Archbishop calls on the church to be welcoming to the young

By staff writers
April 14, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams gave his personal support to a youth pilgrimage and Easter event on Bank Holiday Monday, as it converged on England's most famous cathedral.

He took the opportunity to call on the church to be truly welcoming and open to young people and to what they have to contribute.

The majority of the pilgrims started their journeys from churches around Kent, with some travelling far longer distances from the North and the Midlands.

The walk ended with live music, theatre, games and workshops looking at the meaning of the Christian message in family, community and society.

The young people set out on Easter Sunday, camping or staying in church and community halls along the way.

Dr Williams joined in on the final four miles of the pilgrimage to Canterbury, setting out from St Mary’s Church in the village of Patrixbourne.

He declared: "The pilgrimage is a very important day in the calendar of this diocese for these young people, and getting them to do a physical walk shows that their faith means something ... It's quite an exciting experience... It gives [people] a chance to come together and meet each other."

The archbishop added: "The church needs to show that it is welcoming to young people. There's no personality examination before they come in through the door."

Alistair McKeever, aged 15, took part in the pilgrimage. He said, "Easter is a time of happiness and rebirth so we want to celebrate … It's a great opportunity to walk with your friends and meet new people and just enjoy Easter Monday."

Also taking part in the pilgrimage were the Anglican Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Stephen Venner, and the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Rev Graham Cray.

During the service at Canterbury Cathedral, actors from the Saltmine Theatre Company did a performance based on the story from Luke's Gospel about disciples meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, but not recognising him until they shared bread together.

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