The retreat was great. It wrapped up in fine style this morning after Mattins. Both the Cathedral Clergy and the Guest Lodge Staff went out of their way to give us fond farewells. I have a lot of memories and stories, and I look forward to a moment when I am relaxed enough to tell them. As it was, I spent much of the day traveling from Canterbury up to London and then down to a town on the outskirts of London called Orpington. I'm staying with a ministry friend and his wife until Friday.
Tomorrow I'm meeting with Rachel Jordon from Church House and some of her colleagues to talk about church-y stuff--Fresh Expressions and Pioneer Ministry and Missional Church, etc. Then I might do a little sight-seeing. The short list of places to visit Wednesday and Thursday includes the Tate Modern, Lambeth Palace, the National Portrait Gallery, Covent Garden, and the British Museum. Of course, I won't be able to hit all of those in two days without a severe brain-sprain, so I'll pick two or three and see how it goes.
On Monday I was wandering around the cloister with Bede when we noticed a door that said, "Private - Archdeacon's Garden." Bede stooped down and peered through the key hole. Like many of the doors around the Cathedral, it still has one of those old fashioned locks with the big key-holes. As he was gazing in, one of the workman came up behind us, "No need for that! Here, have a proper look 'round." With that he unlocked the door with an impressive set of keys and swung it open. He invited us to step just across the threshold and explained the different ruins and houses we could see. He was genial and warm and obviously enjoyed our interest.
Now, he didn't know we were part of a retreat group, we were just curious visitors so far as he knew. And he wasn't a steward, verger, or cleric. He was simply one of the maintenance staff who went out of his way to show two visitors a little something special. As I said to Bede as we walked away, "At Canterbury, curiosity is rewarded." There is a spirit of generous hospitality that has totally imbued the place at all levels.
When we told this story to one of the Canons, she explained that most of the staff were actually non-Christian, yet they are also fiercely loyal to the Cathedral and believe in its mission. They are enormously proud and want to share what they have with others. Time and again this was referred to as the influence of the Benedictine virtue of hospitality. The Rule of Benedict says that all visitors are to be treated as Christ.
The Verger who took us up to the Organ Loft above the Quire Screen on Sunday told us about what Canterbury means to him. He finds meeting people from all over the world incredibly rewarding, but he also is honored to be part of an institution that has done this ministry of welcome for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. He explained that he had been initiated into the Cathedral Foundation as a special ceremony in which is name was inscribed in a special book. He beamed as he talked about his work.
When I get back to Toronto I want to write a long-ish letter to the Dean to compliment various people who were particularly friendly and helpful. I hope it's the sort of letter that ends up in personnel files.
I'm already missing the place. I'm thinking of the Canons waiting by the exit from the Quire to say goodbye to us as we left Mattins to go to breakfast. Some places just feel like home, yeah know?