Archbishop of Canterbury visits Newham - and enjoys school dinner with Canning Town pupils
10:25 19 May 2014
The Archbishop of Canterbury tucked into a school dinner with pupils from St Luke’s School during his visit to Stratford and Canning Town.
He said that his trip, which was organised to show off the regeneneration in the borough, showed that the area faced both “huge opportunity and huge challenge”.
“I think it’s enormously exciting,” Justin Welby said. “I think there are huge challenges because you’ve got all this new building coming in, which is brilliant, you’ve got this extraordinary Olympic legacy and that gives a massive challenge of creating community and the community developing rather than becoming fractured as numbers grow and new people move in.”
The Archbishop arrived at Stratford International via the jubilee line for his first stop - Westfield Stratford City. He joked with general manager Alyson Hodkinson that he would tell his children to shop at the mall as he was unware how easy it was to get there.
He visited the centre’s prayer room, the InSpiration room, and signed the first page of its new visitors’ book before blessing the team and chaplain Christie Asinguo during a prayer.
Christie, who had been looking forward to the visit for weeks, said: “I think it’s a great privilege and I thank God for this visit. The fact that he has come has given me more confidence in the things that we do here.”
Next, the Archbishop visited Chobham Academy in East Village, part of the former athletes’ village for London 2012.
He was greeted by deputy head Kieran Scalon and spoke to pupils about their studies before signing the school’s inspiration wall which includes messages from a range of celebrities and sports stars, including Olly Murs, Gary Neville, John Bishop and Tinchy Stryder.
The Archbishop said the facilities at the academy had left him “breathless”.
“It’s an incredible site,” he said. “You’ve got bright kids and this kind of place just transforms what can be done.”
He then visited the nearby Liberty Bridge Surgery which has been transformed into a health centre after being used to treat athletes during the Olympics.
Andrew Rees, practice manager, said: “The Archbishop was trying to find out what we are dealing with on a daily basis, so things like homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse.
“He was really interested in how the centre works differently to everywhere else and how we are keen to encourage people to want to come into the centre even when they are not ill.”
The Archbishop then took the DLR to Canning Town to see a presentation by the trustees of the London Design and Engineering university technical college which is set to open in September next year.
The college will provide vocational training and GCSE tutition for 600 students and 150 apprentices aged between 14 and 19 years old.
The Archbishop’s final stop was St Luke’s School in Canning Town, where headteacher Theresa Aaronson organised a tour of each classroom so that every child in the school could see him.
“It is not about coming to see me and sit in my room,” she explained. “I wanted them all to see the archbishop and realise that he knows their background and wants to speak to them and see them grow up to share the word of God.”
Moussa Samba, 11, from Canning Town was asked to explain to the Archbishop how his class were learning about the meanings of Christian paintings – although he admitted that he didn’t know much about him before doing some research.
“He seems a bit famous and very important,” Moussa added.
Precious Maize, 11, said: “It makes me feel really special that the Archbishop has come to our school.
“All of us are really excited that someone that knows the Queen is here. He does really good big things and teaches the word of God.”
The Archbishop’s tour of the school ended with a visit to the hall where he said a prayer for the pupils before having lunch with them.
Click on the picture gallery on the right for more photos from the Archbishop’s visit.