County’s response to flooding emergency praised by Archbishop of York in farewell Christmas message

THE ARCHBISHOP of York today uses his farewell Christmas address to appeal for unity as he praises Yorkshire people for the “care and compassion” that they show to those in need or distress.

Choristers Naomi Simon, aged 13, and Oliver Musgrave, aged 12, pictured at York Minster ahead of the Christmas services. Photo: James Hardisty.

Dr John Sentamu cites the public’s response to last month’s devastating floods in South Yorkshire as an “example” of the generosity of spirit that can unite and inspire Britain after another turbulent year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Appointed in 2005, Dr Sentamu, and his wife Margaret, are preparing to spend their final Christmas in York before being succeeded by Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, in the summer.

Dr John Sentamu is preparing for his final Christmas as Archbishop of York.

And his message, published by The Yorkshire Post today, comes as the Queen prepares to use her own Christmas Day broadcast to set out her belief that “small steps taken in faith and in hope” can break down “long-held differences”.

The calls for reconciliation follow a political year that has been dominated by a bitter debate over Brexit, culminating in a General Election earlier this month, which now paves the way for Britain to leave the European Union at the end of January.

Dr John Sentamu is preparing for his final Christmas at York Minster.

“There’s no doubt we’ve been living in difficult, confusing times,” writes the Archbishop.

“Peace, goodwill and mercy have seemed hard to hear over the clamour of our divided nation. Brexit chaos and confusion. Economic uncertainty. Fear generated by terror attacks. And the noise, acrimony and divided rhetoric surrounding the recent General Election.

“We are a country that needs to regain its sense of unity, peace and love of neighbour.”

The 70-year-old also uses his essay to cite the response of churches to the floods in Doncaster as further evidence of the goodwill that defines his adopted county.

Reflecting on his historic time in Yorkshire, he says: “It heartens me greatly that Yorkshire folk so often set an example of what it means to live in unity and care and compassion for each other. You only have to look at the incredible response to the devastating floods that hit so many communities in South Yorkshire last month.

“I have six more months before I step down as Archbishop of York, and I will be continuing to share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ with all the people I meet. I’ve loved every minute of living and ministering in Yorkshire and it will be with a heavy heart that I leave Bishopthorpe in June.

“From the thousands of people I’ve spoken to on train journeys through places like Huddersfield and Leeds, in Hornsea and Scarborough fish and chip shops, and on walks in glorious Thixendale and over the moors, I’ve witnessed such goodness, laughter –and refreshing straight-talking!”

And Dr Sentamu hopes this Christmas will see “a renewed sense of joy and hopefulness” that can be “spread to our wider communities” at the dawn of a new decade.

“It’s my hope and prayer, as my wife Margaret and I savour our last few months in the heart of God’s own county, that we will all strive for greater unity and reconciliation,” he concludes.

‘Loving response’ to floods crisis

DR John Sentamu has praised the response of local churches to the South Yorkshire floods – and the contribution that they make to local communities at a time of difficulty.

“I was particularly struck by the efforts of St Peter’s Church in Bentley,” he writes today. “It offered food supplies to affected residents, ran cinema sessions for the local children and has now set up a flood fund to provide ongoing support to the community.

“The actions to help this devastated village became a living parable to the power of a unified, loving response to a crisis.”