Time runs together. I’m writing from a fourth floor room in the lovely Ramada Plaza Riverside in Bangkok, Thailand, after a record-setting (for me) 36 hour trip that began in Springfield on Saturday morning. In the process, I lost 12 hours of clock time, but I know right where I left them and will pick them up as I head east again in a few days.
The journey was lengthened by a delayed departure on the Chicago to Tokyo leg, causing me to miss a connection. As a result, I saw more of Tokyo than I’d planned on, as my re-booked flight to Thailand was out of the downtown Haneda International, rather than Narita where I had landed. The two airports are about an hour apart by bus.
This is my first trip to Asia, so there’s a lot to take in. Due to the nature of my visit (attending a Global South Anglican mission and networking conference, as a representative of the Communion Partners), I probably won’t be getting out of the hotel much, but my room has a commanding view of the river on which Bangkok is built, which is alive with barge traffic and other smaller craft. It’s quite bustling.
The first event of the conference was not until 5 p.m., so I had the day to have a dialogue with my body about what time it really is. The body is persuasive, but I will win this debate in the end. I’m reluctant to wander beyond the point where I can turn around and see the hotel. Even in a country where I’m not fluent in the language, if I know the alphabet, I can at least still read signs. The Thai alphabet is phonetic, and reads from left to right, but beyond that I’m ignorant; hence the short leash. Many signs are also in English, however, and I did notice two custom suit makers within sight of the hotel. Tempting.
The formalities began with a welcome from the dean of the Anglican congregation in Bangkok. He oriented us to some logistical matters, and then yielded the floor to a team of five Thai women—Presbyterian Christians—who presented us with a “liturgical dance” using traditional Thai forms but interpreting Isaiah 55—“Come to the water.”
Of course, I ended up at a table with my American compatriots—Bishop Smith, Dean Clark, and Dr Alley, along with the dean of Wycliffe College in Tortonto, George Sumner, the Suffragan Bishop of Canberra, and a representative of ACNA. Tomorrow we are under orders to mix it up a bit more.
After a buffet dinner—definitely Asian, but spiced down to the western palate, unfortunately—we heard the keynote address from John Chew, Archbishop of Singapore. He is masterfully in command of theology, scripture, politics, and recent history as they all bear on the occasion. 2012 is a year of great ferment (Arab Spring, EU debt crisis, new Archbishop of Canterbury to be appointed, difficult General Synod in England and General Convention in TEC).
Bangkok with its tiny minority Christian population is emblematic of the missional challenge the worldwide church faces, and the Anglican Global South movement now has a two-decade history of taking responsible principled stands in the councils of the worldwide Anglican Communion. What better time, what better place, and what better group is there to network together for the sake of mission? This will be a challenging week, but I look forward to it. I’m still generally zoinked by jet lag, but it’s a good sign that it’s bedtime locally, and I feel plenty ready to go native on this one.