Vicar 'blessed' by Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Wanstead church

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby smiles as he leads the service The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby smiles as he leads the service

A vicar said he felt “blessed” by a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Justin Welby was the guest of honour at the centenary service of St Gabriel's parish church in Aldersbrook Road, Wanstead, yesterday.

The Most Reverand Welby led the Eucharist and preached the sermon as part of his visit to mark the founding of the church by the first Bishop of Chelmsford, John Ditchfield, on May 16, 1914.

The church’s vicar Father Martyn Hawkes said: "It was a chance of a lifetime to have the Archbishop preaching and presiding over the service.

"It was one of those days you will never forget and the first time in the church's history that the Archbishop of Canterbury has visited.

"For me, it is a huge privilege to be able to welcome him and I felt very blessed.”

The service was attended by more than 350 people.

During the service, a mosaic designed by a church member and illustrating the baptism of Christ was blessed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Steve Cottrell.

There was a reading from the book of revelation by a member a member of the congregation who pre-dates the church itself.

Eva Josling. 101, of nearby Belgrave Road in Wanstead, has been attending the church since the 1930s.

Father Hawkes hopes the Archbishop's visit will inspire future generations.

"The unique visit was a special moment in the church's history and the service was not just a celebration of the past 100 years but also acted as a nice encouragement for the 100 years to come," he said.

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