The opening Eucharist of the 17th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-17) included what one observer described as “a fascinating mixture of sounds”. Among them was the opening hymn accompanied by organ and brass instruments, the solemn silence of prayer for the victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka and the resonating crashing sound of a Chinese gong.
The celebrant of the liturgy was Archbishop Paul Kwong, the Chair of ACC-17 as well as the host primate of the province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. The preacher was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The celebration took place at St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong, which is marking its 170th anniversary during 2019. The congregation included the ACC-17 delegates, staff and ecumenical guest from around the Anglican Communion, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, laity clergy, and bishops and of the province.
In his sermon, Archbishop Justin – citing the biblical readings of the day (Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31) referenced the Resurrection and the courage of Peter and the disciples. He acknowledged the difficulty faced by some of the delegates.
“Many here, like Peter, have had your faith tested under difficult circumstances, some of you under circumstances nearly impossible”, he said. “Thank you for standing firm in your faith. Not only are you standing firm in your faith, you are also sharing your faith like Peter who took advantage of the situation of being challenged to share”
He expressed grief about the persecution of Christians especially those attacked and killed in Colombo and other towns last weekend.
He spoke about the theme of ACC-17, “Equipping God’s people: going deeper in Intentional Discipleship”, and how intentional discipleship is known by different names around the Communion.
He closed the sermon by challenging the congregation to witness in all aspects of their life: “witness calls us to discipleship, at home, at work, in every place and moment so that the body of Christ grows”.
The congregation at St John's Cathedral, Hong Kong, for the official openning of ACC-17
Photo: Old Dog / St John's Cathedral
Following the Prayer after Communion, the official opening of this week’s ACC-17 meeting took place. Archbishop Paul warmly welcomed the delegates representing 40 provinces and 160 countries to the Province of Hong Kong and Macau.
He explained that, “Hong Kong literally means ‘Fragrant Harbour’ and was named this because of the spice trade in the old days”, he said. “I believe that a disciple gives off the ‘Fragrance of Christ’ in daily life. My prayer is that ACC-17 can help our Anglican Communion to become a giver of the ‘Fragrance of Christ’ to the world.”
Archbishop Justin offered a prayer for guidance and then declared the ACC-17 open by striking a ceremonial gong three times. “I enjoyed that”, he was heard to observe afterwards.