On April 28, Virginia Theological Seminary welcomed back Archbishop Justin Welby, marking his presence with a sung Morning Prayer in the chapel, followed by his Mollegen address, “The Hot War with Creation: Can We Make Peace?” His itinerary for the day was full – a lunch with our graduating students, then serving as presider for the 5:15 Holy Eucharist. The day ended with a dinner with the Center for Anglican Communion Studies Companions, including a conversation and Q&A with the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb (live-streamed for remote participants).
As a graduating M.Div. student, I am preparing for ordination in the Episcopal Church, which (as for many Episcopalians) was not my home church. As someone who did not grow up in the Anglican tradition, I found myself drawn to it for many reasons. I loved the beauty of liturgy, the emphasis on word and sacrament, the Paschal Mystery and the communion of saints, the Church’s history and sense of connectivity – the shared words of lectionary and rituals of Eucharist that draw Anglicans together every week, across the world. We’re all contemplating the same lessons and laments, stories and praise each Sunday, breaking bread at a shared table that stretches across continents and centuries. And there is something profound in the fact that our leadership is in direct connection with the earliest centuries of the Church, in the apostolic succession of bishops and the tradition of Archbishops of Canterbury.
For an M.Div. student about to graduate from seminary and preparing for ordination in the Episcopal Church, the presence of an Archbishop of Canterbury on campus, celebrating at that globally shared table with us, is a reminder of that deep history we step into as the faithful in this Church, and the complex and powerful diversity of the present-day Anglican Communion – roads branching and crossing around the world, roads we’re about to start exploring and building relationships along.
And especially in this time and place, when the events of the last two years have caused us to be more aware of the interconnectedness of our human family and the joys and divisions and injustices that are part of that, it is good that we as a Church have extended that understanding to creation, that first incarnation of God’s word in the world. It is good that our Church is raising its voice in love for creation and all things living, from the grassroots all the way to our Archbishop, speaking a word into the world.
In the Archbishop’s words: “It’s our sacred duty to protect the natural world we’ve so generously been given, as well as our neighbours around the world who will be first and worst affected… we need to amplify the voices of those who are living with the daily impacts of climate change and suffering.”1 The care of the world is directly connected to the care of humanity, and our ministry with one is incomplete without ministry with the other. We, as priests-to-be in this Anglican Communion, are charged with speaking that word in the world.
Cara Ellen Modisett
Virginia Theological Seminary ‘22
Candidate for Holy Orders (priesthood) in the Episcopal Church,
Diocese of Southwestern Virginia
1 “Archbishop Justin Welby on the Climate Emergency,” the Archbishop of Canterbury’s YouTube channel, September 30, 2019, youtu.be/AgsJE2UnGk4.