An intern working in the communications department of the Anglican Communion, Amelia Brown, reflects on her past nine months working in London.
Do you ever have those moments in life that make you pause and wonder “How did I manage to get here?” I’ve had quite a few of those over the nine months I have spent as a communications intern with the Anglican Communion Office, and last week I had yet another. Last Wednesday, I sat surrounded by communications professionals from across Europe in a hot room in Geneva. We were reviewing the communications plan for the Pope’s visit to the ecumenical body known as the World Council of Churches, and I truly wondered just what series of events had landed me there.
The next day I stood with a crowd of staff members and volunteers with the World Council of Churches (or WCC), waiting for Pope Francis to arrive. We all clutched our phones, edging to the front of the crowd, all strategising the best possible photo, and laughing in excitement. Nothing builds community quite like anticipation. And then there he was, Pope Francis.
While it would have been easy to stay caught up in the awe of the moment, there wasn’t time. Moreover, the message of the day was even more commanding than the presence of the Pope himself. The WCC, already a leading player in the global ecumenical movement, and the Pope shared a message of walking together, of being united in Christ.
“Whenever we say ‘Our Father’, we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism,” Pope Francis said in his speech to the WCC’s Central Committee.
This message is critical for churches everywhere, including within our own Anglican Communion. I couldn’t help but noticed the similarity between this event’s slogan of “Walking, praying and working together,” and that of the upcoming 2020 Lambeth Conference “God’s Church for God’s World: Walking, listening, and witnessing together.” This joint message of the WCC and Pope Francis, provides encouragement, and direction for each of us.
This message gave me much to think on, particularly as I met the Anglican Communion’s Representative to the United Nations, Jack Palmer-White, for a visit to the UN in Geneva last Friday. I sat in the Human Rights Council meeting, reflecting on the fact that the United States, my home country, had chosen to back out of the Council. Clearly the question of unity is one for the entire world, for Christian and atheist, for Church and state. This makes Pope Francis’ call for friendship within the Body of Christ all the more poignant. How can we ask the rest of the world to stand together, to work together to end poverty, uphold human rights, bring peace, if the Church fails to take the lead?
We live in anxious times, but I found encouragement in the message of “Walking, praying and working together.” I believe that for all trials we face as a Church, we are united in the one faith of Jesus Christ. We can be a light to the nations and set an example of the impact unity makes. Each of us is critical to making that a reality. So now, as I reflect back on that moment of awe while working with the WCC, I’ve realised that asking “How did I get here?” is the wrong question. The better one is “What can I do now that I am here?”