[ACNS] Staff and supporters of the Anglican Communion Office gathered in the chapel of the organisation’s London headquarters last night for the annual Saint Andrew’s Day service to pray for the work of the Communion and its provinces around the world.
The ACO offices, at St Andrew’s House, are housed in a building dedicated in 1974 and which belongs to the Community of St Andrew Trust. The (Dss) Community of St Andrew had moved to this location in 1873 and when the neighbourhood was redeveloped in the early seventies, they built the current St Andrew’s House.
In 2001 the Sisters of the much smaller Community moved to various locations. Some moved to St Mary’s Convent and Nursing Home, Chiswick, where three of the current five now reside. One Sister is sacristan at St Andrew’s House.
The Revd Sister Anita, the former Provincial of the UK Province of the Community of the Sisters of the Church (CSC), and current chair of the St. Andrew’s Trust trustees, preached at the Eucharist and the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, presided.
“As an ordinary member of the Communion I would like to say on behalf of the membership,” Sister Anita said in her sermon. “’Thank you’ to all of you, who in many and various ways work for and support our Anglican Communion.
“Some of you are employed and work for it and others volunteer your time, but in various ways we all belong to this family, which sometimes feels like a continuing mystery and miracle of God’s grace.”
Sister Anita said that “our Communion has an very important role to play in our world today, not only from an evangelistic point of view in spreading the good news of God’s love, but also in our struggles with bringing together different cultures, different strongly held points of view and being able to hold together as a family, being able to agree to disagree, to have a good disagreement.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said, that the function of the Lambeth Conference was that ‘We meet and we talk’. We know how important that is in our world today. Our world faces the challenges of terrorist violence and climate change and how those things effect different countries bringing conflicting interests.”
In addition to the UK, the CSC has Provinces in the Solomon Islands Pacific, Australia and Canada. “We all belong to one Community, the Sisters of the Church,” Sister Anita said. “So we know something of what it means to both respect different cultures Internationally and even within the level of our own Province, when contrary views are being held and expressed, how we need to work together to both hold a position of good disagreement and yet to be able to move forward together.
“You might be thinking by now, why is she going on about stuff we already know? I am doing it because I think it is important that we as members of our Anglican / Episcopal Communion continue to look at the global picture as well as our internal struggles.
“Advent is a time when we remind ourselves of the Second coming and God’s judgement. When we put our struggles and disagreements in the context of the questions that the Lord asks at the end, we might think of different ways of acting. The bigger picture of God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance of all can sometimes give us a different view on putting into practice our strongly held opinions, and when perhaps in practice we need to act more compassionately. We all know that our strength is in our inclusiveness, but it is also in some regards our weakness, in not providing a strongly defined container.”
After speaking about Saint Andrew, Sister Anita reminded the congregation that “We are all called to be disciples of Christ,” adding: “God calls some to take the good news to other parts of the world, but for the majority of us, the call is for us to be disciples in our current home situation.
“How we live our lives, how we put into practice our faith, speaks more loudly than what we say, though sometimes I think we are not as ready as we should be to speak about how our faith is important to us, as opportunities arise.”
And she challenged the congregation with some questions posed in a discipleship programme Pray as you Go, concluding with: “The old challenge [which] we sometimes need reminding of: ‘Is there enough evidence in our lives to convict us of being a Christian?’”