The Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to really enjoy himself,
and the young people loved having him with us. The night was sensational.
Rowan Williams came to our Friday-night worship event called Pulse two weeks
ago. I invited him before I had anything to do with the Archbishops’ Council.
It is an event run with other local churches in Chorleywood (St Albans
diocese), and it was lovely to welcome him, and to see him engage so naturally
with more than 250 teenagers.
He looked really at home. I watched him in the middle of a
room of teenagers, talking and laughing with them. His warmth, gentle humour,
and deep wisdom inspired all of us. It was a very special evening, and he
seemed genuinely moved by their love for him.
I really do think he is committed to young people and can relate to
them. He has two children of his own at home, and when I’ve been to
Lambeth Palace there are the usual bikes and rollerblades in the hall. I have
been particularly struck by the depth of his spirituality and his genuine
humility. He is also a man of prayer.
I wanted to be the Prime Minister when I was younger, or,
failing that, a judge. I did graduate from law school, but then went into youth
Wearing a suit is totally the wrong image for me, even
though I am on the Archbishops’ Council. So I don’t. I am supposed to have a
connection with young people.
Although I have been in Chorleywood for five years, I have made a
point of not losing my Irish accent. I use this to great effect, and
have my own distinctive way of keeping things lively on the Council, partly
because of my personality and voice. I try to ensure that we do not take
ourselves too seriously, and if we disagree we have that unity in the Spirit. I
have been made very welcome by all the members.
The work is a privilege, not a chore. My work at a local
level has given me a platform at a national level. I am struck by the
exceptionally heavy workload of all the members of the Archbishops’ Council,
and how much time they give up.
It is very easy to pick on bishops. But the truth is that
there are a heck of a lot of people who do not understand young people, and who
think the worst of them. I want to do my best to challenge that. We have a duty
to make the Church relevant and accessible.
Youth work is about relationships and time, not just money.
It is about creating a culture within a church that welcomes young people. The
Church as a whole needs to invest in the 20-somethings, so it can encourage
younger people into leadership. This is on the Council’s agenda.
You can pray youth leaders into a church. We need to be
better at releasing people into the ministry of youth work.
Being youthful depends on personality. I know some
18-year-olds who are going on 60, and vice versa. There is no arbitrary number
My family relationships are very important to me. I was
brought up in Northern Ireland, where everyone lives in each other’s pockets,
and I am regularly in touch with my mother and brother. Because of my strong
family ties, coming to England was probably the biggest choice I have made in
life. I came here in 2000.
My biggest regret has been not keeping in touch with my father.
He left my mother ten years ago, and I should have worked harder to
stop the gulf developing. But I am working on it.
I think Leviticus is a cure for insomnia, but I love the Psalms.
They contain all human life and emotions. The two books that have
influenced me most, apart from the Bible, are Messy Spirituality by Mike
Yaconnelli, and The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I probably ought to
add The Wild Gospel by Alison Morgan, which challenges us about how to do
church. Rowan Williams suggested I should read it.
I felt particularly angry with a traffic warden who gave me
a parking ticket outside my own home. I know God loves traffic wardens, but I
find it hard. I also get angry about world-debt issues, and am a firm supporter
of the Make Poverty History campaign.
I hate decaffeinated coffee. It is like chocolate without
the sugar. Café Direct, is my favourite fair-trade item.
The most memorable sermon I’ve heard has to be one given by
one of my youth group — a young man called Josh, who preached on Samson and
Delilah. It was inspirational.
Give me a sunlounger, beer, and a novel, and I am happy.
But my favourite place would have to be the headlands of County Antrim, with
the Giant’s Causeway stretching out in front. Spiritually, I love to return to
Lee Abbey in Devon.
I would love to engage in an evening of praise with the
Christian singer Rebecca St James. The fact that she is stunningly beautiful is