Thursday, 21 March 2013

Welby, Weston and Courage

In his sermon in Canterbury Cathedral today, the newly enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, preached on St Matthew's account of Jesus calling Peter to step out of his boat and walk towards him across the water.  Peter takes a few steps then feels himself sinking - until the Lord takes hold of him and restores both of them to the boat.  Archbishop Justin spoke about the need for "Christ-given courage" to "... step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ".

90 years ago, Frank Weston, the Bishop of Zanzibar, concluded his address to the Anglo-Catholic conference with this exhortation:

"You have got your mass, you have got your altar, you have begun to get your tabernacle.  Now go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you.  Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good.  Look for Jesus.  And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet."

Different times, very different men.  Archbishop Justin describes himself as a "small 'e' evangelical" from the extraordinary HTB stable; Bishop Weston was a card-carrying Anglo-Catholic - indeed a hero of that movement.  How little they seem to have in common, yet how similar their call to us!  Call it mission, call it outreach, call it whatever you care to call it - what we are to do is to get out there.  Out of the places and people in and among whom we feel comfortable, and into the indifferent, inhospitable, needy world.  And when our courage fails us (as it surely will) we can trust the Lord to take our hand and guide us to safety. "Take heart, it is I" he says, "do not be afraid".


  1. Thank-you for this inspiring piece. Your last paragraph says it all. And I must say Archbishop Justin seems to be doing his best to take his own advice, meeting Peter Tatchell for example.

    (I have shared this post on FB, twitter, Linked In and Google Plus)

  2. Thank you, Laura. I feel quietly hopeful.

  3. Finding myself in Canterbury yesterday, I went to the service at the cathedral. I wish that the archbishop's sermon had hit me then with the force of your words here. I felt the sermon was a little too self-indulgent, and missed the point he was trying to make. I'm glad that you have directed me to it and that I now understand it.