The Archbishop of Canterbury has visited Devon to open a new pilgrimage route on his first public engagement outside London in 18 months.
Justin Welby was launching the Patteson’s Way, an 8-mile circular walking route in honour of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson who grew up in Feniton, near Ottery St Mary and was killed while on a mission to share his faith in the Pacific islands of Melanesia.
Monday 20 September marked the 150th anniversary of his death.
The Archbishop unveiled a plaque at Feniton Parish Church and read out a prayer written by the church’s Storytime Group.
As we gather here today to celebrate the opening of this new Pilgrimage Route,
we give thanks for the life of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson and the example that he set us.
Let those who walk along Patteson’s Way have courage as Patteson did
when he left his home here to go to the other side of the world.
Give them the space and quietness to reflect, see the wonders of the
world around them, hear the sounds of nature, and meet with you.
We pray for everyone in Melanesia and give thanks for the close bond
that this local area has with Melanesia as a result of Patteson’s brave journey.
We ask your blessing for the route and that you keep all those who walk
the path safe in the knowledge that you are walking next to them.
In Jesus’ name we pray
He then blessed the first pilgrims before walking a short section of the route with them. He said “I’m ecstatic. I am seeing real people, it’s the first outside engagement I’ve been allowed for 18 months. “Devon is a county I don’t know, but it is just so wonderful and lovely. “We are not just the Church of England; we are the Church FOR England.”
The Patteson’s Way was devised by the Devon-based charity, the Melanesian Mission UK. It is being supported by Devon Pilgrim, a Church of England-funded project which has seen four new pilgrimage routes in the county this year.
Archbishop Justin said “The significance for me of pilgrimage is that you are meeting with God … and moving across the world that God created. “You meet people that surprise you and God surprises you in how he meets you.”
Sophie, who was amongst a group of Feniton Primary School pupils who sang the Archbishop a song, said “I was nervous, it was a big moment, but it was fun and exciting.”
After Feniton, the Archbishop went on to nearby Alfington church, where Patteson was a priest, and joined the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd Leonard Dawea, online to say prayers for Patteson.
The Archbishop then preached in a service of Thanksgiving for the Church in Melanesia at Exeter Cathedral.
Giving a talk after the service, the Archbishop spoke about the fight against climate change, which is particularly relevant because some islands in Melanesia are already disappearing under water. He said, “Melanesia is not a canary in a coal mine but an alarm bell ringing loudly for us all, calling us to action on climate change.”
In an interview Archbishop Justin talks about pilgrimage, Patteson, climate change and the importance of rural parish churches; Archbishop of Canterbury Interview.
Diocese of Exeter