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Lord’s Prayer could help young people to connect with the Church, says Archbishop of York

11 October 2023

Archbishop of York

The Archbishop of York at the Faith in the North event in Dewsbury Minster, on Tuesday

The Archbishop of York at the Faith in the North event in Dewsbury Minster, on Tuesday

AT AN event in Dewsbury Minster, on Tuesday, the Archbishop of York outlined his vision for the revitalisation of the Church of England in the Province of York — although he started by saying “I’ve got nothing new to share with you today.”

It emphasised Archbishop Cottrell’s focus not on sign-ups to a “heavy programme” of tasks and strategies, but on creating a “movement of encouragement and resources”.

In the words of the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who also attended the event, the emphasis was on “inklings, not programmes”. One such inkling Archbishop Cottrell described was his hunch (which, he hoped, was a “godly hunch”) that teaching the Lord’s Prayer in schools would help young people to connect with the life of the Church.

Speaking afterwards to the Church Times, Archbishop Cottrell explained why he thought that the Lord’s Prayer could be such an effective way to introduce people to Christ. “It’s a pattern for our life, as well as a pattern for our prayer,” he said. “It’s a revolutionary text” which asked people to put God’s will before their own.

“And it’s also, interestingly, the one bit of the Christian heritage which is still pretty much alive in the culture,” and, for this reason, he said, it was a “good place to start” in helping people to “re-engage with the Christian faith”.

The event in Dewsbury was attended by representatives of every diocese in the Northern Province. The Archbishop suggested to them that the Faith in the North project — which will be run from Bishopthorpe by existing staff of the Archbishops’ office, as well as some volunteers — would “add capacity to what you’re already doing”.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we built across the north a huge learning community about discipleship and mission?” Archbishop Cottrell said later. The idea, he said, was not to impose ideas on dioceses, but to help to provide them with resources and the means to carry forward their plans, and was conceived as something of a “northern riff” on the C of E’s Vision and Strategy.

While the idea was not restricted to the north of England, and Archbishop Cottrell was quick to emphasise that it could work anywhere, there was a distinctly northern flavour to the references on which he drew, most notably in the decision to hold the event in Dewsbury on St Paulinus’s Day.

St Paulinus became the first Bishop of York, in the seventh century. On Tuesday, Archbishop Cottrell led prayers in a chapel at Dewsbury Minster dedicated in honour of the saint.

“The saints of the north, who shaped and brought the Christian faith to the north, are alive in the culture. And I don’t just mean the church culture: they are alive in the culture in a way that you don’t really get in the south,” he said.

The references to northern saints extended to the focus on the Lord’s Prayer: the Archbishop referred to the Venerable Bede’s injunction to one disaffected bishop that all he needed to do was “keep it simple” and teach the Lord’s Prayer in the mother tongue.

“That feels like good advice to me and to the Church today,” Archbishop Cottrell said. “Sorry not to be more whizzy and original, but it just feels like a really ordinary, simple way of beginning to try to re-engage the culture with the Christian faith.”

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