We had a fabulous weekend when Archbishop Justin visited the Diocese from 7 – 9 October

From the welcome at Shrub Hill station, where he was sang to by members of Regency High School to his departure from Cradley Heath, where young members from Cradley Heath church wished him ‘safe travels’, thousands of people had the opportunity to say hello, listen to Archbishop Justin speak and tell him about the work of the church in their own community.

Children wearing Archbishop Justin's cope

Over 70 Primary Schools and 8 secondary schools gathered in the Cathedral on Friday, doing a range of activities around prayer. There was a Q&A session with Archbishop Justin for the older children in the Chapter House, while the younger children came together at the end of the day and got to try on some of his clothes!

From there we visited the Three Counties Showground where Archbishop Justin met people from rural communities from across Worcestershire. Around 120 people were present at the Showground, representing a variety of businesses, churches and community groups. Archbishop Justin moved around the tables and at the end reflected on some of the conversations he had, highlighting the importance of working together in partnership.

Archbishop Justin & Jeremy VineThe interview with Jeremy Vine at the University of Worcester Arena was very special and around 1600 people battled through terrible traffic in Worcester to get there. The interview covered a range of subjects, including how the Archbishop came to faith, how he dealt with the death of his eldest child in a car accident and finding out that his father was someone different to who he had thought. There were also a number of ‘quick fire’ questions and the Archbishop was asked what he’d say to Donald Trump if he met him at the communion rail!

When asked the question, why does God allow suffering? Archbishop Justin said: “There is no nice neat answer. I can only say that whenever I start running away from God, I find myself embraced in arms of love which are more powerful than I am.”

On Saturday it was an early start with a breakfast meeting for 90 business leaders where Archbishop Justin was interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live’s Midland’s correspondent, Phil Mackie on the topic of how to keep a moral compass in business. The Archbishop then moved on to Worcester Cathedral where he helped lead a quiet morning for clergy and Readers alongside the religious communities of Mucknell Abbey and Glasshampton Monastery.

Archbishop Justin paying parachute gamesThe afternoon saw an hour spent at an event for families in St. Stephen’s, Redditch, where Archbishop Justin joined in parachute games before retelling the story of Jesus walking on water. The Archbishop then travelled to Halesowen to meet refugees who are supported by the Welcome Project before attending an Interfaith reception at Dudley Council House.

On Saturday night, around 300 young people gathered at Dudley College for ‘The Power of Hope’ – a conversation between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Nobel Peace prize-winner, Malala Yousafzai. Malala is 19 and currently applying to University. She said that the meeting with Archbishop Justin was ‘a great opportunity to get the chance to sit together and talk about some important issues.’

Among other subjects, the Archbishop and Malala talked about how we could overcome the fear that seems to exist between different groups. Malala said: “Rather than watching TV to find out what Muslims are like, instead go out and talk to your Muslim neighbour and really get to know them. Once you interact with other groups and communities, you’ll realise there is nothing strange about other people – it’s essential that you meet people and try to learn about them before making a judgement.”

Archbishop Justin with Malala YousafzaiMalala also spoke about the importance of women being given the same opportunities as me saying: “We need to allow women to take up more leadership roles in all areas of life. Women need to believe in themselves, challenge society and bring about change. That change will happen, we just need more examples of women in all different roles to inspire the next generation of young girls.”

Archbishop Justin Welby

After making time to do some interviews with local radio on Sunday, Archbishop Justin attended the harvest festival of the Brickworks Church Plant in Lye, Stourbridge and in the afternoon around 1000 people gathered in Merry Hill Shopping Centre where together we raised the roof singing some well-known hymns and praying the Lord’s Prayer together. Archbishop Justin was presented with the gospels written in Black Country dialect and a ‘Bostin Archbish’ t-shirt!

It was a spine-tingling end to an exhausting but brilliant three days. When asked to sum up his visit to the Diocese, Archbishop Justin said: “I’ve found beauty, friendliness, great people and a real Church working with real people and making a real difference for a real God.”

See all the photos and video from the weekend.