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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Rosemary Spencer's speech at Nikaean Club Farewell Dinner

Thursday 27th September 2012

The full text of Rosemary Spencer's speech at Nikaean Club Farewell Dinner is below:

Thank you, Archbishop Rowan, for your very kind and generous remarks.  

Thank you, too, for this lovely print of Lambeth Palace, which will be a wonderful reminder of my time as Chairman of the Club.  I have greatly enjoyed it.  

It has been a huge privilege to chair the Nikaean Club during these last 10 years, under your presidency.  The first formal Club dinner I attended as Chairman was your Enthronement dinner in Canterbury – a most memorable occasion, with the large number of distinguished ecumenical personalities and guests from the wider Anglican community. (I might say in passing that it was there that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told me he wished the US Episcopal Church had an equivalent to the Nikaean Club – quite a compliment to the Club.)  So I feel that – with this farewell dinner to you, Archbishop - a cycle has been completed.

These have been vintage years for the Club, thanks to all the support that you have given us.  The importance you have given, Archbishop, to promoting ecumenical relations at a personal level, your immense knowledge of other Christian traditions, and your active involvement with the Nikaean Club have given us great opportunities for fulfilling the Club’s mission to assist you, especially in entertaining ecumenical guests.  Because of the number and range of your guests, we have had a rich and varied programme over recent years.  For me, the highlights have included – apart from the Enthronement dinner – the dinner at the Painters’ Hall to mark the publication of the Report on Anglican/Orthodox relations, the dinner in Canterbury for ecumenical participants in the Lambeth Conference, and the dinner for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor just before his retirement, an occasion of great warmth – almost a family affair.  Members of the Club also had privileged seats in Westminster Abbey for the special Evensong to mark the visit of the Pope.  

But however fine the surroundings in which events are held outside Lambeth – as these all were, for various reasons - they do not have the special, more intimate atmosphere of events held here at the Palace.  I believe this comes not only from the historic building with all its associations, but also – importantly - from the fact that this is your London home, Archbishop, as well as your working base.  I am sure that hospitality, that great Benedictine task and virtue, and one of the keys to strengthening and deepening relationships, is most effectively offered at home, with a personal touch. 

(I might add that Shakespeare, too, evidently regards hospitality as a virtue – in As You Like It, Corin, the shepherd, says that his master, of churlish disposition, ‘… little recks to find the way to heaven By doing deeds of hospitality’.  That clearly can’t be said of any of the company here!  On the contrary, Club members are ‘… given to hospitality’.)

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking members of the Executive Committee over the last 10 years, for their support, their knowledge, their constructive ideas and their good humour.  I owe a special debt of gratitude to our Secretary, Christopher Austen, who works very hard to make Club events a success and to keep in touch with members.  My very warm thanks go also to successive Guestmasters, Jonathan Gough, who saw me in so helpfully, and especially Jonathan Goodall, who has been in office for the last eight years, for providing the essential link between the Club and the Archbishop’s ecumenical diary, and doing so much to make our rich programme possible.  And I should also like to thank members of the Club for their friendship and encouragement. You have all greatly added to my enjoyment of my time as Chairman.

Archbishop Rowan, my final words must be of thanks to you.  We are all enormously grateful for all you have done to give the Nikaean Club such a special place in your life and work as Archbishop of Canterbury, and for showing such warmth and hospitality to the members of the Club, as well as to your distinguished guests.  We hope that you and Jane will enjoy a long and happy retirement from ecclesiastical affairs – though Cambridge will hardly count as retirement!

As a token of our deep gratitude and affection, I have the greatest pleasure in presenting you with this special Nikaean pectoral cross, which bears the Club’s name.  It comes with all our best wishes for the future.  We very much hope to see you at Club events in years to come.

To Jane Williams – We have greatly appreciated your presence with us and your friendship. Thank you for being so much part of the Club’s life, and for giving ecumenical hospitality here at Lambeth even more of a personal touch.  We hope to have you with us in the future.

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