JOHN SENTAMU’S journey from Uganda to God’s own county to become the 97th Archbishop of York was unprecedented in the long history of the Church of England.
Equally unparalleled, however, is how this force of nature then stamped his own personality on this historic role.
An inspirational – and often incorrigible – man of the people, he has brought hope to many after helping to reconnect the Church with the people that it serves and he will be a very hard act to follow when he retires in 2020 nearly 15 years after being enthroned in York Minster to the unforgettable sound of African drums and dancers.
He used his position to highlight the tyranny of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe – Dr Sentamu famously tore off his clerical collar on national television and refused to wear it until the dictator had left office. He held vigils praying for peace in the Middle East.
He also led the Church through a period of immense change, culminating with a moment of history when he consecrated the Anglican Church’s first female bishop, Reverend Libby Lane, at York Minster.
And he’s become a much respected campaigner on social issues, most recently in an impassioned plea in The Yorkshire Post last weekend, imploring Ministers to think again about the implementation of Universal Credit.
Yet it is his interaction with ordinary people – whether it be on his pilgrimages, spontaneous exchanges in the street or youth work – which defined Dr Sentamu as an Archbishop like no other.
Not only did he take the Church to the community, but he has also committed to himself to advancing the One Yorkshire devolution agenda, a mission he’s determined to fulfil by the time that he retires. Blessed by the support of a loving family, and a supportive team at Bishopthorpe Palace, he will always be celebrated here as an adopted Yorkshireman of the highest order whose very presence continues to inspire and offer hope.