I saw God at work, people learning to love and follow Jesus Christ, and loving their communities
Archbishop Justin Welby
Conversations after midnight on the streets of Kingswood. Selfies with teenagers at a fun day in Swindon. Open air baptisms at Malmesbury Abbey. Sharing stories of faith with nearly a thousand people in Bristol Cathedral.
This weekend Christians across our diocese have been demonstrating just what an impact the Church in this region is having.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has been with us for three days and what a wonderful time of affirmation, rejuvenation and inspiration it has been; not only for us, the churches, schools, projects and communities he visited, but also for him personally as Archbishop.
Many times while he was here Justin spoke of the encouragement he has received from us; in being able to talk to people at grassroots level, hear their stories of faith in action and to see for himself the difference this is having on people’s lives.
“I was hugely encouraged by my weekend in the Diocese of Bristol,” says Archbishop Justin. “I saw God at work, people learning to love and follow Jesus Christ, and loving their communities – doing the things Christian communities do that are the glue that holds this country together.”
The Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill has spoken of being moved on several occasions during the visit, a sentiment that has been expressed by many who came into contact with the Archbishop.
“We’ve enjoyed a wonderful time with Justin,” says Bishop Mike. “We are so grateful for his visit to us, for his commitment to what we’re doing here, and for the way he made his visit completely free of pomp and circumstance.
“I had the pleasure of accompanying Archbishop Justin and his wife Caroline from one end of the Diocese to another and have felt immensely proud of all that we have seen and encountered. Justin’s stated intention in coming to Bristol was to encourage us in what we are already doing; inspiring us to yet further confidence in evangelism and discipleship. And boy has he done that in spades!
“My prayer now is that his visit will have a lasting and energising effect on each one of us and that renewed in the power of the Spirit, we will act upon whatever we may have learned.”
The Dean of Bristol, David Hoyle adds: “It has been a huge privilege to host the Archbishop and his wife Caroline. We have been encouraged, uplifted and challenged.”
47 hours. 17 events. Let’s look back at Justin’s whirlwind tour of our Diocese…
A grilling from sixth-formers
Archbishop Justin’s visit started on the afternoon of Friday 12 September with a question time event at St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School in Bristol, where sixth-form students quizzed him on issues such as reconciliation, why the Church should concern itself with matters of business and finance, and what’s surprised him most about being Archbishop of Canterbury.
Christians Against Poverty
Next Archbishop Justin met some of those involved with Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in Sea Mills, as well as some of the many people they are helping to out of debt and poverty.
Prayers with ordinands at Trinity College
The Archbishop was delighted to meet and pray with new and returning ordinands at Trinity College in Stoke Bishop, sharing in song, scripture and speaking of his heart’s desire to see God’s kingdom grow. And he even had time for a few selfies.
Standing Room Only
On Friday evening, Justin took part in the sell-out Standing Room Only event at Bristol Cathedral, during which he joined a number of Bristolians to talk frankly and openly about their own faith journeys.
Bristol prayer space
Archbishop Justin was extremely moved during his time at our 24-hour prayer room, which was open in Hope Chapel throughout his visit. This meditative and creative prayer space was a chance for the people of Bristol to hear God and connect personally with all that the visit might mean.
Conversations with Kingswood pub-goers
Kingswood Street Pastors care for others, especially young people who might have had a bit too much to drink, who find themselves in need of help in the town centre late at night. On Friday night, Archbishop Justin joined them until way past midnight, meet people coming out of the pubs and clubs and talking to them about all kinds of things from what an Archbishop does to the meaning of life.
Swindon ecumenical prayer breakfast
The Archbishop started a packed Saturday at an ecumenical breakfast for church leaders across Swindon, coordinated through Swindon Churches Together.
Celebrating our church heritage
A visit to the beautiful Lydiard Park was next on Archbishop Justin’s itinerary, where he formally opened the estate National Heritage Open Days and launched the Wiltshire Ride+Stride fundraising event. He also had time for a quick tour of the historic St Mary’s Church and got to view the famous St John Polyptych dating back to 1615.
Inspiring our ministers
Clergy and licensed lay ministers from across our diocese came together on Saturday morning to meet and hear from the Archbishop, as well as ask him questions. This was a truly inspiring session, with humour, humility and frank openness.
Community fun day in Swindon
Archbishop Justin dropped in on the Pinehurst estate in Swindon where a community day was in full swing, organised by Swindon Youth for Christ and SHINE pioneer ministry. He chatted to young people by the mobile youth club (a converted supermarket delivery van), enjoyed conversations with representatives from a number of different local community groups and even did some hand prints in the Messy Church tent.
Spirituality of Leadership lunch
Following a lunch hosted by Bishop Lee for community and business leaders from across Swindon at Arkells’ Brewery, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke powerfully on ‘the spirituality of leadership’.
Happy birthday LIGHT Church!
Archbishop Justin was the guest of honour at the third birthday party of the LIGHT (Living in God’s Heart Together) Church in Chippenham, a wonderful fresh expression of church for people with special needs led by Rev Alice Kemp.
Baptism celebrations at Malmesbury Abbey
Hundreds of people were in the crowd for the incredible party celebrations at Malmesbury Abbey on Saturday afternoon, when 19 people were baptised in an outdoor pool by Archbishop Justin Welby, Rev Lee Barnes and Rev Tanya Lord. In his sermon, Justin told those gathered, “I’ve come to the conclusion the Church of England could do with more parties and fewer meetings!” Hear hear!
Heart of the Community
The Archbishop ended Saturday at a very special reception at the Heart of the Community project in Stoke Gifford. Archbishop Justin was given a tour of this new church building, which is being built by the people of St Michael’s to help restore relationships, re-build community and enable more people to come together, before unveiling and blessing a commemorative stone.
After attending a parish Eucharist in Knowle and then being interviewed by regional TV and radio, the Archbishop of Canterbury join hundreds from all across our Diocese in our mother church, Bristol Cathedral, where he preached at the Holy Eucharist.
A video of the sermon will be available soon.
Archbishop Justin’s final formal engagement was a Question Time style event organised by Bristol Cathedral; a forum on aspiration, education and reconciliation in Bristol, still very much a divided city when it comes to the achievements of our young people.
The panel featured Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson; Principal of Merchants Academy, Anne Burrell; Head of Widening Participation & Undergraduate Recruitment at Bristol University, Lucy Collins; and was chaired by the Dean of Bristol Cathedral, David Hoyle.