THE Archbishop of Canterbury
spoke openly about about trials he has endured as a son
and a father, in an interview broadcast for Radio 4's Desert
Island Discs, on Sunday.
Archbishop Welby advised those
facing a difficult Christmas without a loved one: "Attack the day,
so that it doesn't attack you. I think the most helpful thing
is to celebrate the person, to remember them with love, to remember
what they gave, what you gave them."
He recalled to the programme's
presenter, Kirsty Young, the death in 1983 of his daughter,
Johanna, aged 7 months, in a car crash. It was a "constant reminder
of the uncertainty of life. The only certainty in life is Christ.
Everything else is contingent."
The Archbishop told Ms Young
that Blessed be your name by Matt and Beth Redman (the
refrain of which is "You give and take away") encapsulated this
experience. It was the song he would save if all but one of his
selections were swept away in the waves, he said.
Asked about his experience as
the son of an alcoholic father, he described one Christmas he spent
alone, while his father stayed in bed all day. Finding all the
shops closed, and "a sandwich or something" in the fridge, he had
had a "grim, grim day". His father was "always unpredictable,
sometimes very full of rage and anger".
It was not all grim.
Beethoven's sixth symphony reminded him of his grandmother's house
in Norfolk and a "sense of security and safety and a place that was
good, with family". He provided some insights into a happy family
life as a husband, and father of five, that included "very noisy"
games of Racing Demon, during which he sang The Lion Sleeps
Tonight (his first track) to distract other players. Ironing
was a good opportunity, he found, to pray.
His earliest memory was having
tea with Winston Churchill, in 1961: "I remember a very, very old
man and he cried. I don't know why, and because he cried, I cried,
and then we sat and had tea."
Arriving in the radio studio
just hours after flying in from Sierra Leone, where he met Ebola
victims, the Archbishop drew several times on his experiences in
Africa. His fourth musical choice was Yesu
Odeshi, performed by Kapicho of South Sudan. It
reminded him of "that sense of their faith and trust and joy in
God, in the midst of absolute horror".
Asked about the Church's
position on gay relationships, he said "I'm really not going to
answer the question very well", arguing that it would be
"inappropriate" to "weigh in", during the process of facilitated
conversations. But, he said: "It's something that, as you go round
the Communion, and having visited all the provinces, I'm very aware
of this, that it is seen by many as an absolutely central
understanding of obedience to Christ in both directions either in
favour of against."
Choosing songs, he confessed,
had been "like pulling teeth" owing to his incapability to remember
the music he liked. But with the aid of a colleague, he had
selected tracks including the anthem God is with us by
John Taverner, which he had heard at Coventry Cathedral; and
Gerry & the Pacemakers' You'll Never Walk
Alone, which reminded him of Liverpool, an "amazing,
wonderful, poor, battered, thrusting, lively, humorous
city"; Listen, Listen, O my child,
which had been commissioned from Michael Berkeley by his
mother and step-father, for
his archiepiscopal installation.
With his trademark
self-deprecation, he confessed that his "constant companion"
as Archbishop of Canterbury is Imposter Syndrome. But
becoming a Christian had revealed that "there was someone who knew
me better than I knew myself, and who loves me more deeply than
anyone, despite knowing absolutely everything about me, including
the things I deeply dislike about myself."
His luxury item was the
complete boxed set of the West Wing, a
seven-series show about the challenges of high