This week my thoughts have turned away from the Tiber in Rome to the Thames in England (thinking about Pastor Steve’s column in The British Lutheran). Actually the river I should have been thinking about is the River Stour because on it lies the cathedral city of Canter-bury and on Thursday the enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, occurred.
Actually there were two enthronements – two separate thrones! – as Archbishop Welby be-came the diocesan bishop of Canterbury and then also the Primate of All England. It is in this role that he also becomes the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion numbering any-where between 75 – 85 million (depending on your source).
There was lots of pomp and pageantry to the event. There were processions and covenant affirmation (with Churches Together in England and their co-presidents of which he has become one) and hymns and even African dancing. From all accounts – and I’m sure it would have been – it was a won-derful occasion.
The blogosphere took a somewhat jaundiced view however. (Well, the few blogs I skimmed.) If there was a comment – dare I say, a complaint or criticism – and a similar one was made about the recent events in Rome – it was about the disconnect that appears to exist between the organisational church now and Jesus back then – between pageantry and simplicity – between wealth and poverty – between power and service – between copes and aprons. It appears that the Archbishop knocking three times on the West Door for entry into his cathe-dral (granted him by royal decree) seems a far cry from Jesus entering Jerusalem on a don-key.
Here is the tension. The Christian Church – the Church of Jesus Christ – needs to present to the world that it is the crowd welcoming the King – the one who rode a donkey to his corona-tion on a cross as he wore a crown of thorns – yet one who appreciated the lavish anointing given him for his death and burial (John 12:1-8) by Mary and he refused to criticise her for it nor let others do so. Both are snapshots of the King. Whether Jesus’ representatives wear finery or rags – pride can exist irrespective of the wardrobe – what is most important is that they serve … in Jesus’ name. That is what Jesus insisted on when the disciples talked of power and authority and greatness, that Jesus was among them as one who serves and the greatest in his kingdom is similar – one who serves (irrespective of the clothing). — GS
PS. I did find it interesting that it seemed newsworthy to note that the Archbishop actually wore second-hand vestments. Imagine that! (Good for him.)