Over 1,400 pack Cathedral to wish Archbishop Rowan farewell

Over 1,400 people packed into Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday 18 November, to say farewell to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at a special service organised by the Diocese of Canterbury.

After choral Evensong, which included readings by the newly elected Chairs of the House of Laity and House of Clergy, and intercessions led by local ecumenical leaders, the Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott initiated the speeches of thanks. Describing the event as a ‘gathering of the Diocesan family’ he said: “We hope you know that you’ve been held in our prayers. You have encouraged us, fed us and shown us how to be Disciples of Christ.” Wishing the Archbishop well, Bishop Trevor concluded: “You leave us with our love and our encouragement.”

Mrs Amanda Cottrell, a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, offered thanks on behalf of the County. After speaking of the Archbishop’s work in Kent prisons, with the homeless and with communities of different faiths she said: “It is sad to say a farewell to someone we love and respect so much for the quiet and determined way you have served us.” Referring to his new post as Master of Magdalene College, Mrs Cottrell joked: “You leave us to go somewhere where you can abandon the constitution of an ox and the hide of a rhinoceros and we wish you and your family great happiness.” She concluded: “We have been enormously proud to enfold you into the family of Canterbury Diocese.”

The final speech of thanks came from a Churchwarden of Faversham St Mary of Charity, Mr Colin Pengelly, who offered thanks on behalf of churches in the Diocese. “It has been a joy and a privilege to share your caring, spiritual leadership first hand.” he said. Mr Pengelly added: “We hope your legacy will remain for many years to come.”

The congregation rose for the first of two standing ovations as the Archbishop came forward to respond. With his wife at his side, Dr Williams described his time in Canterbury Diocese, saying: “I thank God that this Diocese has brought me the reality of actual people leading lives of discipleship and ministry and just getting on. I have been privileged to share in the sheer sense of love here and abundant love.”

Recalling his visits to parishes, pilgrimages on Easter Monday with young people and his ministry in the Cathedral, Dr Williams also spoke about more unusual interactions in the city, including being asked to say prayers with someone whilst shopping in Debenhams and being accosted by a late night reveller who asked ‘what about evolution then?’ “You need to have a three dimensional ministry as an Archbishop,” he said, “And this is where to have it.”

Before offering his final thanks to the Diocese he added: “Without your friendship, love and fellowship I can’t imagine how the last ten years would have been bearable or fruitful.”

At Archbishop Rowan’s request, in lieu of presents, parishes in the Diocese collected donations for the homeless charity, Catching Lives, of which the Archbishop is patron. The donation to Catching lives is expected to reach several thousand pounds.

The Archbishop officially steps down from his post on December 31st to become the Master of Magdalene. He will be succeeded by the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, who will be enthroned on March 21 in Canterbury Cathedral.


Further information from:

Emily Shepherd, Director of Communications, Diocese of Canterbury: 01227 459 401, 07876 210 446, eshepherd@diocant.org