[Primates 2016 Blog] The Anglican Communion is uniquely precious – and vital for our shared Anglican mission, writes the Bishop of Lynn, Jonathan Meyrick.
Last year the Diocese of Norwich undertook two pilgrimages within the wider Communion. The first, like many pilgrimages, was to the Holy Land, led by the diocesan bishop and one of his suffragans. There was a particular focus on the work of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem in caring for the needs of so many people on all sides of the political divides.
The second was rather more unusual. Bishop Graham and his other suffragan led a party of ten from the Diocese to Papua New Guinea and the Anglican Church there.
We in Norwich have had a link with them since the early 1970s as the first Archbishop of the new province of Papua New Guinea was a Norfolk boy, growing up in a vicarage in the west of the diocese. Over the years the link has waxed and waned a little, but we probably have more people in the diocese now with a personal knowledge of the church there than we have ever had.
But it wasn’t just us from Norwich making up the pilgrimage party. We were joined by seven others from the Diocese of Waiapu in the Church of New Zealand, and four from Rockhampton Diocese in Queensland, Australia, including both diocesan bishops. We came from three separate Provinces in the Anglican Communion, and joined together to visit a fourth Province, with which we each had links.
A few of us knew a very small number of people from the dioceses, and about one sixth of us had been to PNG before, so the pilgrimage enabled a significant number of people from all three of our dioceses to experience the reality of church and local life in a new, and for most of us, very different Province in the Communion.
That alone made it an extraordinary experience. But we also learned something of each other, and established contact and friendships with fellow pilgrims from two other countries and cultures. A rich tapestry indeed.
Between us, we covered the five Dioceses of the Anglican Church of PNG. Some of us swam in the South Pacific and visited parts of the Province that had not received pilgrims before. Others were treated to the extraordinary sight of Dogura Cathedral, near the spot where the first Anglican missionaries landed over one hundred years ago. Still others witnessed the consecration of a new church and the confirmation of two hundred teenagers and slept – all seven of them together – in one room, on the floor and under a leaking roof.
Many themes emerged. The extraordinary welcome everywhere. The enthusiasm of a faith kindled and nurtured in a century of martyrdom. A land which combines breathtaking beauty, subsistence farming, vast natural resources; generosity and hospitality. A sense of shared companionship along the way – both with fellow pilgrims, and with those among whom we made our pilgrimage. A very obvious sense of mutual encouragement. A vibrant, devout worship which combined all Anglican roots, local culture and traditions – and fresh, modern interpretations. And the realization of how much it meant – that others from so far away thought that PNG could be a place of pilgrimage.
Clearly we didn’t all think the same, and clearly our worlds were not the same. But our common faith was, as was a sense of growing commitment to one another. So it was a very precious pilgrimage indeed, which reinforced the unique preciousness of the Anglican Communion. Holding on to it is a key part of our Anglican Mission.