Archbishop of Canterbury praises Peterborough homeless project as one of the best in the country

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visiting Peterborough  meeting staff, volunteers and guests at the Garden House
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visiting Peterborough meeting staff, volunteers and guests at the Garden House

The Archbishop of Canterbury said a project to help homeless people and rough sleepers in Peterborough is one of the best he has seen in the country as he toured the city this week.

The Most Rev Justin Welby was taken on a three day tour of the Diocese of Peterborough this week, with visits ranging from Queensgate to the Faizen e Madina Mosque - as well as spending time at the Cathedral.

On Monday he visited The Garden House project, which is based at the Cathedral and offers help and support to the city’s homeless residents.

He said: “One of the things I am very focussed on at the moment is the whole issue of homelessness and rough sleeping, because so many churches are involved in addressing this, along with other faith groups. In the Garden House you can see a profoundly Christianly motivated ministry that is unconditionally accepting, and is incredibly empowering of those who come and seek its help.

“It doesn’t treat them as objects that you do things to, but as people that you do things with.

“The gentleness and the openness and the sophistication of the approach, the thoughtfulness of the approach, would certainly put right up at the top of the list for good models for this kind of work.”

The Archbishop was at Peterborough Cathedral on Wednesday where he launched a new mobile phone app, which brings tours of the historic building to life.

The augmented reality app takes visitors to a number of stops in the cathedral - and each stop triggers snippets of information about the history and purpose of the Cathedral, as well as augmented reality animations, ‘hands on’ games and puzzles.

The Most Rev Welby said technology like the new app - along with the visit of the Soyuz space capsule last year - showed science and religion could mix. He said: “Soyuz was brilliant. In the middle ages they spent about as much of the GDP on cathedrals as we do on defence or health.

“Cathedrals were built as the big focal points for welcome, for education, for celebration for prayer , for lamentation, for mourning, for joy, for great events. They were the centres so to put a space ship in there is totally appropriate.

“The interesting thing is that with the very cutting edge of science around gene technology, around nano technology around automation, Artificial intelligence, robotics, we are finding more and more dialogue going on, even with scientists of no faith, and there are plenty of scientists of profound faith, because they realise they are dealing with things that are on the very, very edge of the understanding of what it is to be human, and being scientists, the best of them always seek to understand more widely how people understand what it is to be a human being. The old myth that there is an automatic rift between science and religion just doesn’t exist any more.”

The Most Rev Welby also spent time at the Faizen e Madina Mosque, and with other faith leaders in Peterborough as he spoke about the importance of community cohesion and the role faith has in today’s world, with the differences Brexit has brough.

He said: “Faith is about the eternal, it is about giving yourself a perspective that goes beyond what is immediately in front of us. Faith is something that gives you an eternal perspective, and therefore when you have faith groups together, of course we have differences, but in this country, more and more, the differences matter, but they are dealt with with friendship and relationship without being overlooked.

“The work of the faith groups day to day is to care for in compassion those in need in society. And because it is an eternal perspective it does enable you to see over the next hill, whether that hill is called Mount Brexit or whether it is some completely different problem it enables you to see further. The faith communities have a real place because they both look at what is at their feet, what is around us today, rough sleepers, food banks, people seeking purpose, families struggling with what it is to be a cohesive household, breakdown of marriage, abuse of children, educational needs, new technology, a changing world, it sees those and addresses them because they involve human beings and one of the common features is concern for human beings between faiths and it sees the big picture and the need to give account or the use of ones life to God.”

Abdul Choudhuri, chairman of the Faizen e Madina Mosque said the discussion about religions working together in Peterborough was welcome.

He said: “The Archbishop was welcomed by all Imams and teaching staff as well as the executive committee members of the Mosque.

“After visiting the Mosque there was open and frank discussion over tea and somosas as to how the two great religions are working together in Peterborough which the Archbishop admired immensely.”