Archbishop Rowan Williams delivers final new year message


The Archbishop of Canterbury delivers his final new year message

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has paid tribute to unsung volunteers in his final new year message.

The Most Reverend Rowan Williams said the success of the Olympics volunteers should serve as a reminder of those who "often invisibly" make things happen.

He said there was a "steady current of generosity that underlies so much of our life together", in his BBC message.

People should ask "what can I do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication?" the archbishop said.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, is to take over the Church of England's top role in March.

'Olympic vision'

In his recorded message, the 11th since he took office in 2002, Dr Williams said: "The extraordinary events of the Olympics and Paralympics last summer provided an unforgettable spectacle.

"But everyone who visited the Olympic site or watched the broadcasts will have been made aware of the army of volunteers who cheerfully gave up their free time and worked away, without complaint, all hours of the day and night to make these great events happen.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams delivers his final sermon at Canterbury Cathedral on 30 December Dr Williams has already delivered his final sermon at Canterbury Cathedral

"They were the key people who translated the Olympic vision into reality for the rest of us.

"It ought to make us think a bit harder about all the other folk who quietly, often invisibly, turn vision into reality and just make things happen - especially volunteers."

Dr Williams referred to the "Robes" project, where more than 20 local churches combined to offer food and shelter to homeless people in London.

"Religion here isn't a social problem or an old-fashioned embarrassment, it's a wellspring of energy and a source of life-giving vision for how people should be regarded and treated," he said.

"So let's recognise this steady current of generosity that underlies so much of our life together in this country and indeed worldwide.

"It's all based on one vision - to make our society, our whole world, work for everyone, not just the comfortable and well off.

"And it's a vision that sometimes seems to need Olympic levels of patient hard work and dedication."

'Silent groundswell'

He said volunteers from churches and other faith groups made up a huge percentage of the "army of cheerful people making the wheels go round".

"How very good that people like that are there for us, we can say - but as soon as we've said that, we should be prompted to ask the tougher question: what can I do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication?" he added.

"There'll be those who have time and skill and strength to offer; there'll be those who have less of these, but can support in prayer and goodwill."

He said that thinking about this "silent groundswell" should open up minds to the "deepest secret of all - the trust that the entire universe is held together by the quiet, unfailing generosity of God".

Dr Williams is to take up a new post as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and will also serve as chairman of the board of trustees at Christian Aid, the international development agency.

In his Christmas message, Dr Williams, 62, acknowledged that a recent vote not to allow women bishops in the Church had damaged its credibility.

However, he said that according to recent census results, 59% of people still identified themselves as Christian, and believers should not lose heart.

The archbishop's message will be broadcast at 12:15 GMT on BBC One and at 17:25 on BBC Two.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Volunteers are not the answer to societal problems. That is the role of government whose deliberate policies of widening the gulf between rich and poor MUST end and be fought at all costs else society will in fact break up. Volunteers of course do great things and its great they do so.
    Might we be a more effective society if MPs and Bankers were volunteers?. A better nation for all perhaps

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    The Olympic games volunteers worked well because they were well funded. The government wants voluntary organisations to do the same work as the public sector should be but without giving the funding needed. It will cost more in the long run

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Pity the church and Rowan didn't speak up more viscerally about the ongoing misinformation and relentless war on and amongst the poor, all initiated by the eton mess in "charge".

    I used to volunteer, but maintaining a healthy work/life balance is difficult, so I stopped. I donate to charities monthly instead.

    Oh, and I'm an atheist. My views and behaviour are not due to a belief in a fairy tale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Why does the BBC persist in supporting religious propaganda? It is quite possible for those of no faith to be generous and to wish to help others have a good life. The difference is, most people of no faith can give good reasons for helping others have a good life - they don't do it because they have an irrational fear of burning in hell for all eternity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    @91 Linda
    If the church and the big charities with their CEOs on fat salaries..'
    @94 'I feel..'humanitarian performance' delivered by religion inadequate'

    More ignorant digs at religion- you have no idea- there are NO fat salaries in church, or most most charities for that matter.
    As for 'Voice of Reason',you clearly have no idea of the positive effect of volunteers, religious or otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    "The Cof E tends to be sherry swigging middle class types that look down their noses at plebs like me!"
    Perhaps if you stopped referring to yourself (and others) as "plebs" you wouldn't be treated like one.

    (And can I also suggest that you research Rowan Williams' background before commenting in future - he hardly qualifies as "the same old upper class twits".)

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    As a non-Olympic volunteer myself (at my local museum), thanks for the kind words archbishop. We do it, not for reward or public acclaim, but because we like the work, like to keep busy in retirement, and enjoy helping others. However, if any overpaid pop diva wants to make a political statement by turning down a CBE, please bung it in the post. All gongs gratefully received.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    40. OnlyOneDaveSmith

    Get a life you sad person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    If needless wars were never started, if corporations paid their taxes, if politicians did their jobs properly, if happiness was considered a greater priority than wealth, if communities really did exist, then a 'silent conspiracy' of generosity would never be needed.

    Rather than trying to get the poorest to give up their time, get their wealthy to give up some of their money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Strange that this god thingy allows so many terrible things to happen, and despite this people willingly give their all. People say it is man, not this god thingy, that causes a lot of the problems! I therefore summise that man is more powerful than this god thingy because a lot of problems are man made or assisted.
    Nature in the long term balances. Men don't. God thingy non existant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.


    Wow, I feel the rage from here.

    Did you not post "Because this is a free country where people are entitled to express their views publicly and openly. Do you have a problem with that?"

    And when I post a simple opinion, based on my observations of inner city life, You respond defensively and without objectivity.

    KPI's would give an essential insight into the effectiveness of religion

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    God Bless all of them and may be all were more deserving of the MBEs etc so cheaply sprinkled on the celebrity gravy train.
    However for this "for profit" business venture, I do think that in the long run they have done themselves and others a disservice.
    It was work, nothing more, and they gave it away for free. Ironically they also avoided paying tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I'm afraid putting the Olympic volunteers at the top of his address skews the context of his message.

    They were a well meaning group of volunteers exploited by blatant profiteering!

    The volunteers who need heartfelt recognition are those who quietly give up their own time to benefit those less fortunate than others.

    Less fortunate!

    Nothing to do with faith colour or creed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    @2 lemog
    "to do good deeds out of the goodness of their heart rather than for religious reasons"

    i wish I had your faith.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Why do these people like Williams & the Queen keep mentioning success of volunteers at the Olympics,when all know most were force slave labour under this Tyrannical tory run government work programmes

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    We don't need some inflated pious egotist to give thanks for those who have an inborn kindness within them to help others. It is certainly not something the BBC should be doing propagandising religiosity as the source of all human virtues having been given by some supernatural god or goddess. We are of humankind and kindness comes from within individuals who have not been criminalized by society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    @94. voice of reason

    You "feel" that the humanitarian performance of religion is inadequate? Then your "voice of reason" seems based simply on your gut instinct. Will your 'KPIs' reflect the vast amount of pastoral work done in hospitals, in prisons and among the homeless and the bereaved that goes on day in and day out - usually without report or publicity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    That's it. Do the governments work for them.

    All so that the posh boys can have a good time. At our expense..

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Give them all knighthoods!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    @97: "I gave up volunteering, as the "organisers" treated the volunteers as though they were serfs"

    So the middle management ego trip basking in the glory of the workers has hit the world of volunteering? Sigh.


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