During his visit to the school, he was interviewed by a group of students who questioned him on his current pilgrimage, his personal faith and his relationship with God. When asked about the highlights of the pilgrimage so far, the Archbishop identified meeting a lot of young people and seeing their interest in what he is doing. He also spoke of some of the difficulties he has faced on the journey, having to contend with bad weather and rough terrain on more than one occasion. 

When asked by Year 8 student Jay Stephens why he decided to embark on the pilgrimage, the Archbishop replied: “I wanted to visit every place and do three things: Pray with people, encourage Christians to be more confident about Jesus and to bless all the good things I see around me”

Headteacher Richard Williman asked the Archbishop what key words he would leave with the school and its students as an inspiration. His responses were:

Friendship:  “If you can become a community of friends you’re more likely to pull together”

TEAM: “Together Each Achieves More - and out of that, friendship grows and flourishes”

KISS:  “Keep It Simple Stupid!” – “A clever person simplifies complicated things and a fool complicates simple things”.

Whilst at the school, Archbishop Sentamu kindly consented to perform a blessing of the multi-million pound new teaching block. He carried this out in its foyer, watched by the students who had interviewed him. After the group recited the Lord’s Prayer, the Archbishop offered the following blessing:

“Risen and our sacred Lord. Bless this building. May your Holy Angels defend all those who come here to learn and teach. May this be a place of safety and a great place of learning, and may your presence forever be here. Bless this school in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

Mr Williman commented: "It was a real pleasure to welcome Archbishop Dr John Sentamu back to Withernsea High School. Once again his enthusiasm and positivity spread to all who he met and we were delighted that he had taken time out of his current pilgrimage to speak to staff and students as well as formally bless our new school building"

Head of Religious Studies, Mrs Andrea Monaghan, added: “Our Year 8 students have recently studied pilgrimage, so having the Archbishop visit offered a wonderful opportunity to have their questions answered by a real life pilgrim. I was very proud of the intelligent, thoughtful and searching questions that the students came up with, and being able to take part in a discussion with the Archbishop increased the depth of their understanding greatly"

Student interviewer Jay Stephens said: “I am glad I met the Archbishop because he went to my little brother’s primary school last week, and my brother has been going on and on about meeting him! It was really interesting hearing about the places he has been to and the people he has met. I’ve never seen anyone bless a building before”
Penny Bamfield, another student interviewer, added: “Meeting the Archbishop has changed my view of religion. There is much more to it than I thought. His life is so interesting and he gets to travel around, doing what he loves.”

Dr Sentamu’s first visit to Withernsea High School was in September 2012 when he was a guest at the official opening of the Holderness Learning Centre, a building which he also blessed.

His six-month pilgrimage began on the 1st of December and is due to finish on the 22nd May. The Archbishop is walking a sizeable distance each day covering the coast, moors and dales, along highways and byways, through both rural and urban communities and across an area which spans the Humber to the Tees and the A1 to the coast.  His aim is to meet people, pray with them, and to encourage them to follow Christ, and bless what God is doing.

Question and Answer Session

As previously mentioned, the Archbishop took part in a question and answer session with some of our students. Below, are the questions he was asked and the answers he gave.

Why did you decide to go on this pilgrimage?
Question asked by Jay Stephens

To visit every Deanery in the Diocese of York. There are 21 Deaneries and when you look at the mathematics, the only way we could do it was by spending 6 days in each Deanery ‐ 6 months walking from 1st December to 22nd May. I just wanted to visit every place and do three things – Pray with people, encourage Christians to be more confident about Jesus (to share with their friends and family) and to bless all the good things I see around me.

What have been the highlights of the pilgrimage so far?

Question asked by Amy Peart

Some of the highlights have been meeting a lot of young people and them hearing about what I am doing. One of them was a little two year old up in Blacktoft and his father said “You’re going to meet a very important person ‐ the Archbishop of York”. So I turn up and the little toddler said “Ahh that’s the big fish!”. That’s one of those… So you get this amazing reaction from a lot of children, schools... It’s been quite fantastic and then some people you meet them for the first time in front of the television cameras, they are shocked you are there! *gasps*. You know… But also I’ve baptised a new baby in a river – I’ve prayed for people, some who really weren’t wanting to know anything about Jesus, so it’s been quite an amazing thing.

One girl asked me “Why did you decide to become a Christian and when was it?” and I told her. Then I asked her “What about you?” and she replied “When I was 10” ‐ so I asked why and she said ‐ “Because I come to a church school and it doesn’t make sense to be in a church school and not know about Jesus” and I thought that is amazing!

What have been the difficulties or hardships that you have encountered on this pilgrimage?

Question asked by Leah Garbutt

I think the walk from Liverton to The Gare beyond Redcar… It is the most northern bit of this Diocese, right up there (points) and as you look you actually see Hartlepool not far away from there, Durham not far away… and the weather. That was our longest walk I think, and it was slippery, it was raining, it was cold and it was nearly dark by the time we finished our walk. The other one was walking from Kirkleatham on our way to Redcar on a Saturday where the weather forecast said 100% rain, and it was! It was cold. That was tough, that was tough. Then when we were in Beverley on the Wednesday when there was a lot of snow – that was also quite tough.

Have you ever been on any other pilgrimages?

Question asked by Brandon Keeton

Yes Lindisfarne, that is on the island, I spent 6 to 9 days there walking around trying to find my bearing as far as God is concerned and what I’m doing. In Birmingham, when I was Bishop there, I walked the whole of the diocese and I went in to places of real interest.

Has being on a pilgrimage had an impact on your relationship with God?
Question asked by Penny Bamfield

Yes, one thing I’ve learned is take this word, what I always knew a long time ago, KISS – meaning Keep It Simple Stupid! I think what I’ve been learning is to make sure that the messages I’m giving out are simple. Not simplistic but simple. Not complicated. A friend of mine, a professor at Oxford University who sadly died, Henry Chadwick, used to say to me “Remember this: A clever person simplifies complicated things and a fool complicates simple things”. So he said to me “Make up your mind, which do you want to be!” and I think that’s a wonderful thing that the fool complicates simple things and the clever person simplifies complicated things.

Are you giving up any foods as part of your pilgrimage?

Question asked by Joshua Bennett

I have given up meat and have become a vegetarian. At one time I used to be a vegan but it meant when I was walking, unfortunately people thought being a vegan meant that they only gave you salads. I thought “I am not a rabbit!”, so this time I’m going vegetarian. Even when you’ve done that they still give you quiche. Anybody like quiche? Do you love quiche? [The Archbishop proceeds to ask the students if they like quiche] Do you? Do you? Do you? Urghhh! What gets me, churches now specialise in this – whenever you are at a church reception, quiche, quiche, quiche! What you do with quiche ‐ those ingredients put in that thing could be done in a more tasteful way than having a huge pastry and putting them in it.

Has faith in God always been an important part of your life?

Question asked by Annalea Whitrod

Faith in God. That word “faith” is so used a lot I want to persuade people don’t talk about faith in God, talk about trust, talk about friendship, talk about encounters because those really are more closer to what the gospel Jesus is about. The invitation Jesus gives us is to become his friend – that’s what he said. For me my response to that invitation to be a friend of Jesus really has changed my life. Have I discovered being a friend of God helpful in my life? The answer is definitely, definitely yes.

Do you think that Christianity is still important in the UK today?

Question asked by Georgie Razey

The foundations of this nation, what shaped it, has been the Christian faith. They are the building blocks of this nation. The Venerable Bede said the English were very barbaric ‐ butchering, torturing and killing each other and that Christianity conferred on them nationhood – they became a nation through the shear medicine of the gospel Jesus. Unfortunately there are some who think, “well our foundations are so firm, so it doesn’t really matter” but I actually think it is very, very important. At least the head of state thinks so. When you listen to the Queens’ Christmas broadcasts, they are all very, very clear on how deep the Christian foundation of this nation is.

Lord Denning was master of the Lords and Lord Chancellor. He said there were three things that the Christian faith has taught this nation which should never be separated: Religion, Morals and Law. So that’s the heart of the gospel, it tries to make sure the laws are founded on the Christian faith and they still are. Our morals ‐ Christianity also shaped them, so please don’t separate them. So that’s why it’s still important.

Do you think that this pilgrimage will have a lasting impact on you and on the places you
Question asked by Dayle Mason

Oh yes. There’s a wonderful, wonderful thing in St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that said we are changed in to the same image from glory to glory and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I genuinely think that having walked more, prayed more deliberately and with more intention than I normally do, I tried to listen to God more. I think it will [have a lasting impact]. I now know that prayer really is the engine that the drives the Christian faith. By praying I don’t mean saying prayers, but coming in God’s presence and allowing him to speak.

Earlier you touched upon friendship. Are there perhaps some key words you would leave with us? Key words to keep at the fore of our minds?
Question asked by Richard Williman.

I’m sure friendship is one of those. If you can become a community of friends you’re more likely to pull together. The other word is the word TEAM ‐ Together Each Achieves More. Do it on your own, you may get there somewhere, you may succeed, but actually then discover it was not what it was going to be. The other one is KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid. So, Together Each Achieves More ‐ and out of that, friendship then grows and flourishes.

Another thing I’d say is for heaven’s sake, don’t be so scared to talk about it [Christianity]‐ just talk. A 5 year old in a school I visited shouted out “I believe in God and I pray every night!” Not ashamed, so natural. So I hope to see team work with simplicity of meanings. Mahatma Ghandi said “Be the change that you want to see” [This is also the strap line to the Archbishop’s Youth Trust]. Too many people are standing on the side lines complaining, but they could actually be the change and then influence other people to do it too.

Headteacher Richard Williman welcomes the Archbishop of York back to Withernsea High School

The Archbishop in conversation with students during the question and answer session

The students and Mr Williman pose for a group shot with the Archbishop and Revd Canon Joanna Udal (The Archbishop’s Pilgrimage companion),after the blessing.