LISTEN: Travellers' Tales - Archbishop Justin on his journey into faith
Monday 15th April 2013In an interview for the 'Travellers' Tales' radio show, Archbishop Justin spoke about finding God, his prayer habits, and how the church can be a symbol of unity
Archbishop Justin. (Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris)
Archbishop Justin's earliest encounters with Christianity, as a schoolboy at Eton College, were not particularly inspiring.
“The main point of chapel was to finish learning the French irregular verbs that you hadn’t learned the previous evening because you were chatting to a friend,” he told Premier Christian Radio's Patrick Forbes, who has interviewed some 700 people about their journey into faith for 'Travellers Tales' since 2003.
However, a visit by Archbishop Trevor Huddlestone did leave an impression. “It wasn’t exactly bumping into God, but you were aware that here was someone for whom the power and the conviction in life came from something beyond anything I knew. He was absolutely mesmeric.”
Ten years later at 18, was when he volunteering on a church programme in Kenya, he said something started “impinging on my consciousness” - the awareness that those around him were animated and emboldened by their relationship with Jesus.
'Opening to Jesus'
Archbishop Justin recalls the exact moment at Cambridge University when he became a Christian. Late one night, after an evening spent discussing the cross with a recently converted friend, he said: “I think I need to pray.”
“He looked a bit surprised,” said the Archbishop, “but we prayed, and I opened my life to Jesus.”
Archbishop Justin said his relationship with prayer continues to evolve. “I’m learning to pray more – when I wake in the night, when I wake in the morning, and to pray throughout the day.”
He also spoke about his deepening relationship with contemplative and meditative prayer, and how he uses his morning runs as time to speak to God.
'The darkest of places'
Later in the interview, which was broadcast on Easter Day, the Archbishop reflected on how the cross and resurrection helped him and his wife, Caroline, when their baby daughter was killed in a road accident.
“The verse we came back to at the time was, ‘In everything, God works for the good of those who love Him.’ Another verse from the Psalms was, ‘He stores up our tears in a bottle.’ God is aware of our suffering, and of the suffering of this very broken world. And our suffering was as nothing compared to the suffering of many people. And he is at work in the darkest of places."
He continued: “The cross is the great point where the suffering and sorrow and torture and sin and yuck of the world ends up on God’s shoulders – out of love for us. And the resurrection is, above all, the victory of Christ. It’s the overcoming by God of all the ‘stuff’.”
'Bond of peace'
Speaking about the possibility of his being a reconciling figure (which - if it happens, he said - will be “by the grace of God”) in a church split over issues such as gay marriage and women bishops, the Archbishop said: “We need to understand reconciliation within the church as the transformation of destructive conflict – not unanimity.
"It doesn’t mean we all agree. It means we find ways of disagreeing – perhaps very passionately – but loving each other deeply at the same time, and being deeply committed to each other.
He continued: “That’s the challenge for the church if we are actually going to speak to our society, which is increasingly divided in many different ways.”
“We have to be able to say, ‘There are ways of doing this in which we do not end up hating each other, but we up with a unity and commitment to one other that is passionate even where we disagree very deeply.’
“It’s the church’s calling to proclaim Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord, and to worship Him with adoration and passion," he said. "Those are our great tasks. How we carry that out involves being a symbol and a sign to the world of peace, reconciliation, hope, optimism, love – of showing the fruit of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
He added: “It’s a massive challenge because we’re all sinners and we all mess up constantly. But God is greater than our sin and our stupidity.”