Aldeburgh Festival service: Archbishop praises Suffolk churches

The archbishop said he was "honoured" to participate in the festival service

The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised church communities in Suffolk for getting "stuck in" to help people through food banks and night shelters.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby was in Aldeburgh to lead the opening service for the town's annual music festival.

He said the need for food banks is a "pity" but they are "typical of what happens when God is involved".

About 500 people attended the 66th festival service which marked the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten.

Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, lived in the town for many years. They are buried at the church.

At the scene

Worshippers outside Aldeburgh parish church

A breezy morning on the Suffolk coast saw the first ever visit by an archbishop to the town of Aldeburgh - home of composer Benjamin Britten.

Chilly outside, but warm, flower-filled and reverend inside the parish church where hundreds gathered to hear music from the King's College Choir, Cambridge and join in the service lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ordinary parishioners are keen to see where he'll lead their church and the packed pews revealed the Archbishop draws the crowds.

Worshippers told me after the service the Most Reverend Justin Welby is 'a breath of fresh air' for the Church of England - simplifying the church's message and making it more understandable.

The archbishop said he was "honoured" to participate in the festival at Britten's home church.

He added the work of the church showed that "when there is a need, the love of God through Jesus Christ overflows into the community around."

'Resolution and hope'

Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk on the issue of food banks he said: "People say 'OK here's a need. It may not be something we welcome but we're going to get stuck in and deal with it'.

"And so it's absolutely right the church should do it, but it's a pity it's necessary."

The service, which began at 10:30 BST, included Britten's Missa Brevis, sung by the boy choristers of King's College Cambridge.

BBC Religious Affairs reporter Alex Strangwayes-Booth said the archbishop referred during his sermon to the political issues facing the Church of England.

He said: "The church is really good at complicating its message".

The sermon centred on Britten's War Requiem and themes of conflict, resolution and hope.

A large screen was put up outside the church of St Peter and St Paul to relay the service, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio Suffolk.

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