The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was welcomed to Norwich at an historic ecumenical service of welcome at St John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral at midday today (November 6). Keith Morris reports.
He was welcomed by the Catholic Bishop of East Anglia and the Anglican Bishop of Norwich, alongside many other local church leaders in a short service of reconciliation. It is believed to be the first time any Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken at St John’s Cathedral.
The service marked the start of a three-day visit to the Diocese of Norwich by the Archbishop, which will also include King’s Lynn on Thursday and Great Yarmouth on Friday.
A 500-strong congregation heard Catholic Bishop Alan Hopes open the service with a word of welcome to Archbishop Justin: “The theme of your visit is reconciliation, so it is hugely significant that you have chosen to begin with an ecumenical act of worship. It speaks clearly of the journey we are all called to make in our search for that unity of the Body of Christ which is in accordance with his will and of the healing of the wounds of past divisions. May your visit bring fresh impetus to that journey for Christians in Norfolk.”
The service included readings and prayers on the theme of reconciliation. There was a three-fold act of confession in the light of our failure to be ‘one’.
In his reflection, Archbishop Justin said: “There are only three problems with divisions in the church according to Scriptures: it deeply impedes our prayers; it hinders our experience of the grace and love of God and it ruins our witness to the world. Apart from that it is all upside.
“In North America they have estimated that there are over 36,000 different denominations of churches and the number is going up rapidly.
“Jesus’ call to the church is to love one another and to be united,” said Archbishop Justin. “The churches’ answer to a divided world must be an example that comes from the unity of God in Christ that he has given us. Unity is not an added extra for the church. It is an inescapable duty and obligation.
“When I met him recently Pope Francis said: ‘We must be more urgent in the ecumenism of action, proclaim the good news of reconciliation and love of the poor and challenge structures of sin and injustice.’
“We are united when we serve together in the foodbank or debt counselling or when we help the person sleeping rough.
“What is normal is a deep and abiding love for one another. We see an example of unity in this diocese in the relationship between Bishop Alan and Bishop Graham and between Catholics and Anglicans and other churches. I praise God for that and may it be an example that spreads further,” said Archbishop Justin.
Ecumenical guests include leaders from Orthodox, Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed churches, the Salvation Army, Quakers and free churches.
After the service Archbishop Justin began a tour around Norwich attending a service at Norwich Synagogue, talking to young people and staff at YMCA Norfolk, helping serve lunch at St Stephen’s Church Café, chatted with the leader of Norwich City Council and Norwich market traders before visiting Revelation café for a book reading and then onto Norwich Anglican Cathedral for further services on the theme of reconciliation.
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