Archbishop's visit to Guildford 2010

Learning from Inter-Faith Dialogue
2nd March 2010

Anglicans from Farnham and across the diocese filled Guildford Cathedral for a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 2nd March.  Parishes were represented by clergy with their lay guests.

Archbishop Rowan

In a powerful lecture, Dr Rowan Williams showed how Christian belief in the uniqueness and finality of Christ left space for an enriching dialogue with those of other faiths.

“When we sit down alongside the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist or Hindu,” he said, “we expect to learn from their humanity - God made us to learn.  I may emerge from the dialogue as confident as I have ever been about the trinitarian nature of God and the finality of Jesus and yet say I have learned something I never dreamed of.  My discipleship is enriched with gratitude and respect.  Part of what happens is trying to see what the other person's face looks like when it is turned to God.

“Belief in the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ, for all the assaults made upon it in the modern age, remains for the Christian a way of speaking about hope for the entire human family.  Because of that we are bound to say something about it.  We are rightly suspicious of a proselytising, manipulative, bullying approach to other faiths - God save us from that.  But God save us also from the nervousness about our convictions that does not allow us to say that we speak about Jesus because we believe he matters - because in him human beings find their destiny.

“All the work that we as Christians want to do towards the convergence of our human destinies has its roots in that conviction: that there is no boundary around Jesus - that what he is and does and says and suffers is in principle liberatingly relevant to every human being past, present and future.

“Rightly understood, I believe that it [inter-faith dialogue] also allows us to encounter the Other - the religious and the non-religious Other - with the generous desire to share and the humble desire to learn and the patience to let God work out his purpose as is best in his eyes.”

During his day in Guildford Diocese Archbishop Rowan also took part in a public conversation with Professor Jim Al-Khalili at the University of Surrey, discussing a range of topics, including prayer, faith and science and the role of religion in setting moral boundaries.  Both meetings ended with question and answer sessions.

Earlier in the day the Archbishop presided at the Eucharist in celebration of St Chad's Day at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Pyrford.  He then joined with the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, to hear from clergy about ‘life, ministry and mission in the Diocese of Guildford.’  As Rural Dean, the Revd Jonathan Still, Vicar of the United Benefice of The Bourne and Tilford, represented churches in and around Farnham.  Dr Williams told the meeting how struck he was by the ways in which the church was helping the community in the diocese - particularly the work of ‘Street Angels’ - volunteers who, in collaboration with the council and the police, offer support to people in Guildford town centre.

[account of lecture abridged]