Archbishop of Canterbury's Three day visit Hereford Diocese
Day One - Monday 14 October 2019
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby met students’ questions head-on at the start of his three-day visit to the Hereford Diocese.
Speaking in an often-challenging question and answer session at the city’s award-winning Sixth Form College, the Archbishop addressed artificial intelligence, intensive farming, sexuality issues, the relationship between the Church of England and the Catholic Church and the relevance of God.
Asked how he would stop church being boring for young people, the Archbishop said: ‘You stop church being boring by creating a real sense of community and there needs to be a presentation of what Jesus really is. You need to show that people are loved by God and that God can give you a real sense of direction and growth and show that life is worthwhile.’
While at the college, the Archbishop also met students who volunteer with the Vennture organisation’s ‘Lean on Me’ project, which cares for people injured while on a night out in Hereford.
The Archbishop then travelled into the city centre to visit NMiTE, the New Model in Technology and Engineering, an initiative backed by government, educators, and industry, to transform engineering education in this country. Awaiting validation as a university, it plans to open to its first 50 students in May 2020 and become the country’s first new, purpose-built university, developed from scratch for 40 years. The Archbishop called the plan ‘very exciting’.
He also visited All Saints Church in High Town and joined a lively ‘Messy Church’ for children’s story time at St James’ Church.
Day Two - Tuesday 15 October 2019
The Archbishop was in Shropshire on the second of a three-day visit to the Hereford Diocese. Speaking at the Butty Van on Oakwood Farm in Longville, near Much Wenlock in Shropshire - a pop-up initiative designed to give farmers a place to meet and socialise – he addressed the issue of a divided country.
He said: ‘It is difficult when the congregation is divided but can we disagree well rather than disagree with bitterness? This is something the church has often got wrong but when it gets it right, the capacity to have radically different views, to be united around the worship of Christ and love for your neighbour enables people to disagree with passion and yet still to care for each other.’
Local Rector, Nancy Cleaton, who looks after churches in the Church Stretton area, was cooking bacon for farmers at the Butty Van. She described the Archbishop’s visit as ‘amazing’.
She added: ‘This is the most rural diocese in Britain and it’s great that he’s come to see farmers in this part of the country. I’m sure that his visit will give him a different perspective on his work and his position. Farming is a very lonely occupation and farmers do struggle so it’s great that they can come together at something like the Butty Van. Having the chance today to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury is something special and something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.’
Earlier in the day, at St Laurence Church in Ludlow, the Archbishop launched the Hereford Diocese ‘Mission & Mortar’ digital tool kit, digital software designed to help parishioners rejuvenate their church buildings. It’s hoped that the tool kit, which has been developed with £38,000 of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will eventually be rolled out nationally.
From Ludlow, the Archbishop headed to Barrow Primary School, where he took part in acting out a story from Open the Book, which teaches children about Bible stories. From there, his tour of the diocese took in the Sutton Hill Community Centre in Telford, where he was serenaded by youngsters from the Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School. His day ended with a short prayer walk up Clee Hill with a youth group from Cleobury Mortimer.
In the evening, the Archbishop shared a drink with people at Ludlow Brewery, at a ‘Setting God’s People Free’ event, an initiative which helps people live a Christian life.
Day Three - Wednesday 16 October 2019
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby condemned the ‘echo chambers of enmity’ and talked of working for ‘the Common Good’ on the third and final day of his visit to the Hereford Diocese.
As he spoke to community leaders at a business breakfast, teachers and students at the start of an Educational Conference for Church of England Schools and farmers at the Hereford Livestock Market, the Archbishop repeated his call for people to learn how to disagree well in a post-Brexit United Kingdom.
The Archbishop said that as a nation, we needed ‘to hold on to our basic principles of what it is to be a society’ and added that ‘the Common Good’ was not that same as ‘the general interest’. He said: ‘Working for the Common Good means that no-one gets left behind.’
The Archbishop spent time with patients and staff at St Michael’s Hospice and spoke to students and supporters at the Horizon Training project in Hereford.
Speaking from the sheep ring at the Livestock Market, the Archbishop answered questions on climate change, the stress of TB testing, the effect on meat prices of the buying power of the supermarkets and the threat to food standards of trade deals negotiated, if and when the UK leaves the European Union.
The Archbishop told farmers: ‘I know you are isolated. I know it’s often very, very hard and just coming on this visit has been a reminder of that to me. We know how important you are and we value you. People have forgotten that you’re essential to national survival.’
On his three-day sojourn in the diocese, the Archbishop visited 30 projects in Herefordshire and Shropshire, observing the work of the church across the diocese inspired by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Richard Frith, who retires later in the year.
Bishop Richard said the Archbishop had ‘raised our sights and given us fresh vision’. Before leaving the diocese for his return trip to London, the Archbishop said he had seen ‘huge imagination and creativity being exercised in the diocese.’
He added: ‘People might look at Hereford and think it’s a nice, quiet, rural diocese but my goodness, there’s a lot going on and it’s wonderful to see.’