Diocese of Canterbury welcomes its new archbishop

By Jim Rosenthal
Posted Mar 25, 2013

[Episcopal News Service] Snow and ice hit Kent on the morning of March 23, the day the diocese welcomed its new archbishop at a special service at Canterbury Cathedral. Even with the bitter cold, hundreds filled the cathedral as a smiling Archbishop Justin Welby entered the West Door accompanied by the Very Rev. Robert Willis, cathedral dean, and Bishop of Dover the Trevor Willmott.

During the service, titled “Our Jouney into Holy Week,” several people offered testimonies of what the week ahead would mean for them. Welby said that Holy Week was a time “to journey together” and to “say yes to the invitation” to be “partners” in Christ’s mission and plan for the world. He also said that “How much God loves us is what makes us fit” for His service and that accepting Christ’s love and his call will mean our “being with Him forever.”

The new archbishop, who was inaugurated at the cathedral on March 21, said, “Jesus loves us and we must share that love.”

Speaking of mission, he said, “Our proclamation must be world-changing, that world that we dream of.” The 57-year-old primate said that we must “learn to love” one another, even when that can be “difficult,” adding that “the way we live together,” even in our diversity, is an important witness to the world, yes “even when we disagree.”

Attending the service was Archbishop of the Indian Ocean Ian Ernest, whose Diocese of Madagascar shares a companion link with the Diocese of Canterbury. The offering during the service was designated for the Madagascar diocese. Welby invited Ernest to offer the final blessing, which was in French. Willis emphasized the importance of the cathedral being the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, as well as the diocese.

The first hymn was the same one sung at the conclusion of the March 21 inauguration service. So to the strains of “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” the two services were, as the dean remarked, “linked together.”

The 90-minute service on March 23 included a gospel choir from Christ Church University, of which Welby is chancellor. Traditional and more modern hymns and songs were sung with the cathedral choir of men and boys singing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Passion Chorale” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Love bade me welcome,” with words by George Herbert. Murray Wilkinson, diocesan youth ministry advisor, sang some worship songs as a prelude to the gathering.

Members of the Archbishop’s Council led the prayers and there were several “interview slots,” including a conversation with Willmott and the very young students from Bredgar Primary School. Readings were from Isaiah 61 and Luke’s account of the entry into Jerusalem.

Welby spoke briefly about the inauguration ceremony and called the experience “uplifting, enjoyable” and thanked the dean for the “Rolls Royce smoothness” of it all. He said, “I had fun!”

On the evening of March 21, Welby and his wife Caroline attended a dinner for more than 300 people at the University of Kent at Canterbury, organized by the Nikaean Club, a group of clergy and laity that helps the archbishop in ecumenical matters, especially the hosting of visiting dignitaries operating through Lambeth Palace and Colin Menzies its chairman. Leaders of the Philippine Independent Church, Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran churches, as well as some Anglican bishops, were present. The archbishop made special mention of the presence of Pastor Rick Warren, a well known Protestant leader in the United States, and the Rev. Nicky Gumble from Holy Trinity Brompton, London, home of the Alpha Course.

Welby presided at the Palm Sunday rites and Sung Eucharist at 11 a.m. and will bring the clergy together for the annual Renewal of Vows and the Chrism Mass at 11 a.m. on Maundy Thursday. He will celebrate and preach at 11 a.m. Easter Day in the cathedral.

The following prayer was offered at the March 23 welcome: Bless those who lead the church’s worship at this solemn time especially Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis in their new ministries. Bless this our diocese and Bishop Trevor. In the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments draw people close to you. By the Savior’s cross and passion, Lord save us and help us.