Years ago, before Rowan Williams became the Archbishop of Canterbury, before the time of incredible stress on the Anglican Communion, he and Jane Williams had an informal dinner with Malcolm Boyd and his partner Mark. Boyd looks back on that dinner, remembers what the future Archbishop was like, and thanks him for showing him the face of Jesus that night.
Malcolm Boyd has an account of the evening on Huffington Post:
“So, over our dinner, there was give-and-take conversation instead of either a lecture or a sermon. Rowan Williams listened and spoke, spoke and listened. My partner, Mark, and he discussed a favorite poet whom both admired. Instead of a wide sweep, the ebb and flow of conversation was on a reflective and quieter side. It embraced us all. When the end of the evening came, one resisted because the occasion had filled so many needs. It was all about different people coming together and “getting to know you.”
However, Rowan Williams had not departed from my life. After he became Archbishop of Canterbury, his wife Jane paid a visit to Los Angeles and spoke at a large gathering of women in the church. I attended and was seated in the immense and packed hall. Just then someone came up. She said the archbishop’s wife wished to speak to me. Could I follow her to the head table?
When I did, Mrs. Williams greeted me warmly. Her husband had told her about the dinner in Los Angeles a year or so earlier. Apparently he’d remembered it with some fondness. so I guess it held a memorable quality. Talking to Jane I found her every bit as down-to-earth, open and receptive as I’d found Rowan. I wondered: is this how people trying to be authentic strive to know one another? I realized these are my kind of people.
If I am to be active in the church — whether it’s a building two blocks away wrapped in stained-glass or a worldwide communion, or both — I seek down-to-earth people who are non-combative and genuinely loving and show me a face of Jesus instead of an angry mask.”
It’s worth pondering the power of personal relationships to hold a community together on this day especially, given the news of the defeat of the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England despite being so strongly supported by Arcbishop Rowan Williams.