This poem, by my friend Piers Northam, takes its inspiration from a Pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela. The poem is written at the beginning of the Anglican Lambeth Conference. The Conference gathers Bishops and others from member churches of the Anglican Communion. It is a diverse group with differing opinions on many issues. It can be viewed as a ‘scattered family’ which gets together to celebrate a fellowship which is best described as Koinonia – a fellowship with each other brought together by the Holy Spirit and held by that same Spirit in a Communion with each other.
Sometimes, because of its diversity, there is disagreement and some heart-searching as a compromise is sought. Sometimes because of our separate cultures, it isn’t always possible to agree, at least not at present. The member churches seek to listen and keep talking and praying together under God’s guidance until a new understanding is reached.
Another way of seeing things is as a Pilgrimage to God’s Kingdom which we approach from differing directions – as with the Camino where pilgrims walk from many different places. Conversations, prayers and walking together produces many experiences as we share in the common adventure. Finally each of these ‘ways’ converge. The Camino symbol, tracing the cockle shell (emblem of St. James the fisherman) shows us the paths converging to the same point.
Piers reflects on this as he thinks of what is the nature of the Anglican Communion. There are parallels to be discovered between the Camino and the Anglican Communion. Might it, therefore, be possible to see a positive way forward, not just for Anglicans, but also for Christians of all denominations. Could we be even more brave and see some way forward for inter-faith friendship.
The Anglican mystic and teacher of prayer, Evelyn Underhill, had a belief that our differing views and beliefs are as Chapels in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. It is both a lovely and dynamic thought !