PLANS to host bishops and their spouses from across the Anglican Communion in dioceses before the start of the Lambeth Conference have been cancelled, it was announced on Monday. Instead, bishops are being asked to travel direct to Canterbury, to take part in a two-day hospitality programme at the start of the Conference.
An update from the Lambeth Conference Company, issued on Monday evening, said: “A decision has been taken to discontinue plans to run the official hospitality programme (also known as ‘the Big Hello’) for the Lambeth Conference in its current form. Instead, a new approach to providing a ‘Welcome to Canterbury’ programme for all Anglican bishops, will be held at The University of Kent.”
Plans for the Big Hello programme were put on hold when the Lambeth Conference was postponed from 2020 until 2022, owing to the pandemic (News, 10 July 2020).
“Since that time, the conference organisers have been monitoring health and travel advice, adapting event logistics, to enable the full participation of people making the journey to the UK in 2022,” the statement said. “This has led to a decision not to run the Big Hello in its original format. Dioceses involved in planning for the Big hello were consulted in reaching this decision.
“The conference teams express sincere appreciation for all the work and time committed to the Big Hello programme up to this point by volunteers in dioceses around the UK and those planning to take part from overseas.”
Those attending the Conference are now asked to arrive in Canterbury on 26 July — an earlier arrival date than originally advertised — to register for the Conference. From 27 to 29 July, a new hospitality programme will take place, “which will incorporate elements of relaxation, gathering informally, and an organised retreat with spiritual preparation at Canterbury Cathedral”.
The bishops will also have an opportunity to meet face-to-face those with whom they have been participating in monthly Zoom conversations in the run-up to the Conference (News, 7 June 2021).
The main Conference itself will then take place, ending on the evening of 7 August. The bishops will leave Canterbury on 8 August.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I would like to thank every church and dioceses in the UK that have offered time and support to the Lambeth Conference through the Big Hello programme to date. I would also like to thank all our sisters and brothers around the world who were planning to take part. All your efforts have been immense and are greatly valued.
“I warmly encourage our conference delegates to join us for our new ‘Welcome to Canterbury’ hospitality programme that is being organised at the University of Kent from 26th July.
“Whether you are traveling a long or short distance to be at the Conference, arriving together a day earlier on 26th July for our extended welcome and registration programme will provide a vital opportunity for everyone to get to know one another, have time for prayer and to prepare for the event.
“We remain ever hopeful about the wonderful opportunity the Conference presents for gathering and exploring what it means to be God’s Church for God’s World in 2022.”
Information about the hospitality programme can be found here, and information about travel plans here.
Watch a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury here.