On the 6th and 8th July, the first round of Lambeth Conference Bishop’s Conversations took place.
The bishops met online via Zoom in groups of around 20 and will continue with their group for the duration of the six-month programme.
Exploring what it means to be ‘God’s church for God’s World’, the conversations involve prayer and bible study, and aim to help bishops listen and learn from one another’s ministry settings and experiences.
Last month, the bishops studied 1 Peter 3: 13-16 and shared how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their communities, before praying together.
All of the groups spoke about the way the COVID pandemic has caused fear, isolation, huge loss of life and deep grief that has often been unexpressed, with depression and suicide, hunger and starvation, economic collapse, unemployment, migration and mass poverty. It has hit the poorest, oldest and the disabled most. The pandemic has exposed many economic, racial, regional disparities and exacerbated political tensions and polarities.
Many groups spoke of how in response to the pandemic churches across the Anglican Communion have had to close their buildings and become creative in their use of technology, a learning curve that has often resulted in their reaching hitherto unreached communities of people. There have also been heroic efforts by many churches to provide caring and feeding ministries. Church buildings have been converted into vaccination centres. Mission hospitals have treated COVID patients. Clinics have distributed dry rations, feeding the poor and vulnerable. Groups heard how Christians have joined hands to end hunger, and to offer trauma counselling. Leaders have advocated for dignified burials for COVID victims and for treating people with honour and love, because they are created in God’s image.
Many groups reflected on how the pandemic has caused the church to re-imagine its life: ‘we have been dragged out of our walls’, a re-setting with a sense of renewal and mission, finding new ways of being the church together. For many there has also been a sense of solidarity across the Anglican Communion – ‘we have a greater sense of koinonia, of being part of the Body of Christ and the Communion of saints in a new way.’
The next round of Lambeth Conference Bishops’ Conversations is due to take place on 3 and 5th August.
The sessions will explore being ‘Called in to Hope and Holiness’, based on 1 Peter 1:3 and what it means to ‘Proclaim Good News’.