The Enthronement of the Most Reverend Justin Welby - the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury
With a direct, unbroken lineage going right back to Augustine in AD 597, Archbishop Justin Welby is today enthroned/installed/inaugurated as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. His Grace's ashes will not only be celebrating his own Feast Day in the Church's Calendar (..that fateful day..) but will be reconstituting themselves at Canterbury Cathedral for this momentous and joyous event, which represents the ministerial culmination of a quite remarkable journey of an undoubtedly remarkable man.
There are not many bishops of the Church of England who may claim to have real-world experience - not only of big business and oil finance, but also of spreading the gospel in Burundi, Iraq and Nigeria, where he confronted competing war-lords and stared down the barrel of a gun. He twice phoned his wife to tell her that he was about to die.
Lambeth Palace explains some of today's proceedings:
First, the Archbishop will be installed on the Diocesan throne as the Bishop of the see of Canterbury, the oldest diocese in the English church. He will then be installed on the chair of St Augustine as Primate of All England – the ‘first bishop’ in the country. This latter enthronement has also come to respresent the Archbishop's inauguration as the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The ceremony will be attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Prime Minister, and archbishops and bishops from around the world. Representatives of many other faiths will also be present.
The notion of a ‘seat’ dominates the ceremony enthroning an Archbishop of Canterbury. The very word cathedral comes from the Latin cathedra, for the seat where a bishop would sit to teach the faith to the people of the diocese. Another word for diocese is See, from the Latin, sedes – seat or chair.
While a cathedral plays many roles, essentially it is the church where the bishop’s seat is – the particular church of which he is appointed bishop and pastor.
In this respect, the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury has much in common with that of any bishop in any cathedral.
But what is especially important about this Thursday’s ceremony is the seat in question: the chair of St Augustine is the primatial seat of the Church of England – a primacy in the English church which has lasted since St Augustine came to preach in England at the orders of Pope St Gregory the Great in the 6th century, and has had significance almost from the beginning far beyond the shores of the British Isles.
Three knocks on the door
In the famous tradition, the Archbishop will then strike the door three times with his pastoral staff, and the Dean will open the door to greet him. The Archbishop will be led up to the nave altar, where the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, will ask him to swear an oath of faithfulness to the statutes of the Church of England and an oath of faithfulness to the Queen of England.
The Dean then presents the Archbishop with the ancient Canterbury Gospels, brought to England by St Augustine in 597, on which he will swear faithfulness.
The Archbishop is then enthroned on his seats, marking the core of the ceremony.
First he is led to the Diocesan throne and installed by the Archdeacon of Canterbury as Bishop of the See of Canterbury. He is then led to the chair of St Augustine where the Dean installs him as Primate of All England.
Having been installed, Archbishop reads the Gospel and preaches a sermon from St Augustine's chair.
The service will feature music chosen by Archbishop Justin, including hymns marking Passiontide and looking forward to Holy Week, which starts next week. It will also include an African song, and improvised organ music following the Archbishop’s sermon.
Lambeth Palace notes (and the Anglican Communion does not):
The date of the ceremony resonates in several ways: March 21st is the day when the church remembers the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1556. It is also the feast day of St. Benedict of Monte Cassino, a significant figure for both Canterbury Cathedral and Archbishop Justin himself, who is an oblate of the Order of Benedict.