Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!’ (Colossians 3.4)
|Rowan Willaims bids farewell.|
But it is still true that – as Paul can say elsewhere, in II Corinthians, for example – the glory of the future can be seen from time to time in lives that are fully turned to the face of Jesus. As we advance into Advent, we need to keep both these insights in our minds: the treasure of the gospel is in earthenware pots, yet the glory of Christ can be seen in human faces. We have not arrived at the end of all things, but we long for it because we have seen something of its radiance and joy in the life of the Christian community and its worship and service.
In the past ten years, these things have become more and more clear to me in my involvement in the Communion’s life. Our Communion has endured much suffering and confusion, and still lives with this in many ways; yet we are still privileged to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in different ways within our common life, and so are reminded by God’s grace that it is still Christ who lives secretly at the heart of our fellowship, and renews it day by day.
|Rowan Williams joins Henry Orombi and Bob Duncan at a conference.|
Another way of saying this is that (to use the language of a great Anglican theologian of the early twentieth century, J.N. Figgis) we are a ‘community of communities’. And perhaps in our own time we could translate this afresh and say we are a ‘network of networks.’ Certainly this language has something to recommend it in an age when, so we’re told, networks are the decisive social fact for most younger people, often networks that are maintained through the new electronic media.
|Rowan Williams presided over William and Kate's wedding.|
As I said at that meeting in New Zealand, we should never think that we are allowed to put off the work of the Kingdom until we have settled our differences and solved our problems. God’s call to us is always for today. Sorting out our large-scale worldwide structures, our decision making and mutual accountability, is important; but this should not give us an excuse for turning our eyes away from what is actually done by the help of God through these less formal, more relational ways of connecting us. And the truth is that we shall never sort out the bigger questions without the humble practical work represented by the networks, and the way they build trust and love among often unlikely partners.
|Rowan Williams with his wife, theologian Jane Williams.|
I thank God also that we now have as my successor such an outstanding servant of God as Bishop Justin Welby, and I know that you will hold him and his family in your prayers as he prepares to take up this ministry early in the New Year.
To all of you, as you prepare to celebrate the coming of the Lord, I wish every blessing and the ‘crown of uprightness’ promised to ‘all those who have longed for his appearing’ (II Timothy 4.8)