Twenty five Bishops and their teams from the northern half of The Church of England led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have taken part in four days of mission and celebration called ‘Talking Jesus.’ The Bishops and their teams went out into communities in all corners of the Diocese – talking about Jesus at more than 450 community events.
The mission came to a close at a service of celebration at Durham Cathedral on Sunday. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, told a packed Cathedral that it had been a resounding success. He said: “We can’t be sure quite how many people we have come into contact with across four days, 450 events, numerous conversations and through social media interactions - but it is many tens of thousands.”
The events included conversations in pubs, cafes, drop in centres. abseiling, dancing, art events, lectures, shared meals, and even a “flashmob” at a supermarket, when 50 children turned up to sing. The “flashmob,” like many of the events during the four days, was broadcast live on Facebook and went viral with thousands of people watching it.
At the start of the four day mission, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu had explained the thinking behind the initiative, as he commissioned the 25 Bishops for the task ahead: “We’re in the Durham Diocese for a weekend of ‘Talking Jesus’. Jesus came to bring the very life of God as a gift to all of us. His resurrection makes it possible for us to live the life he lived. The heart of the Christian faith is about having an encounter with Jesus – an encounter which transforms and brings hope and love.”
Archbishop Semtamu visited a secondary school on Friday as part of the mission. During the visit, he was shown a number of prayer stations, set up and run by students, which were designed to focus on exploring personal well being, taking time to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings, and as a place to explore prayer.
Archbishop Sentamu said: “It has been wonderful to spend time with students from Venerable Bede Church of England Academy and to find out more of how they have used the Prayer Spaces they have created to engage in a fresh way in talking and listening to God. There is no better thing we can do than to find a space to spend time with God, and I encourage all to do so.”
The Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs, also went into a number of schools on Friday: “We had a fantastic welcome. It was great to see children and young people engaged in questions of faith and wanting to find out more; there were lots of challenging questions” he said. Bishop Jonathan said it was about trying new things - and even people who were sceptical beforehand were left “buzzing” by the various events: “The lesson for me is that if we are willing to engage with people’s questions, there is a real openness to discovering the Gospel. I pray that the legacy of this will be churches reaching out into their communities with renewed confidence and hope.”