Saturday, November 8, 2008

Meeting and Worshipping with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

President Sinkford was warmly received by Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St. George’s Cathedral for morning worship on Friday, November 07, 2008. With a small congregation of worshipers that consisted mostly of visitors to South Africa, the retired Archbishop of Cape Town brought a very human touch and deep spirit to the formal liturgy. For example, during the unison reading of Psalm 122 he asked that the congregation pause briefly after each sentence. But, when the congregation did not pause long enough he laughingly chided that, “We won’t get to heaven if we read it like that!”

The gospel text was the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16) and the prayer lifted up leaders and countries experiencing bloodshed and conflict. We prayed for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, for the people of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, and that the leaders of Zimbabwe would find a path toward peace. Conflicts in the Holy Land and between India and Pakistan were raised in prayer, as was the important work of all religious and human rights leaders.

In an impromptu moment during the service Tutu thanked the American people for showing wisdom in their election of Barack Obama as our next President, describing how the world rejoices at the new opportunities that his election provides.

Following the service President Sinkford presented the Archbishop with a inscribed copy of the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, as a token of our collective esteem and appreciation for the Archbishop’s long years of leadership and as a gift that would help the Archbishop know more about our faith.

Reflecting on the service and meeting Archbishop Tutu, President Sinkford highlighted the essential role of religion to inspire “human agency” in order for the “beloved community” to come about, “Scripture describes how ‘those who have eyes to see and ears to hear’ will not fail to recognize the challenges before our world, and the responsibility we have to repair what has been broken.”