Archbishop speaks from the heart in Norwich
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams
, spoke from the heart about being a Christian in today’s world as well as tackling wide-ranging questions from 600 clergy and lay leaders at Norwich Cathedral
on Saturday morning, November 10. Keith Morris
Being a Christian is inhabiting the space between Jesus saying “Come and see” and then “go and tell” said Dr Williams. “If we begin to see what Jesus sees, we begin to sound like him and say what he says. This is how the Spirit generates faith. We will see other humans as images of God, as something that needs to be nurtured. Then our actions and relationships are transformed.”
Dr Williams looked at three dimensions of faith as a place to stand and see. Firstly confidence: “We should have confidence, not in our own ability, but in where we stand. We need confidence to be courageous and strong enough to ask questions of ourselves, of each other and of society.”
Secondly, literacy: “We should know how to read and understand the world in which we are by knowing where we come from, from the Bible and our history,” said Dr Williams. “Our literacy in the Bible is not all that it might be, we hear small bits on a Sunday bit are not always sure how to knit it all together. We need to see our own story both individually and corporately within the story of Scripture.”
Finally, credibility. “When Christians talk about the world, often it does not sound like the real world which people inhabit,” said Dr Williams. “Do we understand the real human condition, the dark places and the complex character of human beings. Or do we try to flatten it out so that we can cope with it. There is room in our existence and faith for the byways and turnings of the human heart.”
Looking at finding and keeping faith, Dr Williams asked if the church is giving out a message of anxiety or confidence. “There are many issues we have to face, but if we face them with anxiety or panic... then something has gone astray,” he said.
“Keeping faith is not a question of clutching at it like a comfort blanket... but of putting down roots and living in a depth of literacy, that brings the right sort of confidence and the right sort of credibility.”
On fresh expressions of church, Dr Williams said: “The whole church needs to relax a bit about its structures because it is confident that there is more than one good way of being church and of being Christian. A confident church is one that can support more than one sort of church lif.
“The parish system is not dead... but it does not always answer all the questions. Confidence should make us sit a bit light with some aspects of our legacy. At the same time, fresh expressions of church should not be ‘Christianity lite’ but should increase the maturity of faith.”
“We need a sort of fluency about the Bible that allows its transforming power to come through. Unless we can somehow recover the sense of rhythm of God’s power... reading the Bible will remain a puzzling enterprise.”
Dr Williams also answered wide-ranging questions on topics including reaching young people, the credibility of the Bible, other faiths, sexual ethics, the future of the worldwide Anglican communion and the Lambeth Conference and his own inspirations. To read about them, click here.
The Archbishop was on a three-day visit to Norfolk which began on Friday November 9 with a visit to St Mary's Church Hall in Attleborough, where he heard about the challenges facing churches in rural communities.
He then met the chaplaincy team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and saw the work they were doing with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The third leg of his tour took in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at UEA, where Dr Williams took part in a round-table discussion on climate change.
On Saturday he then headed to the diocesan youth and children's residential activity centre at Horstead, before meeting representatives of five “fresh expressions of church” at St Lawrence's at South Walsham.
Sunday sees Dr Williams preach at a 10am Communion service to mark the 900th Anniversary celebrations at Wymondham Abbey.
If you were there, please let us know what you thought of what the Archbishop said by adding your comments below.