Schoolboy who inspired Sentamu’s call to Christians to be less selfish to others

The Archbishop of York on the final day of his pilgrimage.
The Archbishop of York on the final day of his pilgrimage.
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DR John Sentamu used the words of an eight-year-old schoolboy to implore Christians to be more thoughtful of others.

Of the thousands of people he met on his pilgrimage, it was an exchange with eight-year-old Fred of Escrick School which left one of the more lasting impressions.

Talking about the uncanny ability of children to ask the most challenging questions, he told York worshippers how Fred had put his hand up at school assembly and asked: “Do you mean God forgives us if we haven’t done anything wrong?”

An exchange followed in which the Archbishop asked Fred if there were occasions when he had not made his bed. He replied: “Yes.”

The responses were the same when Dr Sentamu challenged the youngster to be truthful about whether he brushed his teeth every night – or remembered to give his mothers letters sent home by his teachers.

“Fred, none of those things are wrong things. You have just failed to do a good thing,” the Archbishop told him before regaling how the youngster came up to him and promised to make his bed, brush his teeth and give his mum the letter that had been left in his satchel for three weeks.

It clearly made the Archbishop’s day. “Fred got it. Where we fail is not doing the good we should have done,” Dr Sentamu told worshippers.

“Where we fail most is not doing the good we should have done. Failing to do good is the big one. Failing to be generous. Failing to help people. I think the Christian is the most blessed person – and the most lazy.”

Dr Sentamu declines to single out “highlights” because every day had special significance to him – and the people that he met. Yet he is acutely aware that his duty is to ensure the Church reaches out to youngsters like Fred rather than taking their faith for granted.