WOKING Football Club welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on Sunday 26 September as part of his Big Questions programme.

The archbishop then visited Gordon’s School in West End to conclude the 11 events across the weekend organised by the Diocese of Guildford in partnership with local churches.

“The Woking FC event had a real buzz to it,” a diocesan spokesperson said. “More than 490 tickets were taken up, the sun shone and there were some great warm-up acts, which thankfully the archbishop did not need to copy.

“No question was off limits, and Archbishop Justin talked of identity and discussed key moments in his life that had led to Big Questions.”

The archbishop opened the hour-long session with a short talk before taking questions from the audience.

He tweeted: “Great to be @wokingfc on such a beautiful day, talking about the grace of God in Jesus.”

Woking’s club chaplain, Ian Nicholson, said: “The day went really well, it was great to see so many people who wouldn’t normally come down to the ground. It brought the community together.

“We wanted to give the afternoon a bit of footballing context within the stadium, so we had some entertainment, notably Dan Cutting’s football skills exhibition, for about half an hour before the archbishop’s main event.

“The archbishop covered a lot of life issues, including suffering and going through hard times, and he gave some valuable responses.

“It was an honour for us to be part of his tour and the hopeful, positive mood he created.”

The Deputy Mayor of Woking, Saj Hussain, met archbishop Justin. “It was a wonderful experience, and he was very approachable,” he said.

“It was amazing how he answered all the different questions in such an engaging manner, and handled all sorts of topics. I’m sure everyone is grateful to Woking Football Club for hosting the event.” 

Archbishop Justin then moved on to Gordon’s, where he was greeted by the school’s pipes and drums.

He spoke to more than 200 people in the school’s sports’ hall on a wide range of topics, including how to make the church more attractive to non-believers.

Asked what he would have changed about his response to COVID, he said that should a similar situation arise he would keep churches open and release clergy from their duties in their diocese to help in hospital chapels.

He spoke of the ‘’extraordinary work’’ of lay people during the pandemic and pointed out that parishes across England had carried out 32,000 social projects in response to the situation.“The church has risen to the challenge,” he said. “At parish level, in every community, the church was extraordinary.”