses, communities and countries across the world. And the Lambeth Conference Company is helping coordinate the special welcome called ‘The Big Hello’ – that will be rolled out from churches.
According to Phil George, Lambeth Conference Company CEO, the conference is a once-a-decade international event for which the hospitality is really important. He said: “Our prayer is that it creates a chance to say ‘a big hello’ to one another and learn from cultures and traditions in other settings.”
The Big Hello will connect attendees to their companion link diocese or provide the opportunity for new ones to be started. So far over 84% of bishops and spouses booked into the conference are taking part.
“One of the joys of the Lambeth Conference is that we have many people from across the world together to share what we have in common,” Mike Fawcett, the Diocese of Rochester’s Companion link coordinator, said. “It will be a truly joyful celebration…”
Welcomes will begin from the moment attendees arrive at airports through to travel to their accommodation in churches and communities. Parishes taking part have a range of activities planned including parish visits, pilgrimages, local sightseeing and community days.
Along with vital rest and relaxation after long journeys, bishops and spouses will be able to join in local church services, enjoy a range of activities from cricket matches to visits to tourist spots. There will also be opportunities for dialogue on key issues and sharing ideas on ministry and mission.
Maika Scales, Zambia programme coordinator in the Diocese of Bath and Wells said,
“We just love it when we get to meet international bishops particularly and we love it when we get to hear what life is like for them, so it’s a great opportunity to get all churches and young people and well people from all ages involved and to hear what international bishops do in their field and in their countries.”
A Reader in the Diocese of Chester, Alison Linfield, said she is looking forward to the arrival of their Lambeth visitors. “One of the things I’m particularly interested in is around the climate change issue and the impact that’s having in the Solomon Islands,” she said. “We’re arranging school visits so that the Melanesia bishops can go to two schools and one of the Congo bishops can go to another school and the children can hear first-hand what some of the issues are.”
Many of the hosts see the hospitality as a chance to learn from one another’s cultures. Diocesan Secretary and Cathedral Administrator in the Diocese of Leicester, Jonathan Kerry said, “I hope that people in the Leicester Diocese will experience the warmth of the way in which people live out their faith in different cultures and situations around the world…. understanding that fundamentally underneath the skin we’re all the same, even though we live our lives in very different contexts and in different ways.”
Canon Ian Woodford from the Diocese of Salisbury, said: “It’s about fellowship, it’s about trust, it’s about developing long term relationships and helping to bring about a peaceful environment in which everybody can prosper in God’s love.”
Following the hospitality period from 15 – 22 July, the host diocese will transport delegates to Canterbury for the start of the Lambeth Conference which will run from 23 July to 2 August 2020.
Churches and dioceses hosting or sending bishops to the Lambeth Conference, can find out more about the initiative on the Lambeth Conference website.
Anglican Communion News Service, December 13, 2019