THE first visit to the far west of Cornwall in more than a century by the country's foremost Anglican clergyman saw Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby enjoy a varied itinerary in Penzance.
Part of a three-day stay in the county, the Archbishop spent Saturday morning in Penzance, visiting Penwith College, the Giving Shop in the Wharfside shopping centre, St Mary's Church and the Penlee lifeboat station, as well as paying prayer visits to homes around St John's Church.
First stop was Penwith College where the Archbishop mingled with students from the college and pupils from local schools, including Humphry Davy and St Mary's Church of England, while enjoying a buffet breakfast in the college's Zennor building, which enjoys spectacular views over Mount's Bay.
The Archbishop then faced a thought-provoking question-and-answer session from the students – on the Church's plans to set up a credit union. The Archbishop raised a laugh when he said he would not be sending out large vicars with dark glasses to collect bad debts while, when asked if religion was important in society, he said it was "irreplaceable and essential".
Other questioners wonders how an omnipotent and benevolent God could allow natural disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines and what the worst and best parts of his job were; he replied that paperwork was his least favourite, and confessed he could not understand why a fuss was made about him as an Archbishop: "It embarrasses me, but it does mean I get to meet so many amazing people."
The Archbishop also told the students that they were in a "fantastic college – it's a marvellous and motivating place".
A visit to the Giving Shop followed, where he was shown round by David Smith from Churches Together and manager Annette Costello.
Mr Smith said: "The Archbishop was so personable and so easy to talk to; he's certainly not one for airs and graces.
"He said he was amazed with the work going on on behalf of Churches Together in the Giving Shop and the support it's able to give to the community in a variety of ways."
After visiting homes in Penzance distributing cards for those who wished to be included in books of remembrance, the Archbishop preached on the theme of "Hope in darkness" at a service at St Mary's Church.
The service included performances by Mousehole Male Voice Choir and a choir from Humphry Davy School.
Finally he visited the Penlee lifeboat station where he and other senior church figures on were taken by coxswain Patch Harvey on board the all-weather craft Ivan Ellen and out to the spot where the lifeboat Solomon Browne was lost in 1981. "He said a few words at the site and then drove the lifeboat back to Newlyn," said Mr Harvey. "He was very down-to-earth and seemed to absolutely love it down here."
Reflecting on his visit to the county, the Archbishop said he felt Cornwall was a good example for the rest of the Anglican Church to follow.
"It's very distinctive and I wanted to come here early to learn about what Bishop Tim (the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro) is doing here," he said.
"It's very different. There is an extraordinary history of spirituality here which is nothing like the rest of the south of England."