Newly enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is adapting to life in London’s Lambeth Palace “right well enough, though with certain confusion,” according to an as-yet unaired interview with the BBC’s Religion & Ethics department. (Select portions of a preview transcript of the interview with Welby have been shared with Episcopal Café’s editorial board. The full interview is set to air at some point on Wednesday.)
“The place has been within the archbishopric around eight centuries, so it’s a bit drafty,” Welby said. “Firmly closing one window in a place this old is as good as rattling another one open. Beyond structure, though, the staff and myself – that is, we keep having moments of turning over old books and finding partially eaten sandwiches; or of going to plug in a vacuum cleaner and blowing out several light fixtures at once. We understood there had been an issue with ants over the summer, but by the time I came along [in January], that had about fixed itself for the winter.”
Chief among Welby’s concerns of adjustment to life at Lambeth is an inability to locate a working toilet.
“I know we have several, and it seems I pass a bathroom all the time when I’m not in need” the former Bishop of Durham said, “but I can’t find the loo when the subject is urgent. It’s like they all just disappear.”
The problem, Welby said, becomes particularly pronounced when ecclesiastical dignitaries and visitors arrive, “and I can’t quickly point up the place of refreshment.”
As a symbol of the chief archbishopric of the Church of England and spiritual leadership within the Anglican Communion, Lambeth Palace is staffed by several dozen support and hospitality personnel. Its library is prized by historians and other researchers. Lambeth’s architecture and well-manicured lawns make it a longstanding fixture on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Parliament.
“The importance of this place is inarguable,” Welby said. “I just wish I could find my way when I’m knocking about for a glass of water at 3 a.m.”