Wycliffe Enjoys a Day with the Archbishop of Canterbury
Wednesday April 18th, 2007
Article by Chris Dowdeswell, 3rd year M.Rel student
The Most. Rev. and Rt. Hon. Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, visited Wycliffe College on Monday, April 16. In honour of his visit, Principal Sumner declared a moratorium on all final assignments due that day, garnering both the affections and the attendance of his student body. The day began with enthusiastic students, faculty, and staff filling the Founder’s Chapel for a traditional Morning Prayer service. Wycliffe students Nick Trussell, diocese of Ontario, and Laura Goodwin, diocese of Western Massachusetts, presided alongside the Wycliffe Chapel wardens, the Rev. Canon Dr. Linda Nicholls and the Rev. Mark Andrews. The Wycliffe College praise band and organists Megan Crane and Jack Hattey provided musical accompaniment, and Professor John Bowen gave a short reflection on Christian unity. The service ended with a blessing given by the Archbishop.
After leaving the service, the Archbishop attended a press conference before returning to Wycliffe for an afternoon ‘Question and Answer’ session. Students and faculty from both Wycliffe and Trinity College attended, as well as a large number of clergy and bishops. One of the first of many provocative questions asked during the session was from a Wycliffe doctoral student, Andrew Adkins, who asked the Archbishop, “Why aren’t you a Roman Catholic?” Other questions delved into a wide range of issues, including the Anglican Communion’s response to the ecological crisis, the state of the Communion’s evolving ecclesiology, and the one that most delighted the Archbishop to answer (probably due to its unexpected nature) came from a Trinity doctoral student interested in his academic research into the life of the Russian Orthodox theologian Sergii Bulgakov. Questions were fielded for about an hour and a half.
The Archbishop and most of those in attendance then ventured across Hoskin Avenue to the MacMillan Theatre for the Archbishop’s convocation ceremony and lecture. The convocation was a joint ceremony of both Wycliffe and Trinity Colleges in which the colleges each awarded the Archbishop an honorary doctor of divinity degree. As the public filed into the theatre they were greeted by the piano playing skills of Mr. Christopher Ku, Bevan Organ Scholar of Trinity College. David Neelands, Dean of Divinity at Trinity College, began the ceremony with an opening prayer, and Margaret MacMillan, Vice-Chancellor and Provost of Trinity College welcomed those in attendance. Presenting the honorary graduand on behalf of Wycliffe was the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Edmonton, and Principal Sumner conferred the degree. Presenting on behalf of Trinity was Professor Andy Orchard, and Margaret MacMillan conferred their degree. Principal Sumner then gave the official dismissal of convocation, and the stage was cleared for the Archbishop to present the annual Larkin-Stuart Lecture, entitled, “The Bible Today: Reading and Hearing.”
The Archbishop’s lecture enlightened the audience to the church’s identity as the community of hearers. The following is an all-too-brief summary of the lecture:
Scripture is heard in the event where the community affirms its identity and seeks its renewal. This requires developing the skills needed to explore the relationship between the scriptural and current contexts and to discern the conversion the Scripture calls from us. A Eucharistic setting decisively and authoritatively illuminates such theological hearing by the Spirit constructing the community of Christ’s Body, but neither Scripture nor Eucharist makes sense without commitment to the resurrection of Jesus as the fundamental condition of a Church whose identity is realised in the listening and responding of conversion. Scripture brings us back to the grace of a free self-bestowal that can create and transform the other into a sharer and communicator of the same joyful, generative act.
The Archbishop left the audience with 1 John 1:1-3 as the crux of his message:
“The word of life…[that] we have seen and heard we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.”
Following the lecture was another provocative but brief question and answer period before the Rev. Mark Andrews, Rector of St. Thomas’ Church, gave an expression of thanks to the Archbishop.