CAPTION: Students at Ilfracombe Academy were inspired and encouraged by The Archbishop of Canterbury during the Come and See Missional Weekend Photo credit: Neil Turner Photographer

The Archbishop of Canterbury brings ‘Incredible Message of Hope’ to Students at Devon School

Posted: 10th November, 2023

The Archbishop of Canterbury has inspired students and shared a message of hope, drawing from his own personal experiences, during a school visit in Devon.

The Most Rev’d Justin Welby visited Ilfracombe Academy, in North Devon, as part of a weekend of mission called ‘Come and See’.

During his visit the Archbishop led two assemblies, one for students and another for staff.

During his assembly with the students at Ilfracombe Academy, Archbishop Justin opened up about how he had experienced a difficult childhood, and found school to be a safe place growing up. He shared that he found faith in God whilst on a trip to Kenya, Africa, at 18 years old.

The Archbishop’s visit to Ilfracombe Academy is part of the Come and See Weekend of Mission Photo: Neil Turner for Lambeth Palace.

The Archbishop also shared about the tragedy of losing his baby daughter, something which he will reflect on at The Archbishop in Conversation event at Exeter University on Saturday. The event will focus on themes of loss, bereavement and hope.

When opening up about difficult moments in life, he said, “It was being with God that I found healing, hope, strength and foundations that meant I could keep going.”

“God is not defined by our circumstances.”

Rev’d Mark Ruoff, Vicar of Combe to Combe Benefice churches, said, “I thought he brought an incredible message of hope for the young people particularly.”

Students found the Archbishop “friendly and down to earth”. Photo: Neil Turner for Lambeth Palace.

“He’s had quite an extraordinary life with a tough background, particularly his personal family circumstances, and that really came through.”

“I think the message that ‘it doesn’t matter what you’ve come from or what experiences you’ve had, that really God loves you and has a particular plan for your life’…that spoke through.”

He also encouraged students that they are not defined by their exam results. The Archbishop said, “Who you are is not set by what people think about you or say about you. It’s not set by schools, relationships or even family.

“Identity is found in Christ.”

During his visit to the school, Archbishop Justin was also given a tour of the school and met teachers and students in their classrooms. He also took time to speak with students of Ilfracombe Academy.

One student said, “It was a wonderful experience. He was really friendly and engaging, and genuinely lovely to have a conversation with.”

Another student said, “he was so friendly and down to earth.”

The Archbishop also took part in a Q&A session, where students could ask Archbishop Justin a variety of questions, including “how did you know which way to put the crown on the King at the Coronation?” and advice he would give to his younger self.

The Archbishop even answered the famous Devon and Cornwall question- ‘Is it jam and cream first on scones?’ The Archbishop responded, “I’m an Anglican, so I put cream on, then jam on, then a bit more cream, and a little bit of jam on top.”

Archbishop Justin spoke to staff at the Academy and praised their work Photography: Neil Turner for Lambeth Palace.

Archbishop Justin also took time to encourage school teachers, leaders and chaplains. He said, “What you do is spectacular, and incredibly valuable, and you do it with all of the pressures that goes on.”

The Principle of Ilfracombe Academy, Steve Rogers, said, “today has been absolutely wonderful, it’s been inspirational.”

“He was really, really engaging with the students. I think the students got a lot out of what he had to say, and I’m sure they’ll walk away and reflect on those things over the weekend.”

Following his visit to Ilfracombe Academy, Archbishop Justin visited Ilfracombe Church of England Junior School. During his time there he blessed the forum, which is a beautiful outdoor garden area at the school. He also spent time engaging with staff at the school and encouraging them in their work.

The missional weekend ‘Come and See’ coincides with remembrance weekend, and Archbishop Justin will be taking part in the 1100 Remembrance Day silence in Torquay, and will lead prayers at the annual Remembrance Sunday parade on Plymouth Hoe.

Archbishop Justin will also be meeting members of Devon’s farming community at Holsworthy Farmer’s Market in North Devon to celebrate Harvest on Friday evening.