Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Half Naked Dancers and Grass Skirts

It is so annoying - from the perspective of one who is attending Lambeth - to see how some of the headlines, and indeed reports themselves, seem to trivialise our work and celebrations.

I mentioned before that moving moment at the heart of our Opening Eucharist when Melanesian Religious (Sisters and Brothers) lovingingly placed the Gospel Book in a model boat and carried it, accompanied by their energetic dance and pipe music.

In one report the headline stated 'Shindig begins with nerves and half-naked dancers'. Another inanely found it necessary to refer to 'grass skirts in the aisles'. This is an international gathering! Doh!

One report states:

Then the entertainment began. The gospel reading about the uprooting of weeds was preceded by a troupe of Melanesian dancers, wearing grass skirts and playing pan pipes.

First of all, it was not entertainment. It was an act of solemn Christian worship at the outset of our celebration, in this Conference, of the life of the Anglican Communion, however vulnerable or imperfect. Second, the Gospel Book was carried, not by 'a troupe of Melanesian dancers' but by some of those - men and women - who have heard God's call to give their lives to ministry, who work in challenging and demanding parts of the worlds, and whose commitment, sacrifice and joy put many of ours to shame.

In their traditional dress, with care and love, energy and protection they took the Gospel Book and placed it in a boat (a symbol of the heart of their life, their communication and their survival as island communities) and brought it through the Quire, under the pulpitum (screen) and down the steps to the east end of the Nave (amid the body of the Cathedral - itself emblematic of the Ark of Noah; the Church as a boat) where the Gospel was read from the Compass Rose - the symbol of worldwide Anglicanism, where the Good News was proclaimed by the Deacon. A message announced to all parts of the world.

As it was read the Brothers and Sisters gathered around it, as we are all doing, more than ever - gathering around the Scriptures - in this Conference.

So much for 'shindig and half naked dancers' - that's not what I witnessed!

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