UK's first black archbishop ordained

UK's first black archbishop ordained

Staff and agencies
Wednesday November 30, 2005

Dr John Sentamu leaves York Minster after his enthronement as the 97th Archbishop of York. Photograph: Don McPhee

Britain's first black archbishop was today inaugurated at York Minster to the rhythm of African drummers and a traditional dance of rejoicing.

Dr John Sentamu was enthroned as the 97th Archbishop of York during a ceremony that combined his Ugandan roots with traditional Church of England protocol.

The former judge travelled into the city from his official residence, Bishopthorpe Palace, by boat along the River Ouse, accompanied by a team of African drummers. He then walked through the streets to the Minster to begin the service.

The ceremony in the historic cathedral was watched by 3,000 guests, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Dr Sentamu washed the feet of three children during the ceremony, mirroring the actions of Jesus with his disciples.

After his enthronement, he was presented to the congregation to the sounds of a Ugandan celebration song, while 20 dancers, wearing headdresses of red, white and black feathers, leopardskin print skirts and T-shirts performed the Bwola dance.

The new archbishop wore his own choice of costume for the ceremony - a brightly coloured, specially designed cope and mitre based on a picture, called The Tree of Life, hanging in his private chapel in Birmingham.

The sixth of 13 children, 56-year-old Dr Sentamu was born and educated in Uganda, where he became a barrister and then a high court judge. He was forced to flee his homeland after speaking out against the tyrannical regime of the brutal dictator Idi Amin.

Dr Sentamu refused to acquit one of the president's cousins of a crime, and after the then archbishop of Uganda, Janani Luwum, was murdered, he allegedly vowed: "You kill my friend, I take his place."

He escaped to the UK in 1974 and studied theology at Cambridge before being ordained in 1979. After serving in a succession of London parishes, he was appointed as Bishop of Stepney in 1996 and Bishop of Birmingham in 2002.

Dr Sentamu, who has two grown-up children with his wife, Margaret, succeeds Dr David Hope, who resigned after 10 years to become a parish priest, as Archbishop of York. His appointment was announced in June this year and was officially confirmed last month.

His path to becoming the second highest religious leader in England has not been easy. He has been stopped and searched by the police eight times in six years, and in October this year was sent anonymous hate mail containing human excrement.

Dr Sentamu served as an adviser to the inquiry into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and was also the chairman of the official review following the murder of Damilola Taylor.

He led a campaign in Birmingham to root out the black gun gangs responsible for the shootings of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in 2003.

Stephen Bates, the Guardian's religious affairs correspondent, said Dr Sentamu's appointment had come at a pivotal time.

"The church and the worldwide communion are poised on the brink of a schism revolving in very large part around issues of modern morality - specifically the place of homosexuals in the clergy, but also the ordination of women and their promotion to the episcopacy," he said.

In an interview earlier this year, Dr Sentamu said he would be happy to ordain women bishops if the Church of England changed its rules to allow it. He has also condemned the way in which some members of the Anglican community had spoken about homosexuals.

The cleric recently launched a forceful attack on multiculturalism which, he argued, has denied English people the right to celebrate their national identity.

During his inauguration ceremony, Dr Sentamu said the Church of England should once again become a "beacon" by which the people of England could navigate in an "unknown ocean".

"Having shed an empire and lost a missionary zeal, has this great nation and mother of parliamentary democracy also lost a noble vision for the future?" he asked. "We are getting richer and richer as a nation, but less and less happy."

He warned that England would experience further political extremism if it failed to reconnect with its roots.
Times Online November 30, 2005

Dr Sentamu plays the drums during his enthronement service in York Minster (John Giles/AP)

John Sentamu sworn in as Archbishop of York
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Britain’s first black archbishop today beat the drums for a new Church of England yesterday - both literally and metaphorically.

Sentamu "Ebor", the new Archbishop for York, as he wishes to be known, beat the bongo drums as his wife Margaret and two adult children showed a largely white congregation stiff with cold how to warm themselves up by dancing to the tune of African songs.

The two-hour installation of the new Archbishop at York Minster began with long processions, formularies, articles and orderings, replete with all the colourful pomp and ceremony synonymous with the traditional Church of England.

But the arrival of a troupe of bare-chested Ugandan dancers from St Matthew’s church in Stratford, east London, sporting ostrich plumes, leopardskin leotards and with one boy in an Arsenal t-shirt, brought with it a scent of the warm African air of change promised by this new Archbishop.

Their Bwola dance of "rejoicing and thanksgiving", complete with drums and ululations, warmed the souls of a congregation of 3,000 whose freezing condition was aptly described in the subsequent Gospel reading from St Matthew,‘Lord save us, we are perishing!’ And in a bracing sermon, Dr Sentamu himself warmed them further as he officially began his battle to put fire back into the belly of the established church.

Members of the Church of England had become "consumers of religion" and not disciples of Jesus Christ, he said. The vital issue facing both Church and nation was "the loss of this country’s long tradition of wisdom which brought to birth the English nation."

"For me, the vital issue facing the Church in England and the nation, is the loss of this country’s long tradition of Christian wisdom which brought to birth the English nation," said Dr Sentamu.

"For the Church in England must once again be a beacon by which the people of England can orient themselves in an unknown ocean by offering them the Good News of God in Christ in practical and relevant way to their daily lives," he continued.

"Having shed an empire and lost a missionary zeal, has this great nation, and mother of parliamentary democracy, also lost a noble vision for the future? We are getting richer and richer as a nation, but less and less happy. The Church in England must rediscover her self-confidence and self-esteem that united and energised the English people those many centuries ago when the disparate fighting groups embraced the Gospel."

He said that throughout English history the Church had played a major socialising and civilising role by uniting the English and conferring nationhood on them.

Quoting Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of York and Canterbury, he said: "Why have we in England turned this glorious Gospel of life in the Spirit into a cumbersome organisation that repels, and whose people are dull and complacent?" Christians should go and make friends with Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics and atheists, not with the aim of converting them but to create understanding.

Their missionary zeal should be directed instead at the 72 per cent of the country’s population who in the last census said they were Christian.

He called on the Church of England to revive its spirit of "wonder" and "adoration" and to rediscover the transforming power of the Gospel."The scandal of the church is that the Christ-event is no longer life-changing, it has become life-enhancing. We’ve lost the power and joy that makes real disciples, and we’ve become consumers of religion and not disciples of Jesus Christ."

Quoting revolutionary Che Guevara, he said the good news of Christ was for everyone and not the chosen few.

He said his first priority in his ministry would be to be a "watchman for the north" and take a lead by preaching, public address and by informal discussion in sharing the good news.

Dr Sentamu’s is a radical but hugely popular appointment being regarded as a sign of hope that the Church could at last be turning the corner on decades of decline. He has compared himself to the Biblical figure of Jethro, father-in-law to Moses, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to Moses himself.

Bishops behind the scenes have been noting that while Moses led his people to the promised land, his speech difficulties meant he had great trouble communicating effectively with them.

An accomplished organist and composer, Dr Sentamu had also written the traditional church music used for the Litany during the installation.

He made a symbolic gesture towards his primary role in his new post as a servant of God, divesting himself of his cope and mitre and, in plain white surplice, washing the feet of three young children before the altar.

Earlier, with a small party of faithul disciples from York and his former diocese of Birmingham, Dr Sentamu had arrived at the City from Bishopthorpe, his new palace, by boat with five African drummers on board to beat his arrival. Carrying a pastoral staff made from a Bethlehem olive tree, he travelled up the River Ouse, evoking comparisons to the sainted Thomas More, arriving by boat through the mist at Hampton Court.

Mothers and children, local dignitaries, clergy, bishops joined the colourful procession through the streets as he landed and walked towards the Minster, where he donned a cope and mitre in vivid blues, yellows, oranges and greens, a designed based on a painting of the Tree of Life in his private chapel at Birmingham.

In the Minster meanwhile the congregation had gathered, and were busy doing a Sudoku puzzle and faith-based crossword, handed out by the diocesan network for ministry development to keep them occupied while they waited for the service to begin.

During the procession at the start, the choir sang a Nigerian song that sounded suspiciously like the theme tune to Disney’s The Lion King. Dr Sentamu declared his belief in the faith to which the "historic formularies" of the Church bear witness, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Archbishop took an oath of service to the people and clergy of the dioces, making his pledge on a manuscript book of the four Gospels written and decorated by Eadui Basan and other monks of Canterbury about the year 1000 and brought to York by Wulfstan, Archbishop from 1003 to 1023.

Even though he had already been consecrated a bishop, he was annointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and there was a symbolic laying on of hands by colleagues and other church leaders.

Several times during the service, the congregation broke out into spontaneous applause and even cheers, one of the warmest being in celebration of the enormous bear hug given Dr Sentamu by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the end, as a finale, he had planned to release doves of peace into the air along with balloons carrying the message, ‘All are welcome’. In the end, he had to make do with blessing the city from the north door and releasing the balloons. The weather was so cold, it had been deemed impossible to bring the homing pigeons from their dovecote in Wigan. They would have frozen to death while attempting to fly home over the Penines.
That's great, Blackleaf.

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