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 137.

    cf 130 - "Why does Christianity get so much media time on the BBC?"

    Because there is more of a story in what Christians do than what humanists don't. What's the adage - those who can do, those who can't criticize.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    If you read what this man has had to say on various topics you will learn from his wisdom.

    I do not understand his superstitions but it would be a bonus if there were more like him in public life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Not surprisingly there is a quango which exists (at great expense) recruiting volunteers to work in the NHS, Police & other Public Services for nothing!

    How much of Mr Williams' message was 'scripted' to direct his audience to the worth of volunteering to aid the Governments cause?

    The value of true volunteers must be maintained and not turned into Government lackeys !

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    It ain't Cristianity, it's Paulism .. He had his own agenda. and the Council of Nicea went along with his epistles and rejected the gospels of several apostles ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Obviously there is a place for volunteering any form of help in any manner to any one in need,indeed whether they are in need or not!
    BUT,with charities taking up more of the Gov cutbacks,and the Welfare State disappearing,which means that we are having to pay twice for the same service in an increasing manner,ie tax,NI,and donations to the said charities for what used to be provided by the state!

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Of all the sectors effected by the Coalition's self defeating austerity measures (making, as they are, the debt/deficit WORSE......) the voluntary sector has taken the hardest hit......

    .....volunteers don't need much funding, but they do need some......

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Having been unemployed in the past I have been one of those 'volunteers' who have been forced to work 30hrs a week or lose my benefit. I have also genuinely volunteered my time to help others. Working under threat takes away any feeling of optimism and reward that true volunteering should give. Also let us not forget the forced laboured jobseekers who slept rough to 'volunteer' at the Olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Please stop reporting everything the Arch Bishop ever mutters. Why does Christianity get so much media time on the BBC ? Does the BBC have a religious affiliation ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Those hands of the Olympic volunteers working working together achieved far more than the hands of those in church simply clasped in prayer....

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I am no longer Christian because I cannot be a sheep in a church where the shepherd excludes females from any meaningful role. I cannot believe that this is what God intended...I WILL not do charity work for such a church because I minister my love unconditionally.
    It's not God that holds the universe together; it's this UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for all God's conscious creation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Nobody needs religion or to believe in God/Allah/etc to be a good person. Just because there I'm an atheist doesn't make me evil!

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    As mush as i am reluctant to say it, i think Volunteering is the way forward. With all the spending cuts, councils strapped for cash, public service spending being slashed, the only way we can look after our old, disabled & needy in society is through Volunteering, it's almost like a 2nd tear economy, if there is no money available then we're just going to have to look after ourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.


    "As for 'Voice of Reason',you clearly have no idea of the positive effect of volunteers, religious or otherwise."

    You have hit the nail on the head. I have no idea. And neither do you.

    There needs to be a commission to investigate just how effective, or otherwise, organised religion truly is.

    There are immeasurables, but science (not religion) has learned to quantify those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    With the pressure/need to work,and to work even longer hours being a fait accompli for multi reasons that are forced onto the citizen,and coupled with an ageing population that cant afford to retire,the ability of even the most caring,altruistic individual is at best diminished if not completely evaporated,I worry about the numbers in the future that will be able to help even their own family!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The eton mess does not believe that they and their ilk must contribute to society, because they use very little to none of the services provided in a decent society (or so they think). By replacing the good of society by charities the elite choose to not support society. Unless something radical happens, I expect private work houses springing up for the poor and the OAPs desperate to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I'm a volunteer. I'm also an atheist. I don't need a priest's patronising remarks to know that what I do is valuable. Unfortunately the charity for which I volunteer (a small local charity that has been doing its work for years before Cameron had his Big Society brainstorm) will probably go broke in 2013 due to public expenditure cuts and cease serving local people. Thanks Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    2 things made the Olympics fab - volunteers being one of them.

    The other was the public sector, in both organising & delivering the event on time and with the Army stepping in at the last to cover the proverbials of the private sector contractor who let everyone down......

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The majority of volunteers have nothing to do with the church. They are largely retired or disabled, unemployable but still want to fill their time usefully.

    Vols do what they can but paid staff are necessary because vols have no contract. It's up to you what you do and you go on hol when you like. But there's no wages and the Gov is cutting funds expecting more.

    Sell the chalice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I'm part of the 'silent conspiracy of generosity' and I'm not religious. I assist disabled adults in my community and I get a lot out of it. In an ideal world we wouldn't have to worry about volunteers making a difference, but we don't live in an ideal world now do we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Somebody has been volunteering to mark my comments down.


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