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Archbishop John Davies_header2.jpg
Archbishop John Davies.jpg
UK News

The retiring Archbishop of Wales urges his successor to be committed to developing 'a change agenda'

by Chantalle Edmunds

The Archbishop of Wales, The Most Reverend John Davies, has retied after serving as Archbishop of Wales for four years and as Bishop of Swansea and Brecon for 13 years.

In his outgoing video message, Archbishop John urged church members to embrace new challenges and opportunities and be prepared to change to be more accessible, welcoming and with refreshed teaching.

Speaking to Premier he added that the Church in Wales faced a specific challenge related to "developing a different way of delivering our ministry."

"Some time ago now, too long ago, we committed ourselves to developing a different way of delivering our ministry, through what we have called ministry areas. And basically, it's been quite disturbing for some people, because it means doing things very differently. Recognizing that no one cleric, no one individual has all the gifts and talents necessary to fulfill the call to ministry. And recognizing also, that ministry is much better undertaken in teams of people ordained and lay, some people have found that change difficult to embrace. So it's a process, rather than something that's happened immediately, but we are committed to it. If we prefer to paddle our own canoe rather than other people paddling with us, if I can put it like that, that's just not going to work. It's not working at the moment."

As for the qualities he would like to see in a successor, Archbishop John told Premier he would like to see someone who's open to change: "Well, someone who is committed to development of the change agenda. And as I think I hope I've indicated, that doesn't mean jettisoning everything that we hold, dear. Everything that supports us and encourages us and nourishes us now. But recognizing that our ongoing decline in terms of numerical attendance is telling us something very, very obvious that what we have on offer, whilst it may satisfy us is not attractive to other people. And it's too easy to blame other people who don't come to us. Whereas the more difficult challenge is to look at us or look at ourselves and say, what is it that we're not offering?

"What is it that isn't attractive about the way we teach, what isn't attractive about the way we worship, what isn't attractive about the way in which we live out our lives, so there's got to be a balance. So I hope that the next Archbishop may be indeed, the next Bishop of my diocese may be that, they will be committed and open to preserving what is good and valuable from the past, but also, still encouraging people to develop things that are different. And at least take the risk. Even if you fail. You can learn something, you can learn something from that."

Reflecting on the last 14 months in the role, Archbishop John said he'd missed ministering to people in-person during the coronavirus pandemic: "It's completely derailed things, as indeed it has for so many other people across the world. And from my particular perspective, throughout my ministry, both as a bishop and prior to that, the thing that I have always found, so important, so energizing, has been engaging with either congregations in a kind of formal context of acts of worship, preaching and teaching and celebrating the sacraments and so on, or, indeed, speaking to groups of people of all sorts of ages, basically, engaging in what I would broadly call teaching. And that has not happened. I mean, obviously, I've done some stuff on Zoom, but it's not the same as engaging with people face to face."

As for his retirement, the archbishop said he hoped to spend some time relaxing, gardening and walking: "My wife has challenged me to take my golf clubs out of the corner of my office, get the cobwebs off them and wave them around a little bit," he added.

In his final video message released by the Church in Wales, Archbishop John thanked everyone for the kindness and compassion they have shown to each other during the pandemic. He also added he hoped goodwill will continue as Covid restrictions lift and won't "vanish with the pandemic".


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