19 Jun 2020
There are many versions of the story of how the treasured hymn “Abide with Me”, written by Henry Francis Lyte, came to be. They include from the abandonment of his father all be it leaving them financially stable to his visit to a dying friend where he spent 37 days at this friend’s bedside. Thus, this is our story - the one we give as the ACW reaches the end of its 24th year.
We could never have imagined that the vision of Archbishops George Forde, Vincent Waterman and Wilfred Portier set forth, would have been one of joy and achievement. One reading this, predicted last year that the ACW would not be around for another year. He was wrong! The ACW shall stand for all time. I hear Lyte with sounding ears as today a new Patriarch has been elected to serve the soul of the church.
With his eyes closed, Lyte friend kept whispering a prayer “Lord abide with me” as he lay dying. Lyte did not make mention of it for 27 years and hence came the composition of this hymn. It is a hymn dedicated to love, truth, spiritual growth and lasting prayer.
Over the years the ACW has been blest, but has seen its share of turmoil. Turmoil which included from an African bishop taking our email list and slandering the church, to many who came to our doors with their outstretched hand and when they did not get what they were seeking, left with crafty words.
In building the church we recognized that everyone who came and said they were ready to serve were not Anglicans, some never heard of the Anglican church. We were ready to trust our instincts that they were well meaning but we fell into a trap. But as our new Patriarch has declared our vetting must be more complete and none will be let into the leadership without subscribing to the ACW Canons, 7 sacraments, catechism, and 39 articles of religion.
The 11th Synod is upon us - our faith once more drawing together in fellowship and highlighting the words of Lyte. Hear his first phrase :
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Indeed darkness fell over the ACW on many occasions. Our membership fluctuated - up then down. We were temporarily shafted by vengeance. But Lyte’s prayer left us a thought - “help of the helpless O abide with me”. We serve a God who changes not! When all the low points came we retreated to prayer. We lost our founding Patriarchs and their wisdom of leadership beckoning us to be steadfast recommended by Lyte’s words:
I need Thy presence every passing hour,
What but Thy grace can foil the tempers power
Who like Thyself, my guide and stay can be,
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord abide with me
As we prepare ourselves for new leadership, the Patriarch-elect has been supportive throughout never missing his commitment and accountability along with conducting annual visits to the Cathedral. We will not revisit our mistakes, but bring those who are a part of us to accountability or ask their resignation. We will not discard those who hurt the church or those who slandered us and never tried to help even as they called themselves members. This mantle of leadership will now take full effect.
Parishes will be encouraged to have support groups of compassion and be worthy to their charge always embodied to represent the Anglican faith and its centuries of history. We will not have others joining because they may think a gratuity will be forthcoming. We cannot allow the church to fall on promises. Our prayer is that the ACW will be here 100 years from now and a shining light, as we stand firm with Lyte again:
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
On our 24th year the evening falls, we look back with pride, and can boldly say we have kept the faith of our motto “Reaching out to the world”. Hear Lyte one last time:
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
++Hartley, Presiding Bishop of the ACW