You are not alone – and you can change the world, Archbishop tells young Christians
Friday 2nd August 2013Being a Christian is "the exact opposite" of being James Bond, the Archbishop told young pilgrims at the Anglo-Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham this week
Young pilgrims process through Walsingham, Norfolk, 30 July 2013. Picture: Graham Howard
Archbishop Justin told young Christians this week that while it is “easy to feel very alone”, they are part of “a community” which will strengthen them to change the world.
The Archbishop was visiting the Anglo-Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk, where he joined hundreds of young people attending its annual youth pilgrimage. This week he visited festivals and conferences from different church traditions, including New Wine, HTB Focus and Hillsong London.
Archbishop Justin is the first Archbishop of Canterbury to have visited the Shrine during its youth pilgrimage week, said the Shrine administrator, the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin.
At a Mass on Wednesday morning, the Archbishop told young pilgrims they needn’t feel alone as Christians.
“Jesus gives us a community, a family, and we need to know we belong to it and to share in it,” he said. “Because the more we are part of his family, which is the Church, the stronger we are and the more we can live to change the world.”
‘You’re forgiven, I’m forgiven’
During the Mass, the Archbishop said the biggest thing Christians need to learn is that God forgives them.
“None of us has a life where we don’t make wrong choices, where we don’t hurt other people, and where we’re not hurt by other people, and the world around us,” he said.
Most of us still carry around "a good deal of guilt in our lives", but the "supreme truth" of being a Christian is God's forgiveness, which we come to know as we recall Jesus dying for us on the cross.
"You’re forgiven, I’m forgiven. And we each need it,” he said.
The Archbishop added that it is “very easy as Christians today to feel very alone. We feel we’ve got to deal with it all ourselves.”
But, making a contrast with James Bond – who was the theme of this year’s youth pilgrimage – the Archbishop said being a Christian was “the exact opposite” of having to save the world singlehandedly, because Jesus gives us "a family, a community".
He said: “We need to know we belong to it and to share in it. Because the more we are part of his family, which is the Church, the stronger we are and the more we can live to change the world.”
The Archbishop added that "the most exciting thing" about Christian life is that God has given each of us "a job to do". "We have a job, a mission, for Jesus. There’s a mission for each of us, and we need to know it.”
Father Stephen Gallagher, who celebrated Mass with Archbishop Justin, said those present at Walsingham had been “strengthened” by his visit, which he described as "a wonderful thing".
Leading the young people in prayer for the Archbishop, Fr Stephen asked God to “give him courage to speak your Word”.
Thanking them the Archbishop asked them to "keep on praying", especially "when I fail".
“One of the changes we can make in the church, that will change our church, is when we see brothers and sisters in Christ get things wrong – and I will – rather than just dismiss them out of hand, we love them and pray for them," he said.
The previous evening Archbishop Justin led a candlelit procession to the Shrine, walking barefoot along the Holy Mile with crowds of young people as they held banners and sang worship songs. In a moving scene, he then gave Benediction to young pilgrims as they knelt silently with candles before the Shrine.
During his visit he also led several hundred young people in a Bible study session on St John’s account of the crucifixion.
'A sacred life'
Over recent years a big effort has been made to make Walsingham a place where “young people can be welcomed as young people”, the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin said.
“At this particular pilgrimage we seek to present the gifts of the church in a place which is living 24-7 as if God is true," he said. "In some of these parishes, young people are being constantly bombarded with secular messages not only about God but about themselves. And when they come here and give it a chance, we fail, but 24-7 we’re living from a sacred perspective. And this can open young people to a different possibility of how the world is, and the way life is, and the way they are."
He added: “We want them to view themselves as sacred. It’s not just about statues and even sacraments. It’s also for them to discover that they are sacred in the core… they are made for a sacred life,” he said.
Further reports from Archbishop Justin’s visits to Walsingham, New Wine, HTB Focus and Hillsong will be published shortly.