I attended the opening night banquet of the Dean’s conference last evening. One of the lovely features of the Dean’s Conference is that Dean’s and their spouses from all over North America are automatically invited, and often there are special guests from the wider Communion. Such is the case this year.
I had a chance to visit with the Dean of the Cathedral in Havana Cuba before the meal began. We talked about the church in Cuba and the special challenges it faces – and also about the issues that the nation of Cuba has with the United States and the ongoing embargo. The Dean’s wife was just elected Suffragan Bishop of the Church of Cuba and talked also about the same sorts of issues. They were particularly interested to learn about what the Diocese of Arizona is doing in the border area and most especially of any companion diocese relationships that may be developing with the people Arizona and any of the dioceses of Mexico. There were also two deans in attendance from the U.K. I had the chance to have a lovely conversation with the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. I was in the cathedral there last year for a week in March and we talked about the visit and about how that particular cathedral is governed.
What struck me the most of the whole evening was a simple phrase in the introductory remarks by the Bishop of Ontario (who hosted our gathering). After welcoming us, he spoke of the recent Canadian House of Bishop’s meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury and the sense the Canadians had of where the Communion might be heading. He referenced Rowan William’s remarks made at the Theological Colleges on the next steps in the Communique/Windsor process, but as the bishop was not in attendance at those particular events, he didn’t speak about them any further. Shame. I would have liked to have heard from a person in the room about the emotional tenor of the remarks and of the entire meeting.
But then the Bishop specifically spoke specifically about the gratitude and admiration that he and the rest of the Canadian bishops had for the gifts and generosity of the Episcopal Church. I was rather taken aback by the fact that it’s been years since I’ve been in a meeting outside the Episcopal Church where someone has said “thank you.” Mostly I’ve had the experience of be lectured to or had the actions of the Episcopal Church critiqued. Which is not to say that we don’t deserve being lectured to or having our actions regularly critiqued… but why has it been so long since I’ve heard someone express thanks to the Episcopal Church for its generosity in supporting the ongoing work of the Communion and its intentionality about strengthening the ties between the provinces and dioceses.
Walking home from the dinner I realized that we’ve become so used to bad manners between Anglicans today that it’s become remarkable to encounter the opposite. How extraordinary is that!? The Church used to inculcate the idea among the clergy at least that “Manners maketh the Man.” Somehow we’ve lost sight of the fundamental need in the Episcopal Church to treat each other courteously and we’ve lost the expectation that people in the larger Communion would do so to us.
I wonder how much different the “current unpleasantness” would be if we could just insist on treating each other with common courtesy. (Didn’t Bishop Epting remark to the Primates that he’s been amazed lately that the Episcopal Church is being treated with more kindness and gratitude these days by other denominations with whom we are not in communion than it is by the Anglican Provinces with which we are…)
Oh dear. Reading what I’ve written above, it appears I’m becoming quite the curmudgeon about such things. “Kids these days and their lack of manners…” Sigh. I’ll have to calm myself with a cuppa. And I will. Right after my nap…