I arrived home during the night: 812 km, 2 petrol stops, 3 lots of services, 1 Travelodge, 1 three and a half hour ferry journey, 1 bag of mint imperials, 2 large americanos (each with an extra shot) .... you get the picture ... later.
My time had come to leave: over three weeks away from home and a packed conference schedule of unrelenting activity. I am glad I saved my days off to the end and that I left the party while it was still going strong. The welcome home from my sons was out of this world: we have never been apart for such a long period, and I did not find it easy.
On my way home I came to the village of Leap (pronounced 'Lep' - almost 'Lip', but not quite). Glancing down I saw that it is precisely 500 miles (800 Km) from Canterbury to Leap. Leap is part of the ancient ecclesiastical and civil parish of Kilmacabea. (More important, my mother in law comes from there!). It and Canterbury are worlds apart - in one sense. In another they are close, for tradition tells us that Saint Patrick travelled as far as a rocky promontory a little to the east of here and, looking westwards over the parish of Kilmacabea towards Cape Clear (the island birthplace of St Ciarán) , decided to go no further as 'Saint Ciarán has already been here.' While Christianity was already here long before Augustine arrived in Canterbury both places go back a long way in a shared pilgrimage of faith.
And this prompts me to ask, what will the Lambeth Conference 2008, nearing its closing formalities and ceremonies in Canterbury, mean in Leap, Co. Cork and in thousands of parishes like it all over the world?
Let me answer that by saying that I enjoyed most the fellowship and friendship in our indaba groups and, most especially, in our Bible study group. The other day we were busy handing out our business cards so that we may keep in touch with each other and pray for one another. Cards were flying in all directions, prompting me to quip that I had so many cards from different provinces that when I got home I would have enough for a game of happy families!
My overarching sense, therefore, of this, my first experience of a Lambeth Conference, is of a family, an ecclesial family, part of the family of Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, covenanted already to one another by our baptism. Yes, this, like all families, is not always a happy one, not least when particular challenges are faced or disagreements arise, however, in the last three weeks I have heard no one saying that we are not part of the same family.
If in coming years (and it will not be achieved by tomorrow's close of Lambeth 2008 - in fact, if there is pressure to reach solutions by tomorrow that would amount to collapsing the scum - see below) we can find a way of continuing our pilgrimage together while accommodating the difference and diversity in our midst we will, under God, have manifested what is surely the attraction and genius of the Anglican way.