Kushti Bok was honoured to welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to meet up with local Gypsies and Travellers at the Church the Good Shepherd in Poole, on Friday 9th June 2023, to launch the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Friendly Churches intiative.
The Archbishop conducted a poignant service, calling for all churches to become Traveller friendly and give sanctuary to Travellers in need of water and, hopefully, stopping places. He spent time listening to people’s stories and concerns. He tasted the traditional bacon pudding, that our chair fried off, and Joey Grey on an open fire made by Michael Johnson, well-known local Romany.
The Archbishop also sat on the ground beneath a Vardo to learn peg making from Romany peg maker Leon Rawlings. It really made Leon’s day; he said Justin was such a nice man.
Justin admitted that historically Church of England had not been Traveller friendly, but said that now is the time for change. He condemned the scapegoating of Travellers.
I would like to thank Rev’d/Canon Jonathan Herbert (Chaplain for Gypsies and Travellers in Dorset and Wiltshire, and valued Kushti Bok member, for his part in this event as well as Romany Ivy Manning (Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Friendly Churches) for holding their launch here in Poole, Dorset.
It was brilliant to have the man who placed the crown on our King Charles III earlier this year pledging to support Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities country-wide.
Betty Smith-Billington, chair of Kushti Bok, said: “I hope all churches will become Gypsy Roma and Traveller Friendly just like the Church of the Good Shepherd. It’s good to hear my people being supported by the man who crowned King Charles”.
Rev’d Jonathan Herbert stated: “It was great to see the Archbishop standing up for Gypsies Travellers and Roma. It’s a challenge to those churches who aren’t to become Gypsy Roma Traveller friendly. Today was a brilliant launch, now the hard work begins”.
We were delighted and honoured that Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, and the Bishop of Carlisle, The Right Reverend James Newcome, accepted an invitation to come to Appleby during the Horse Fair as part of their mission visit around Carlisle Diocese. They received a welcome from church members, councillors, local people, and Gypsies and Travellers alike which was as warm as the glorious sunshine, and much fun was had by all.
The Archbishop expressed his hope that the visit would contribute to building understanding and trust between communities and individuals. We are aware that many people worked to make the visit a success both on the day and for some months before and we’d like to offer them all a huge and sincere thank you.
Watch the launch video at Appleby Horse Fair..