SUNDERLAND today welcomed Justin Welby in his first public appearance after being revealed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Bishop of Durham, who was yesterday announced by 10 Downing Street as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams, was due at Sunderland Minster this morning for the city’s One For The Basket food parcel initiative.
“To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting,” said Bishiop Welby, a former oil industry executive.
“It is something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been a very strange experience.
“It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England, has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths.
“I feel a massive sense of privilege at being one of those responsible for the leadership of the church in a time of spiritual hunger, when our network of parishes and churches and schools and above all people means that we are facing the toughest issues in the toughest place.”
He added: “One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham.
“I work with a group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay people.
“It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years.
“The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly.
“In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past.
“The work we have started in Durham will be continued by the team led by the Bishop of Jarrow and I want to add my thanks to him for once again agreeing to step in and hold the fort whilst my successor is found.
“I will continue to do all I can to support the area.”
Sheila Bamber, Canon Provost of Sunderland Minster, is sad to see Bishop Welby leave.
She said: “I’m not happy, because he is a wonderful man, and Durham’s loss is very much the nation’s gain.
“He’s got great gifts, he’s very political and his economic background will help him to really be a fresh voice on the national stage.
“He also understands the realities of life up here and he will take that with him.
“We will be very much in his thinking, which will only be a good thing for the region.”