Over a thousand people welcome the archbishop home
Archbishop Justin, wearing his Coventry Cross of Nails, is greeted by the people of Coventry and Warwickshire
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was warmly greeted by the people of Coventry and Warwickshire on Friday 15 March. Archbishop Justin is no stranger to the region, having been ordained in Coventry Cathedral in 1992 and then spending the next 15 years serving the in Nuneaton, Southam and Coventry.
Coventry is one of just five dioceses that Archbishop Justin is visiting in the days leading up to his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral. He invited as many people as possible to join him on this 'Journey in Prayer' and over a thousand people responded to this invitation.
The visit began on Friday morning when 200 people gathered at Broadgate in Coventry City Centre. Here Archbishop Justin was welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Coventry. To the applause of the crowd, Tim Sawdon said:
"I was going to say to the Archbishop, ‘Welcome to Coventry’, but since he has spent some fifteen years here, it is more appropriate to say, ‘Welcome home’."
Archbishop Justin was also greeted by Bishop Christopher (Bishop of Coventry), Bishop John (Bishop of Warwick), Dr Abdullah Shehu (Chair of Coventry Muslim Forum), and Mr Sanjay Jagatia (Secretary General of the Hindu Council).
From Broadgate, drummers from the Asian Christian Fellowship headed a short procession to the Cathedral Ruins, where Bishop Christopher led those gathered in the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation.
Finally, everyone moved into the new Cathedral, where the Archbishop prayed and talked with people throughout the morning and afternoon. The building had been divided into nine prayer zones, each giving people an opportunity to pray in different ways. Many visitors commented on the creativity and variety of zones, which included: prayer activities for children, a prayer labyrinth and a prayer tree.
A thousand people joined Archbishop Justin at Coventry Cathedral. Others participated from a distance; they texted prayers to the Cathedral, which were then displayed on a large screen.
Speaking at the end of his visit, Archbishop Justin said:
"Today has been a really extraordinary day in terms of meeting so many people I remembered and knew. Coventry, Southam and Nuneaton have all formed me and trained me in so many ways. I’ve been reminded of the power of the reconciliation story and the need for that to be central to our ministry as Christians.
And I’m hugely grateful to the Cathedral for hosting this part of the prayer journey; just the extraordinary way that they have
opened the place up, and the number of people who’ve come. So I want to say thank you to them and also to thank God for what He gave me through working here and to rejoice in that."
Christopher Cocksworth, the Bishop of Coventry said:
"I’ve found today a really moving day, to see so many people come to the cathedral from across the city and diocese to pray with the archbishop. This place is really very important to him because of all it was to him in an earlier stage in his ministry, and also what it will mean to him in his future ministry as archbishop.
It really is clear that the great themes of peace and reconciliation of this cathedral are really deep in his soul, mind and heart, and he wants to carry that forward into his ministry as archbishop with the help of the cathedral. So it’s very moving to see him here in an old place for him but wanting it to be part of his new ministry."
John Stroyan, the Bishop of Warwick added:
"It has been a wonderful day of prayer, with many significant encounters, and with inspiring words from Archbishop Justin. Many of us, I believe, have a sense of excitement at what God is going to do, and an increasingly expectant faith in God who changes life and changes lives."