The last time I was in Canterbury Cathedral was ‘running for Archbishop’ in a cardboard mitre, getting pulled aside by a security guard who wanted to know what I was doing. This Easter Monday I found myself once again in the Cathedral, joining my cousins and the Wye Church youth group in walking there as part of the annual Easter Monday Youth Pilgrimage, which happened to be celebrating its fortieth year.
I met the real Archbishop
Having decided to join the expedition purely because I thought the walk itself sounded like a good way to spend my morning, it was a happy little surprise to find that every year the Cathedral that seats the head of the Anglican Communion clears out the pews from its nave so that several hundred teenagers can cram in and
rock out to Hillsongs praise God with stringed instruments. And as an extra treat, it so happened that Justin Welby, fresh from his promotion to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, happened to be there.
More to him than meets the eye
I say ‘happened to be there’, but I suspect you don’t become Archbishop unless you’re quite intentional about everywhere that you go and all that you do. Anyway, he was briefly interviewed by youth worker Nathan Wilson, who asked him a mixture of questions trivial (“What we’re all wondering is–do you use an iPhone or a Blackberry?”) and obvious (“So have you got used to being Archbishop?”). Among which was the seemingly innocuous, “What’s your favourite book?”, to which the answer was God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew and the nonchalant admission that in his earlier days the Archbishop used to smuggle Bibles into Soviet Eastern Europe in his camper van.
Quietly confident of coming revival
But the highlight for me was his answer to the question of how he felt about the job ahead of him. “Well, you share the job,” he began with a wave towards the other assorted clergy in the vicinity. And then suddenly, without any warning, he quietly dropped the bombshell:
“I think we’re in a moment when the tide is turning. I think that in years to come people will look back at the second decade of the twenty-first century and say that this was the time that the Church once again became a force in society”.
That sound-bite may not be quite wordperfect, as my attempt to capture his answer on my smartphone was foiled by
the forces of darkness a lack of disc space. But if that isn’t a prophecy of coming revival — albeit in understated English fashion — then I don’t know what is.
Pray for him!
Soft-spoken revival prophecies aside, let me end with an encouragement (to myself as much as anybody!) to pray for the new Archbishop. For, like the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, “he is keeping watch over our souls, as one who will have to give an account — so may he do this with joy, not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage”.