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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Archbishop of York's Tent

I saw a post at Catholic Sensibility that touched me - it spoke of a recent interview in the Guardian with the Archbishop of York. I'm going to post bits from the interview below, but first, here's a little about the Archbishop, John Sentamu, from Wikipedia ...

John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, FRSA (born 10 June 1949) is the Archbishop of York. He is the first member of a racial minority to serve as an archbishop in the Church of England. Sentamu was born in 1949 in a village near Kampala, Uganda, the sixth of thirteen children. He was educated for the law at Makerere University and practised as an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. Sentamu was appointed a High Court judge in 1973 at the age of 24 by the newly-ascendent Idi Amin; his judicial independence earned the dictator's ire, however, and he suffered threats and physical violence before fleeing to the United Kingdom in 1974 ....

... His enthronement was remarkable as it combined the sombre church protocol of enthronement with African singing and dancing and contemporary worship music. The Archbishop himself played African drums during the service. In an unprecendented step, Archbishop Sentamu also opted for the distribution of picnic bags for all who attended the service ....

... Early in 2006, Archbishop Sentamu was featured prominently in the British press for his comments on what he saw as injustices over the treatment of alleged prisoners of war in Guantanamo Bay ...

Most recently, the Archbishop has been in the news because of a fast he has been undergoing in solidarity with those impacted by the Middle East conflict. Snips from the Guardian interview - Inside is an odd place to pitch a tent - are below ...


.... Inside the great cathedral, a small, hunched figure, dressed in purple, prayed. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, the Church of England's first black primate, has foregone his summer holiday this year - he was meant to be going to Salzburg to enjoy some Mozart with his wife - in favour of seven days of prayer and fasting for peace in the Middle East and beyond. o ensure that his sacrifice does not go unnoticed, Sentamu is carrying out his week of prayer and fasting right in the heart of his cathedral, and in dramatic fashion: he has pitched a small mountaineering tent - green, with an Episcopal purple lining - in front of the altar in one of the minster's side chapels.

The sign hanging from the railings surrounding the small chapel of St John the Evangelist announces that there will be prayers on the hour, every hour, between 9am and 5pm this week. It adds: "And the archbishop will be sleeping here each night ...

... t was stream of stories coming out of Lebanon in the past few weeks that inspired his week in the tent, says the archbishop.

"Early in the war, I was watching BBC television news and Jeremy Bowen came on in a hospital in Lebanon and there was an eight-year-old girl who had lost her right eye and he said her parents had been killed and she hadn't been told yet. It was like a bayonet went into my heart. It just got to me.

"Then, a week or two later, there was Jeremy Bowen again in a village wrecked by rocket fire and there was an old woman, 85 years old. Most people had left and only the elderly and infirm remained behind. She could have been my mother. I found myself so devastated. My prayers were just crying out to God. This was atrocious. I couldn't get it out of my mind.

"People were asking me what they could do and I was giving them the usual glib answers like prayer, but my prayers were getting quite difficult. I knew I wouldn't achieve much writing to the prime minister. My feeling of helplessness was getting to me. I was becoming numb and I thought I had to pray. The question was where?" ...

... "I think this has taught me to listen and not to grumble," he says. "We as a church are preoccupied with sexual morality, but there is a more important morality in terms of poverty, justice and equality. This has been helpful. One drop of water cannot turn a water wheel but many drops can." ...

... I tell him that his fast started on Sunday and by Monday there was a ceasefire. He shrugs. "The more I pray, the more coincidences there are," he laughs.



Blogger Steve Bogner said...

I hope that his spirit catches on and spreads - we need bishops like him, Anglican or otherwise.

8:43 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Steve - yes, I agree.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Liam said...

Nice post, Crystal. I heartily third Steve's opinion.

9:46 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam :-)

11:53 AM  
Blogger Deloney said...

Hi Crystal. I was surfing through your archives (no, I mean it!) and I came across something. You said you had some sort of "spiritual experience" before you became Christian/Catholic, and Liam said he'd had a "conversion experience." I wish you both, or anyone else, would write something about it.

I remember how pissed off I was when I read C.S. Lewis's autobiography -- "Surprised by Joy." I wanted to know what led him to Chrisitanity. I already knew he had had long conversations with Tolkien and some other guy about the idea of "a myth made real," but that wasn't what conveerted him. Lewis said (I'm paraphrasing a bit): I decided to go to the zoo one day. On the way to the zoo I was not a believer. By the time I got to the zoo I was.

Huh? More info, please!

Anyway, I wish you and Liam (or anyone) would say something about those mysterious experiences you had.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

We as a church are preoccupied with sexual morality, but there is a more important morality in terms of poverty, justice and equality.

He is so right. What's the problem if consenting adults have fun in other ways than the missionary position between married heterosexuals? It doesn't kill anyone. War and hunger do.

I hope that if there is someone above us, he'll listen to John's prayers.

1:55 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Gabriele - I agree with you ... I think maybe sometimes people are creeped out about same-sex relationships for more atavistic reasons than religious ones - a sub-conscious thing. But we aren't insects in a hive and we don't need to kill the one who's different to protect our integrity. OK, now I'm really going to hell :-)

Deloney - hi!

I want to hear Liam's conversion story too (hint, hint).

Before I was a christian, I had some experiences of that feeling people sometimes get of being part of a greater whole, of a longing for something, a feeling of awe, - usually when looking at the stars, or the trees, etc. But I didn't know what to think of it.

I had one ... ahem ... drug experience when a teen, and thought I saw Jesus ... obviously of debatable worth.

But the one experience I had that seemed the most real was when I was taking that online retreat. When I started the retreat, I was agnostic at best. I was making my bed, and I had a sudden overwhelming feeling, like being in the path of a warm breeze, kind of. No voices, no images, just feelings that conveyed to me that God loved me, that he not only wanted me to be happy, but that he had a stake in my happiness. It was such a strong feeling that it made me cry. And it was so real - I felt his feelings, it seemed - that I didn't doubt it while it was happening ... until later that night :-)

All this stuff is subjective, of course, but I haven't yet given up hope that what I experienced was real, in part because it surprised me ... I had thought God didn't care if I was happy, only if I was good.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Deloney said...

Men with AIDS raping women in Africa kill. And in the West Indies. And black men who refuse to wear condoms. Here in Toronto the cases of AIDS are up 30%. The ads up in the subway stations, showing young black women, advising them to be careful, are paid for by West Indian Associations run by young black women. Fucking can kill when the men are scumbags. This issue was dealt with during the World AIDS Conference here in Toronto this past week.

The kidnapping of boys to be sex slaves for soldiers in Africa was briefly mentioned. Unprotected anal sex wasn't mentioned outright but it was referred to in a very politically correct veilled manner by a few female speakers.

3:53 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I read in Wikipedia about children used in war ... pretty awful - wiki link

But did you meet one of the Bills?

5:00 PM  
Blogger Deloney said...

No, I didn't meet the Bills. It would have been cool if I had!

The one thing that came out of this Conference, the only stuff that mattered, was from women. Clinton hinted at it, but the men were too scared to say too much. The black women stated the case, and that's what made the whole thing so powerful. These black women on the stage, articulate women, said over and over again that black men in their countries treated women as cattle, as fuck-wads. And if those men got sick from AIDS, they thought they could cure it by raping children.

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

5:39 PM  

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