Extraordinary message of faith and resolve as Stephen Cottrell is enthroned as 98th Archbishop of York

A significant moment in history has been marked with an extraordinary message of faith and resolve as Stephen Cottrell is enthroned as the 98th Archbishop of York.

The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, during his enthronement as the 98th Archbishop of York, at a service of evensong inside York Minster. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The second most senior clergyman in the Church of England, formally elected in July, took his oath on the Gospels in a service of evensong.

His job is to serve and to lead, he said in his first sermon, in a society that “cries out” to inhabit the world “in ways which draw us together rather than tear us apart”.

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Calling for a humbler church, to share a message of unity, he said: “This isn’t a throne, it is a seat at the table where everybody is invited.”

The Enthronement of the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell as the new Archbishop of York, at York Minster. Picture by Simon Hulme

As he declared a vision of common humanity, the Archbishop called on the nation’s embrace with a message of shared hope as he spoke of a duty to confront difficult truths and of easing community divides.

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Addressing those gathered at the Minster’s service, in a smaller ceremony than would normally be held, he spoke of celebration and change and of a great tireless resolve.

As he addressed those gathered, the Archbishop spoke of a duty in the church to confront difficult truths in the "dangerous scourge" of racism and the "unchecked tyranny" of unaccountable power.

The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, during his enthronement as the 98th Archbishop of York, at a service of evensong inside York Minster. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Touching upon the recent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican church, he acknowledged a poor response and said: "We need to change, and that change needs to be much more than mere words."

The greatest revolution in the English church, he said, is to embrace Jesus’ teachings, and in letting go of pomposity and privilege to become a humbler church, offering safety, acceptance and love through the dark days of what will be a difficult winter ahead.

“It is this vision of a new humanity and the church as a school of love and a servant to the nation that I declare today,” he said.

“I pledge to give myself to this happy task. It is good news for the world and may indeed be the only hope for the world at this awful moment in our history.

The Enthronement of the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell as the new Archbishop of York, at York Minster. Picture by Simon Hulme

“This is how we will build up the ancient ruins in our own day.”

Ticketed service

Following the election ceremony in July to replace John Sentamu, father-of-three Archbishop Stephen had followed the custom of knocking three times on the west door of the Minster with the Braganza crozier, his staff of office, before it was thrown open.

Such a final ceremony as today's would normally be one of great fanfare and grandeur, ‘packed to the gunwales’ with wellwishers in jubilant celebration and prayer.

The Enthronement of the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell as the new Archbishop of York, at York Minster. Picture by Simon Hulme

This time, as he took his seat on the Nave’s Garbett Throne, it was strictly ticketed, streamed live on social media, with many of his own family unable to attend.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the Archbishop said he grieves for these things, standing alongside all those who have cancelled or postponed celebrations.

“Compared to the greater suffering in the world, and to the people on the frontline caring for those that are ill, it is a small thing,” he said.

Belief in human goodness

In recent months, said the Archbishop, he has taken to sitting in the Minster to consider the East Window, depicting the Book of Revelation’s vision of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’.

“It says there that ‘every tear will be wiped away’,” he said. “We have all seen so many tears this year, tears of sorrow and sadness, and tears of frustration.

“I’ve sat and looked at this, time and again, and thought ‘there will be a day when these tears are wiped away’.

“My job is as a messenger of this hope, even if I have to do it in unusual ways. I think we can do it. I believe in human goodness and human resolve.”

Archbishop Stephen has spoken of individuals’ pain and of society’s embrace in opening its arms to communities.

“This will be over,” he said. “Until then, and through this winter, it is going to be difficult. The work of the church continues.

"We need to hold Government to account, to make sure that what they do is fair and just. We also recognise that we have to live by these regulations whether we like it or not.

“What a terrible thing it is, to not be able to embrace those we love,” he mused. “But that too, is a sign of love. It is because we love each other that we do these things.”

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Thank you

James Mitchinson