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11 August - Cathrine Ngangira - Reflecting on Lambeth Conference 2022

Reflecting on the Lambeth Conference



Rev'd Cathrine Ngangira, Curate at Holy Cross, Bearsted



Bishops from across the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury for the 15th Lambeth Conference this summer. I remember in one of the daily press conferences, a question was asked regarding the changes this conference might make to the life of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps some of the answers to this question lie in what changes this experience has made for me personally.

Picture a beautiful English summer’s day at the University of Kent where the Lambeth Conference took place. Follow my friend and I as we saunter into the registration area, where we are welcomed by a few eyes seemingly struck with amazement as they gaze at us. For a moment it feels rather uncomfortable. All sorts of questions momentarily start forming in my mind and the look on my friend’s face confirms the same in her mind too. Do we appear appropriate or there is something wrong with how we were dressed? Have we been chatting too loudly? Have we come to the wrong place?

A little while later, we get our answer. There is nothing wrong with us, instead some of the African bishops’ wives stood in the foyer were looking at us with respect and admiration rather than abhorrence. In their words, they were both surprised and encouraged to see ‘young’ females in clerical wear. We took a few photos together which they promised to use back home to encourage their young girls and women to actively engage in mission.

As I reflect on that day, I pause on the thought - who needs who more in the relationship between young people and the church? Indeed, it is mutualism: young people taught in the church grow their relationship with God and are more prepared to serve Christ in all they do whilst  congregations are also nurtured, allowing the church to blossom. In other words, young people are the true wealth of the church. Therefore, how rich or poor are member churches of the Anglican Communion when it comes to young people in church?

While the narrative for most of the Western church emphasises the absence of younger generations, African churches have a substantial number of young people in the church. However, how many young African women have church leaders whom they can identify with? How old is the African church? How rich or poor is the African or western Anglican Church? Of course, I need a great deal of research to draw these conclusions.

Yet if I was to read deeper into the bewilderment in the eyes of some of the bishops’ wives we met that day, I would say that both the western and global south churches are poor. The huge difference being the type of poverty in each of these churches. For some, the poverty is in the absence of young people in the church. For others, it is the absence of a leadership that reflects the population of the church and society.

If it is true that our churches are poor, what steps must be taken in the 42 provinces of the Anglican Communion that can make the church rich, vibrant and alive? How can the church reflect the population in its society?

I do not have the answers, but I wonder what comes after a Lambeth Conference that has made efforts to include, and listen to the voices of young people in some of its discussions? How can these efforts be passed down to churches at the local level?

The involvement of young people and women in church is not just an issue for bishops to deal with. It is something for every member of the congregation to consider. As the African saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Thus, it also takes every person to participate to make the church of Christ richer in its membership.

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