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The Church of England could open its land to travellers amid a ‘historic’ move to ‘actively welcome’ different groups.
The initiative was launched as Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell yesterday attended Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, Europe’s largest gathering of travelling people.
He rode a traditional horse-drawn dray, toured a Romany caravan and had tea and biscuits with community representatives.
At the same time, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited travellers in Dorset to mark the launch of the CofE’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) Friendly Churches initiative.
The scheme aims to create ‘a bridge between settled people and travellers’.
A Church of England inititative to open its land to travellers was launched as Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell (pictured) yesterday attended Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria
He rode a traditional horse-drawn dray, toured a Romany caravan and had tea and biscuits with community representatives
Dr Welby said: ‘We can and must do so much more to welcome, support, include and advocate for them.’
Parishes will be encouraged to offer support which could include ‘offering to pray with a family, offering water to people camping on the roadside, signposting people to services, or accompanying people to an appointment or engaging in more complex advocacy’.
But the Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, said churches should go further.
Addressing a congregation at Appleby’s medieval St Lawrence’s church, he said: ‘We call on every church in the land to be GRT-friendly and provide places for them to camp off-road, and embrace their way of life.’
Archbishop Cottrell later said it would be up to parishes to decide whether to allow travellers to park on Church land, adding: ‘It is up to each church and its community to make its own decision.’
The CofE has faced criticism for ‘woke’ policies including allocating £100million to address its ‘complicity’ in the slave trade.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Welby last month spoke out against the Government’s flagship policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, calling it ‘the opposite of the nature of God’.
The outburst was condemned as ‘narrow-minded’ by the Rwandan High Commissioner, Johnston Busingye.
When appointed in 2020, Archbishop Cottrell claimed Jesus was ‘black’, while the CofE was ‘too white’.
Announcing the wider initiative, he said: ‘I have seen and heard the prejudice and racism the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities face in their daily lives. As a Church, we can and must do more to stop this.’
When appointed in 2020, Archbishop Cottrell claimed Jesus was ‘black’, while the CofE was ‘too white’
Archbishop Welby (pictured) last month spoke out against the Government’s flagship policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, calling it ‘the opposite of the nature of God’
The Church of England said its efforts stem from a resolution at the 2019 General Synod.
Bishop Newcome has appointed two new GRT chaplains, making 12 so far.
Yesterday is believed to have been the first time that an Archbishop of York has visited Appleby Fair in recorded history.
The four-day event attracts 10,000 travellers to the town, which usually has a population of 2,000 – plus an estimated 50,000 visitors.
Archbishop Cottrell’s visit finished with tea and cake with Roma gypsy spokesman Billy Welch at his caravan on Fair Hill, where around 300 bow-top caravans are parked. Mr Welch said: ‘This is a massive step forward in relationships.
‘We have been through terrible times since the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act [legislation last year which criminalised residing on land without consent].
‘This helps bring light in our darkness, a breath of fresh air and gives us hope for the future.’
Appleby Fair dates back 500 years and includes the famous washing of horses in the River Eden. All but two pubs closed for the weekend, while a primary school shut following a ‘risk assessment’.
Appleby Fair attracts 10,000 travellers to the town, which usually has a population of 2,000 – plus an estimated 50,000 visitors
It dates back 500 years and includes the famous washing of horses in the River Eden (pictured)
Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the late Queen Elizabeth II, who converted to Catholicism in 2019 after becoming disillusioned with the CofE, called the idea of allowing travellers to use Church land ‘very short-sighted’.
He said: ‘If you did have the power to open up churchyards to travellers, what would you do next?
‘Once you’d provided amenities, do you resource them, turn them into permanent settlements? What does that do to people using churchyards for worship?
‘The idea of [the CofE] irritating their own community by pretending to solve a problem that can’t be solved is not very clever.
Although there are traveller issues, there isn’t a huge traveller problem, which is why this is virtue signalling.’
Dr Ashenden said the CofE would be making ‘a mistake that betrays the trust of their own people [and] replaces spirituality with a Left-wing programme of equity’.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk