This year’s meeting, 26th July – 8th August, was the 15th Lambeth Conference with over six hundred bishops (plus their wives or husbands), representing dioceses and Christian communities from around 165 countries of the worldwide Anglican Communion, making it one of the largest Christian communities in the world. The bishops assembled to discuss church and world affairs and the global mission of the Anglican Communion for the decade ahead. It took place across venues at the University of Kent, Canterbury Cathedral and Lambeth Palace.
The conference theme this year was, ‘God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together.’ The conference explored what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.
Three bishops from our link province of Papua New Guinea were amongst the delegates, including the recently appointed Bishop of New Guinea Islands, +Reginald Makele. I had the honour to meet the then Fr Reg on my first visit to PNG in 2009 when he was Chaplain to the then Bishop of Port Moresby, +Peter Ramsden. Fr Reg spent much of his ministry in Port Moresby, including the parishes of Gerehu and Morata, and I have fond memories of travelling in the back of his pick-up truck to the settlement of Six-Mile where I was able to preach and celebrate Holy Communion. When I returned in 2015, as part of +Graham James’ pilgrimage to PNG, Fr Reg was then Dean of Port Moresby Cathedral. Subsequently, he became Anglican Chaplain to the Police before his election to the episcopate in 2021.
Bishop Reg, 51, is from Sag Sag in the Cape Gloucester area of West New Britain and so it was particularly fitting that we should meet this year as the 2022 Norwich diocesan Lent appeal is raising funds to supply the new medical facility at Sag Sag with beds and bed linen that will be used primarily for pre-natal care.
Bishop Reg is married to Cathlyn – also from West New Britain – and they have three children, Abel, Ruth and Reg junior.
On 12th August, another member of our Norwich Diocesan Link Group, Revd Sue Martin, who was part of our 2015 pilgrimage, organised an afternoon together at her home in Gayton near King’s Lynn.
During a very hot day, we were able to have afternoon tea in her house, as the garden was too hot, even for PNG folk, and we visited one of the smallest churches in the benefice, All Saint’s Ashwicken, that dates from the late 13th Century and is now called ‘Our Church in the Fields’. Bishop Reg and Cathlyn were staying for a few days with the Revd Barrie Slattery and his wife Susie at their home near Beccles. Revd Barrie designed and project-managed the construction of the new church building at X in the Jimi Valley that +Graham James and +Nathan Ingen, the Bishop of Aipo Rongo diocese, consecrated during the 2015 pilgrimage.
The other PNG bishops attending the conference, +Nathan Ingen, the Bishop of Aipo Rongo diocese and +Lindsley Ihove of Popondetta diocese, along with their wives, Jessica and Felicity, were guests of Janet Wells, a member of the Papua New Guinea Church Partnership, chaired by the former Bishop of Lynn, +Jonathan Meyrick. The highlight of their day in London, she tells us, was a visit to Mary Sumner House, as the Mother’s Union is a major force for promoting women’s empowerment in PNG. Mary Sumner was the founder of the Mothers’ Union, a worldwide Anglican women’s organisation.
We thank God for these opportunities to renew old friendships with bishops from PNG and the strengthening of the fellowship between our diocese and the province. We look forward to future visits between our Anglican communities.
(Written by Revd Phil Charlesworth, Executive Officer and Acting Chair, Norwich Diocesan PNG Link Group. 21 August 2022.)