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The great cloud of witnesses

Here's the text of the speech the Archbishop of Canterbury gave in response to the welcome the Kingitanga extended to the ACC.

Archbishop Rowan Williams   |  01 Nov 2012

We greet you, we thank you, and we salute all those whose memory is with us today and whose spirits live with us in our hearts and around us.

We give thanks to God for the witness of all who have carried the faith before us, and of all who have passed on to us the wisdom the grace and the faith that we share.

And as we meet here today, I give thanks to God in particular, saluting the memory of Paul Reeves, who so wonderfully held together the traditions, the insights that we share together today.

I look back also to the visit of my predecessor Archbishop Robert Runcie, many years ago, when he visited the late and much loved queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

And I acknowledge all others whose memory we celebrate.

Many many centuries ago, a Greek poet said that when we meet, God was present.

In any meeting place there is holiness present. God is there as we meet, as we exchange, as we seek  to understand one another, and celebrate what it is that God has given us.

God is present when we meet because we receive gifts from one another, the gifts of all that we bring with us.

And here in this sacred place, I acknowledge those gifts that we have received.

The gifts that we are sharing today with your Majesty, Te Arikinui and we acknowledge the sacredness of this house in front of which we sit, and all that it represents.

Te Arikinui, we thank you for the welcome that you have given us here today.

All that it represents, the way in which you with your people have assembled to greet us here, and we acknowledge the presence of many fellow Anglicans, and all the communities of Waikato.

And on behalf of all those who come with me from across the globe, we come as joyful and grateful guests to you today.

This land in which we meet, this land of great beauty, and great gifts is called we know, Aotearoa, the land of the Long White Cloud.

And today, when we celebrate the feat of All Saints, we may very well think of that phrase in scripture, where we are told that we live in the presence of a great cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)

Perhaps this is in a very particular way a land of witnesses.

A land where we know that we stand in the presence of many witnesses. Where our acts, and our thoughts, and our relations with one another are witnessed by those who have gone before us.

So that their witness helps us to bear witness in our own generation.

So that we know that we stand with them before the eyes of God.

And so also today, as we thankyou for your welcome, we thank God that the cloud of witnesses is over us, and around us, calling us to answer for our faith, for our lives, for our relationships before God.

Knowing that we will answer to God for the peace we make, and the justice we serve together.

More than once this morning we have heard quoted a proverb about threads plaited together threading the needle.

I want to turn back to a phrase again in the Bible which says that a three-fold cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

A threefold cord, not only the plaiting together of the communities of this country, Maori and Pakeha, and all others, but the plaiting together of those communities with the global fellowship and family of Christ’s people.

When peoples in any part of the world find a meeting place in the worldwide family of Christ, that is indeed a friendship and a unity that is not easily broken.

We are here, your brothers and sisters from the Anglican Communion to pledge ourselves to bind our lives, our prayers and our hopes with yours in the making of peace, and in the serving of justice here in this country, and throughout the world.

Your majesty, Te Arikinui: we have in our minds as we come to a royal court, saluting yourself and your household, the words of the psalm:

Give the King your judgements O God, give your righteousness to the son of the royal house.

We thank God for the service of justice and righteousness represented by the throne on which you are seated.

And we pray that God continue to give to you, and all those who work with you, those gifts of righteousness and insight.

Give the king your judgements of God, give your righteousness to the son of the royal house.  (Psalm 72:1)

And we pray that that righteousness, and that justice will be the star by which all of us see to navigate our lives in the presence of those witnesses around us, in the presence of what God has given us and continues to give us.

To all those who have so generously welcomed us today, and throughout our time in Aotearoa, I thank you on behalf of my brothers and sisters here.

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