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Welby the pilgrim takes his turn in the Chair of Augustine

28 March 2013


THE Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Portal Welby, was enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday of last week, in a service that combined tradition with modern reminders of his international position in the Anglican Communion.

Great emphasis was placed during the service on the relationship between the Anglican Church and its ecumenical partners. And, although the African element constituted only one element of the service, its colourful impact made it one of the most memorable.

The service, which was billed as "the inauguration of the ministry of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury" rather than an enthronement, was preceded by processions lasting 50 minutes. Among the congregation were the Prince of Wales, representing the Queen, and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Government was represented by the Prime Minister and other prominent figures such as the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling. The Leader of the Opposi-tion, Ed Miliband, also attended.

Civic dignitaries from the city and county were there in force, led by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord De L'Isle. The Lord Mayor of Canterbury was re- splendent in gold braid and feathered tricorn hat, as he processed behind the sword and mace of the city.

Ecumenical representatives included Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira & Great Britain; the Moderator of the Free Churches Group, the Revd Michael Heaney; and Metropolitan Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, came from the Vatican. Among the leaders from other faiths were rabbis, imams, and a Parsee.

Pope Francis had sent his greetings, saying that he was looking forward to meeting Archbishop Welby "and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed. . . Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me."

Pope Emeritus Benedict had also written to the Archbishop with "prayerful good wishes" and "sentiments of fraternal regard", referring to "the preacher's task . . . to speak the truth with love. . . May your apostolate yield a rich harvest."

There were also a number of Roman Catholic Benedictine religious, including Dom Richard Yeo, the Abbot-President of the English Benedictine Congregation. Their plain habits contrasted with the splendour of the headgear of many of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox representatives.

One former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, was present as a guest of the Dean and Chapter.

The congregation had already sung three hymns (including "Great is thy faithfulness" and "Come down, O love divine"), by the time the Archbishop knocked on the west door three times with his pastoral staff.

The doors were opened, to a fanfare, and, in an innovation, the Archbishop was welcomed with a short set of formalised questions about his ministry, which he had composed himself. They were put to him by a 17-year-old representative of the Anglican Communion, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a pupil at The King's School, Canterbury. Asked: "How do you come among us, and with what confidence?" the Archbishop answered: "I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and in weakness and fear and in much trembling."

In keeping with the season, Archbishop Welby proceeded to the nave altar during the singing of "When I survey the wondrous cross". There he knelt in silence, during another hymn, the ancient Veni Creator.

Then came the necessary legal declarations, after which the Archbishop was presented with the Canterbury Gospels, brought to England in 597 by his predecessor St Augustine, for him to kiss. Then, in another new feature, the Archbishop added his signature to those of the other co-presidents of Churches Together in England on an ecumenical covenant.

Readings followed from Ruth and 2 Corinthians, both read by co-presidents of Churches Together in England, a Lutheran bishop, the Rt Revd Jana Jeruma Grinberga, and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols.

Then came the two installations, preceded by the hymn "The Church's one foundation". First, Archbishop Welby was installed in the diocesan throne by the Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Ven. Sheila Watson.

Next, the hymn "Saranam", to a Punjabi melody, was sung, though in a more low-key way, since the tune was unfamiliar to many in the congregation.

Then the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis, placed the Archbishop in the Chair of St Augustine, confirming him as Primate of All England and Metropolitan, "that by God's grace you may guide and govern this see to which the eyes of all Anglican Christians look as the centre of their Communion and fellowship". The Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, blessed him in French, asking God to grant him "the power to guide and rule the Church with courage and with love".

The Dean then presented the Archbishop to the congregation, which greeted him with sustained applause. This was repeated, perhaps a little more spontaneously, at the end of the service as the Archbishop processed out.

After his presentation, Archbishop Welby introduced the Peace, which the congregation then shared, while the Evangelical anthem "In Christ alone" was sung.

This was followed by song and dance: "Gbeh kpa kpa ba", performed by a London-based group, Frititi, using elements of melodies from Ghana. The dancing drummers, dressed in bright mustard and red polka-dot trousers, led the Archbishop to the pulpitum screen, where he proclaimed the Gospel from the top of the steps. The passage was from Matthew 14, the account of Jesus's walking on water.

Then followed the sermon, in which the Archbishop described this country as one that, "for more than 1000 years . . . has to one degree or another sought to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God". His vision of a Christian England was clear: "There can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in our society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ."

In a reference to St Peter, he spoke of the "Christ-liberated courage" with which the world had to face its present environmental and economic problems. And there was a reference to St Peter's latest successor: "In humility and simplicity, Pope Francis called us on Tuesday to be protectors of each other: of the natural world, of the poor and vulnerable. Courage is released in a society that is under the authority of God, so that we may become the fully human community of which we all dream."

An organ improvisation followed, during which symbols representing regions of the Anglican Communion were placed on the high altar: an olive-wood cross from Bethlehem; water from Canada; a bread packet and water-carrier from Kenya, presented by a member of the Mothers' Union; from Hong Kong, a picture made of rice; and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a wooden carving of a volcano, representing the desire for peace.

The Nicene Creed that followed omitted the filioque (now a customary when ecumenical guests are present), after which the choir sang the Te Deum in C by Benjamin Britten, whose centenary is celebrated this year.

Intercessions were led by young people from the diocese of Canterbury, ending with the General Thanksgiving, described as being from the Book of Common Prayer, but in fact altered to make the language gender-neutral.

A new anthem by Britten's godson, Michael Berkeley, set words from the Rule of St Benedict, "Listen, listen, O my child". It was specially commissioned for the service by Archbishop Welby's mother and stepfather, Lord and Lady Williams of Elvel.

The Archbishop then blessed the congregation in the quire, and processed to the nave altar during the singing of Charles Wesley's "And can it be . . ?" There he blessed the congregation in the nave, before heading to the west door and the waiting photographers.

After a short chat with the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop was escorted to the Chapter House, and placed in his seat by the Dean, where he received the oaths of obedience from the Chapter and the other members of the foundation.

The Dean closed proceedings with the traditional prayers in Latin, asking God's blessing on the cathedral community.

More than 1000 guests were served tea, when they had a chance to meet Archbishop Welby; and, in the evening, more than 300 attended a dinner at the University of Kent, hosted by the Nikæan Club, which offers hospitality on behalf of the Archbishop.

The Very Revd Peter Hughes OSB Cam, an Australian Roman Catholic Benedictine, addressed the gathering, speaking of Christian diversity as a strength in the modern world. Archbishop Welby responded, noting that his guests the Revd Rick Warren, the American megachurch pastor, and the Revd Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of the Alpha Course, might not have been invited in earlier years. He ended with a toast to Pope Francis.

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