The Archbishop of Canterbury came to the Spouses’ Venue to bless the Vine which the spouses have been making throughout the Conference.
He said: ‘On behalf of “the other Conference” we want to thank you for being here and for all you have said and done. You have reminded us of things we could have forgotten and thank you for anchoring us; for bringing us back to a world of hope, of discipleship and of shared fellowship in Christ.’ He then spoke of the beauty of the vine and blessed it.
Dr Williams had come for the first time to be with the spouses as they considered, within the context of a service, the subject of ‘A Part of the Body: practising a future unity’.
They sang and prayed together and were led by Rose Hudson Wilson, the Chaplain to the Spouses’ Conference, in a reflection on Colossians 3:12-17. She spoke of future unity not as the responsibility of the spouses because of their role as leaders within the Church but as the responsibility of all of us as the Body of Christ. She reflected upon the opportunity that the Spouses’ Conference had offered for us to reach out to those who think and look differently to ourselves. She said that just as some of the Bishops had struggled with issues born out of our need for oneness, so the spouses had struggled too. ‘We carry struggles with our partners,’ she said. In order to practise a future unity, she continued, we need to stay focused on the core of what faith is about.
The spouses were then asked to eat the cherries on their tables and to plant the stones in the soil provided, to remind them of their unfulfilled potentials, hopes and fears.
Gerald West from the Bible Study team reflected on the experience of the Bible Study Groups. He said that, in order to practise a future unity, we all needed to strive to be faithful to the authority of Scripture; faithful to the detail and shape of Scripture; faithful to our own context and concern; faithful to our communion in all its diversity and to a participatory manner of Bible Study.
Linda Baines then introduced a number of women from different parts of the Communion who reflected on their experience of making leaves for the vine. Holding her leaf, Lily Lai (from Taiwan) said, ‘God’s grace is truly amazing, hallelujah!’
Linda then explained that the vine would be dismantled during the afternoon, but that each person had been given a bookmark with a photograph of the vine on it so that they could have it as a constant reminder of their unity in Christ.
On the reverse of the bookmark the Spouses’ Conference prayer had been printed and the spouses then prayed that together.