(Source: Anglican Communion News Service)
More than 2,000 people from around the world gathered in Canterbury Cathedral for a celebration marked by traditional elements of Anglican worship blended with contemporary music, vibrant Ghanaian dancing and African drums, a Punjabi hymn and a blessing spoken in French.
Guests included clergy from across the Church of England; and lay people including the UK’s Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron. A host of ecumenical guests were present including well-known US megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren, a friend of Archbishop Welby. All but one of the Anglican Communion Primates had travelled to Canterbury for the inauguration and the members of the Standing Committee were also present.
The event saw the Archbishop installed as both Bishop of Canterbury—by, for the first time in history, a female Archdeacon—and Primate of All England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is also the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
After working their way up the cathedral, Dean Robert Willis “seated” Archbishop Welby in the Chair of St Augustine.The Archbishop was then blessed by one of the Anglican Communion’s primates Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi.
The Archbishop of Canterbury then publicly committed himself to the service of the Anglican Communion, “that together we may proclaim the Gospel of Christ, who reconciles us to God and breaks down the walls that divide us.”
He began his inaugural sermon by saying, “We are an international community…” and went on to speak of the need to recognise Jesus as the Son of God. Heeding the call of Christ, he cautioned, involves taking risks and as a result, “the Church suffers.”
He turned towards all the Primates of the Communion and said, “I look at the Anglican leaders here and remember that in many cases round the world their people are scattered to the four winds or driven underground — by persecution, by storms of every sorts, even by cultural change. Many Christians are martyred now as in the past.”
Following the sermon, five representatives from the Communion presented gifts symbolic of their home regions. The Bishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani presented a wooden cross; Ms Adele Finney of Canada shared the gift of water; Mrs Real Kewasis of Kenya brought packets of bread and milk; the Revd Peter Koon, provincial secretary of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, presented a picture of rice shaped in the form of his province; and the Revd Desire Mukanirwa of the Democratic Republic of Congo brought a wooden carving of a volcano to express the desire for peace.
Members of the Anglican Communion not only participated in the cathedral service, but also via TV and radio. Dean Willis invited those in the cathedral and also those “sharing in this service in your home to pray with me in the words that Christ our Lord has taught us, saying each in our own language, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…’ ”
Reconciliation was a dominant theme noted by Standing Committee member Bishop Ian Douglas who said, “The theme of reconciliation came through in the music and the work of the Anglican Communion was clearly evident. In Jesus all our differences are reconciled and our vocation is to be agents of reconciliation and not to be afraid.”
The Revd Dr Sarah Macneil of Australia, also on the Standing Committee, said the service was, “fantastic and it was wonderful to be involved. I loved to see the young people and the Communion so affirmed.”
One of those young people was Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a 17-year-old student from Canterbury, who greeted the Archbishop as he entered the cathedral with three questions: Why he had come? Why had he been sent? How he had come among the gathering?
The Archbishop responded by talking about seeking grace, proclaiming the love of Christ and saying that he had come “knowing nothing except Jesus Christ.” Evangeline, whose family is part of the worshipping life of the Cathedral, said afterwards she felt very privileged to be able to take part in the service.
Bishop of Malawi, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, spoke of the importance of the service to the Communion and of the key role the new Archbishop will play throughout the world.
The Revd Canon John Peterson, president of the Compass Rose Society, commented that there was a “wonderful sense of a new beginning centering on the theme of reconciliation. Nothing,” he added, “could be more important.”