The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd and Rt Hon. Justin Welby, has visited 3 churches in Down and Dromore as part of his short visit to the Church of Ireland. He also visited the Diocese of Connor and was photographed with Church House staff on the steps of At Anne’s Cathedral.
He mingled freely with local people during a two and a half hour tour hosted by Bishop Harold and even donned an apron to brew some Belfast tea in the Dock Café.
The Archbishop, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, was in the city as part of a three–day visit to the Church of Ireland and were joined for the day by The Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Richard Clarke and the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Revd Michael Jackson.
First stop was Willowfield Church which has a burgeoning inner city congregation of all ages and is very active in the surrounding area. Archbishop Welby heard presentations on the work of the parish and its community association with the emphasis on issues of employment and education.
He and Mrs Welby also posed for a photo with children from Nettlefield Primary School in front of a positive mural that the church has painted on a nearby gable wall.
After an informal lunch it was a short journey to St Christopher’s in Mersey Street and the former heart of Belfast’s aircraft and shipbuilding industries. St Christopher’s closed in 2011 but the building has recently found a new lease of life with Boring Wells, a missional community led by Revd Adrian McCartney.
Boring Wells has also engaged extensively with the community, including starting Messy Church and setting up an emergency food service called ‘The Larder’. Archbishop Welby had a first look at their newest initiative, a Community Kitchen, and chatted with some of the many local people who had gathered to meet him. Among them were Mark Magee from the Community Association and East Belfast MLA, Sammy Douglas.
The last stop on Archbishop Welby’s short tour was Belfast’s only ‘Honesty Café’, The Dock Café in the Titanic Quarter. He was greeted by Revd Chris Bennett, who has been building community in this new development since 2009.
The café serves several hundred students, residents, tourists and business people every day and also has a market, a gallery and a ‘prayer garden’, where Archbishop Justin spent a few moments. He chatted with volunteers and customers and also met the chaplaincy team which is drawn from six traditions – Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational and Nazarene.
The Archbishop then travelled on to Armagh where he will later preach at a service of Festal Evensong in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.