THE WCC as a life-experience almost defies description. There
are thousands of us, meeting and mingling everywhere - in various
hotels, in the huge conference centre, in worship, and over
The daily Bible studies and ecumenical conversations give
delegates a chance to talk about their beliefs, and to listen to
the wisdom of other traditions. The call to "get into small groups
for discussion" was worth it to hear how different the Bible seems,
depending on how we read it.
For me, there are three highlights so far: the evening meeting
of Anglicans, hosted by the Bishop of Busan, the Rt Revd Onesimus
Dongsin Park, at a hotel. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at
a eucharist for All Saints'; and the large congregation were all
seated around circular tables throughout the room. As we began to
filter up for communion, at a nod from the head waiter, the staff
began doing the rounds of our tables, weaving in and out between
the lines of communicants to set out glasses, and fill them with
wine. This was both hilarious and rather wonderful, as it tied
together the two kinds of meal in which we were sharing. Surely
Jesus would have appreciated that.
Second, the worship at the Anglican Cathedral in Busan. With an
excellent choir to lead us (pictured, above), we belted
out old High Church Anglican favourites such as "Faith of our
fathers" in English and Korean. The service depended on faultless
team-work from Bishop Park (as celebrant), and the Bishop of
Connor, in Northern Ireland, the Rt Revd Alan Aberneth, who
preached; both were assisted by a translator.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, gave
the blessing. In one respect, it was rather like a wedding - the
photos seemed to take longer than the service.
And, last, my third highlight is the committee work. I have
never said this about a committee before. I will probably never do
so again. But the one on which I served was something special, and,
in the end, gloriously positive. The 25 committee members (all from
different nations and denominations) had a horrible task: to
whittle down a long list of names and choose 150 people for the
central committee that would begin to plan the next WCC (to take
place in eight years' time).
The objective - to get the perfect result for every country,
every Church, and every interest group - was impossible. Yet four
days of meetings eventually bore fruit. When we finally reached our
goal there was an outburst of joy - and (inevitably) more
Dr Hammond is a C of E representative at the WCC.