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Archbishop of Canterbury makes surprise visit to Sissinghurst and Frittenden churches


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Worshippers from Sissinghurst and Frittenden had a more than special guest on Sunday.

It comes as the leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, made a surprise visit to Trinity and St Mary's Churches.

From left: church warden Penny Durie, Rev Peter Deaves, The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and church warden Fraser McKie. Picture: Rev Peter Deaves
From left: church warden Penny Durie, Rev Peter Deaves, The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and church warden Fraser McKie. Picture: Rev Peter Deaves

Reverend Peter Deaves, rector of the United Benefice of Sissinghurst with Frittenden, said he received the news a couple of days beforehand.

He said the Archbishop wanted to attend a traditional service at the parish, but asked in advance not to spread the word about his visit, as he prefers to make them in secrecy.

Archbishop Welby attended the 8.30am service at Trinity Church, in Sissinghurst, and later on preached at St Mary's Church 10am service, in Frittenden.

Rev Pete, as he is known in the community, said he was delighted and had never dreamed of such a request.

He said: "We were so impressed that he decided to come to our more modest-sized traditional service, without any hymns, just a very simple plain service, which only had 35 people."

The Archbishop with Rev Pete and his daughter Phoebe. Picture: Rev Peter Deaves
The Archbishop with Rev Pete and his daughter Phoebe. Picture: Rev Peter Deaves

The 10am service had approximately 90 worshippers.

Archbishop Welby is more used to the backdrop of Canterbury Cathedral, with a congregation of hundreds.

Rev Pete said the Archbishop encouraged everyone with his words, as he was very relaxed and spoke from the heart.

He also mentioned that Archbishop Welby had a wonderful sense of humour and does not take himself too seriously.

He said: "One of the most memorable moments was when he said that sometimes he gets addressed as 'your grace', but in his family, his children and grandchildren sometimes call him 'baldie'."

The Archbishop stayed after the services to get to know the community and the parishes. Picture: Rev'd Peter Deaves
The Archbishop stayed after the services to get to know the community and the parishes. Picture: Rev'd Peter Deaves

After both services, the Archbishop stayed a bit longer to chat to everyone, wanting to know more about the community and the parishes.

"We felt so privileged, we were just delighted. It was a very special moment and we feel very grateful that we had this opportunity," said Rev Pete.

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