After the near despair of my last few blogs, I am pleased to be able to post something more positive this week.
Few had high hopes for the recent Anglican Primates Meeting. Several Archbishops boycotted the meeting, and there were others who were unable to come for various reasons. The press were kept well away from proceedings, and more than a few commentators wondered if it would be worth all the time, energy and expense which such meetings consume.
By half way through, it appeared to be every bit the anti-climax which many were predicting, with seemingly endless discussions on what it means to be a Primate, and what role these meetings should have in the future. It seemed to many, including me, to be a supreme exercise in ecclesiastical navel-gazing!
And yet there were some surprises on the way.
First and foremost, at the end of the meeting, the Primates who attended, actually seemed to have enjoyed meeting together - in stark contrast to recent meetings. There were smiles, and descriptions of a meeting 'filled with grace'. There was a Eucharist in which everyone participated fully. There was a press conference which summed up the spirit of the week rather than briefing and counter briefing by different pressure groups.
And equally hopeful were the range of statements made at the end, including messages condemning violence against homosexuals, calling for action on climate change, and the end to systemic violence against women and children around the world.
No - it wasn't earth-shattering. No - it won't re-chart the course of the Anglican Communion in 5 days, but it did mark the re-emergence of that intangible and yet vital Christian quality of 'fellowship'.
I had very low expectations of the meeting, but the Archbishop of Canterbury has been shown to be right in pressing on and giving his fellow Primates the time and space to meet without having to 'put the church to rights' all in one go. His patience, forbearance, and the courage not to grasp the nettles have been proved to be exactly what the Communion needs at this time. One can only hope and pray that the 'bonds of affection' which have been re-kindled in Dublin will be allowed to grow.
There are those, of course who have poured scorn on the meeting - not surpisingly, such negative comments have come from those who refused to attend. Many clergy will recognise this phenomenon - the frozen bitterness of those who have decided that they must leave a church because they don't like the direction it is taking. In their minds, the church remains frozen at the moment of their departure, locked in time and space in the midst of the issue that prompted their decision to go. But churches do move on, often with a new creativity emerging after the pain of division - it is just that those who have absented themselves can't see it, simply because they are not there.
Their absence and bitterness should not be allowed to hold the church back from moving forward and discerning the paths of God - because, as the Archbishops in Dublin have shown us, the first rays of a new dawn will warm the hearts of those who remain.