Rowan Williams - Orthodox liturgy in his spiritual formation
- The place of the Orthodox liturgy in the
spiritual formation of Rowan Williams,
Archbishop of Canterbury, is noted in the
recent news article excerpted below.
Archbishop reveals his unorthodox way to God
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Times Online (UK)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams,
has revealed how his first encounter with God was
not at an Anglican or even a Roman Catholic
service but at a Mass of the Russian Orthodox
Dr Williams was only 14 when his local Anglican
curate took him along to an Orthodox Mass in
Swansea celebrated by a visiting Russian priest.
Although his long journey of faith began at his
"mother's knee", Dr Williams said the Russian
Orthodox Mass was one of only two moments in his
teenage years when he met the "living God".
Dr Williams's encounter with Orthodoxy came when
he was living with his parents in a modest house
in Oystermouth on the western edge of the bay in
In response to questions at a conference, Dr
Williams described how strong the impact of the
Mass was on him. "I found myself that evening
kneeling at prayer in tears and feeling that I'd
been taken somewhere new.
"I had to change, I had to grow, I had to repent.
I had to let that reality become more real for
me," he said. The future leader of the Church of
England and primus inter pares of the Anglican
Communion grew up in a Christian household but
started out with his family in the dominant Welsh
non-conformist Presbyterian tradition.
When he was 11 the family moved and became
members of the Anglican Church in Wales. Welsh
Anglicans, particularly in South Wales, have long
a tradition of "high" Anglo-Catholic worship.
To a highly intelligent, devout teenage boy,
however, even their elaborate incense-perfumed
rituals would have seemed tame by comparison with
the three-hour Divine Liturgy of St John
Chrysostom as celebrated weekly in Orthodox
Dr Williams said: "When I came away, I felt I had
seen glory and praise for the first time. I felt
I had seen and heard people who were behaving as
if God were real."
"I came away with the sense of absolute
objectivity and majesty and beauty of God which I
have never forgotten. If people worshipped like
this, I felt God must be a great deal more real
(than) even I have learnt him so far."