New Archbishop’s training ground ... in St Helens

The Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby during a service inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent or his enthronement.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby during a service inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent or his enthronement.
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IF the new Archbishop of Canterbury look familiar to parishioners of Holy Trinity Church in St Helens – that’s because he is.

Justin Welby, who was enthroned as Primate of the Anglican Church last Thursday, spent several weeks at the Traverse Street church in the early 1990s while he was a trainee priest.

Dorothy and Barry Dodd, who knew Archbishop Justin Welby when he was a trainee priest in St Helens.

Dorothy and Barry Dodd, who knew Archbishop Justin Welby when he was a trainee priest in St Helens.

And he made big impression on two parishioners in particular, becoming good friends with Barry Dodd and his wife Dorothy.

“He was a really nice person, really down-to-earth and genuine,” said Mr Dodd, who along with his wife acts as warden at the Fingerpost church.

In 1991, the future leader of the Church of England emerged from theological college at Durham University and was dispatched to St Helens for a 10-week placement.

An old Etonian and Oxford graduate, before entering the priesthood he’d worked as a well-paid oil company executive.

Parishioners, though, remember him as down to earth and happy to muck in with ordinary church life.

“It may have been a bit of different environment than the one he was used to but you won’t have known it,” said 68-year-old Mr Dodd.

“He was really keen to embrace everything. But, looking back, even then you could tell he had something about him, he was very driven, always doing something.”

Archbishop Welby, now 57, arrived at Holy Trinity for a short placement, assisting the church’s vicar, Chris Woods.

Despite his relatively short stay, he stayed in touch with many of Holy Trinity’s parishioners.

Mr Dodd, of Sorogold Street, Fingerpost, remembers: “After he left we stayed in touch for a while, we even had the odd meal together with our wives.

“The last time I saw him was at a funeral at Liverpool Cathedral when he was the Dean there.

“He was helping to lead the service. I approached him to say ‘hello’ and stuck out my hand but he just grabbed me and gave me a big hug.

“That was the kind of person he was.”