I was delighted to get my Mum’s call, telling me the news that John Sentamu was to be the new Archbishop of York. Fifteen years earlier I had told her I felt that the speaker I had listened to at Lee Abbey could well be our first black Archbishop- though I did say Canterbury! My guess is that she gave this a usual, “Oh yes”, but obviously kept it at the back of her mind. Since then, I have followed his career with interest and prayer, as he moved from Stepney to Birmingham, and now to York.
I had travelled the forty miles from home, to Lee Abbey on the North Devon coast,feeling completely broken, after the very public breakdown of my marriage, to someone who was not only a Christian, but serving a Church in a Pastoral capacity. When booking the weeklong holiday, I hadn’t even heard the name John Sentamu. I soon discovered a man of great humour, intelligence and passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The son of a Christian headmaster, John recounted stories of God miraculously healing his mother; his path to university where he studied law and became a Barrister; and his imprisonment under Idi Amin’s regime. One of my favourite stories involved buying shoes to go to university. John was undecided whether to have black or brown ones, and embarrassed by the prayers for guidance by John and his Church leader in the middle of the shop, the owner gave them two pairs for the price of one to get rid of them! The story didn’t end there, for that evening, they returned and led the shopkeeper to Christ.
Recent reports have reminded me of John Sentamu’s gap-toothed smile, his love of the word “actually”, his hilarious preaching, and his belief in a God of miracles. I have listened to the Lee Abbey tapes once again, enjoying his rich Ugandan accent. When taking a funeral he apparently asks God, “Is it today Lord that you want to raise the dead?”
On a personal note, John prayed for me after one service, and the following morning said that in prayer, I came to mind, with the words “Behold I make all things new”. I have clung to those words many times over the fifteen years, and in reality, at times things seemed to get worse not better. But God is faithful to every promise, though his methods and time schedule may not be ours. Sometimes the work that God has in mind is so much deeper than we could imagine, and he does not take short cuts or easy options.
I am now training as a Reader in the Church of England, and support the ministry of a Christian Healing Centre.
Oh I enjoyed your article so much!! Don't you just love how our God does undercover work in our lives and then surprises us with it? When my children were small we had a book "Animals Are The Most Amazing People" or something like that. I think people are the most amazing people and love bio sketches such as yours. Wish I knew your bishop Semantu!