Remembering Lambeth '68: last Conference in London
by Bob Libby
The last Lambeth Conference in London was in 1968. The 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, presided, and the Conference lasted six weeks.
While there was an opening service in Canterbury Cathedral, all the plenary sessions were held at Church House, Westminster, and the concluding service was in St Paul's Cathedral. Bishops stayed in London hotels, bed-and-breakfast guesthouses, or were guests in private homes.
No matter how it was done, it was expensive. The cost was heightened by a welcoming brochure which recommended some of London's most upmarket eating places. The secular press had a field-day. This prompted organisers of future Lambeth Conferences to halve the time and costs, and to make the move to the University of Kent, which occurred in 1978.
Then, as now, the bishops met and debated against the backdrop of world events. Vietnam, the turmoil of the '60s, the Cold War, and the nomination of Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon for the US Presidency--all had their impact.
When Russian tanks rolled through the streets of Prague, the bishops marched in silent procession to St Margaret's Church next to the Abbey to pray for the people of Czechoslovakia. And when the Pope prohibited the birth-control pill, the world press descended on the Conference which in turn gave the bishops the opportunity to reaffirm their 1958 declaration that family planning and birth control were not only allowed but a Christian responsibility. Were those the days?
Communication was much simpler. Major-General Adam Block was the communications director for the Church of England. He was assisted by press officer Michael Delanoy and radio and TV officer Michael Saward, now a canon at St Paul`s Cathedral. The general proudly showed me the pressroom at Church House. It contained a phone booth, pencil sharpener, two chairs and a table. A coalition of Canadians and Americans (Jerry Hames and Dick Berryman from Canada and Jim Long and myself from the US) established the North American Communication Centre on the ground floor of Church House where we had IBM selectrics, telex, xerox, audiotapes of the plenary sessions and briefings.
It was a far
cry from today's sophisticated Lambeth Communications Centre, with its global telecommunications
operation, but it was a beginning.