Archbishop of Canterbury to Hold Conversations About Grief at Exeter University Event

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is to take part in an event focusing on bereavement during his visit to Devon over Remembrance weekend.

The Archbishop in Conversation will take place at Exeter University on Saturday 11 November. 

The afternoon event will explore themes of loss, bereavement, and hope. 

It will draw on Archbishop Justin’s own experience of losing his baby daughter some years’ ago, and more recently his mother. 

The Archbishop in Conversation is being run in collaboration with South-West bereavement charities and will feature the archbishop in conversation with others who have experienced loss. 

They include Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds, from south Devon.

Their son Josh died in a road accident in Vietnam in 2011 at the age of 22.

They founded The Good Grief Project to help other bereaved parents. Their book When Words Are Not Enough was published in 2022.

Jimmy said: “We’re honoured to be invited to share our grief journey with the Archbishop and to explore some of the creative responses we have found essential to keeping a loving bond with our son.”

The event is being organised by Rev’d Philip Sourbut, the former Director of Mission and Ministry for the Diocese of Exeter, who lost his daughter suddenly in 2017. 

He said “I am very pleased that Archbishop Justin has agreed to take part in three conversations about grief and hope. We all experience loss, but we are often reluctant to talk about it. 

“Grief has no sell-by date and, if we ignore it, has a habit of ambushing us.

“My hope is that this event will give opportunity to share experience with others on a similar journey and realise that we are not alone.” 

The event will include a market-place area where people will be able to chat to representatives from around 12 different bereavement charities.

The Acting Bishop of Exeter, the Rt. Rev’d Jackie Searle, said “I greatly look forward to welcoming Archbishop Justin to Devon and to the Archbishop in Conversation event.

“Grief is a subject to which he brings personal experience and spiritual hope. It will be a special time.”

Archbishop Justin and Bishop Jackie will also lead a candlelit walk of reflection to the university chapel, where people will be invited to remember loved ones. Music will be provided by the chapel choir. 

The university chaplain, Rev’d Hannah Alderson, said “This is a really important event which I hope many will consider attending. 

“As a University Chaplain, I often speak with young people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, and I have heard many say that they feel alone in their grief. 

“It is my hope that in witnessing Archbishop Justin ‘in conversation’ with other people who have experienced loss, we will feel enabled to have open and honest conversations with our own family and friends.”

Free tickets for the event can be booked here:

Archbishop Justin will be in Devon for the whole of Remembrance weekend supporting churches across the county running ‘Come and See’ outreach events for their local communities.

He will mark the Remembrance silence on 11 November in Torquay and will lead prayers at the Plymouth Hoe parade on Remembrance Sunday.