Councillor Everett with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Councillor James DawsonA visit to Erewash by the Archbishop of Canterbury saw the Church of England head surprise passers-by as he prayed with them on Ilkeston Market Place.

The Most Revd Justin Welby shunned any fanfare as he arrived in the town shortly after 2pm on Saturday (13 April).

He was greeted by Revd Andrew Baguley – the priest in charge at St Mary’s Church.

Around 150 people gathered as the genial archbishop stood outside the Market Place’s iconic church, where he thanked Erewash council leader James Dawson and deputy leader Cllr Becca Everett for a warm welcome.

A crowd of around 150 gathered as Mr Welby joked via a loudspeaker that after a gap of 871 years they were the generation to experience the “bad luck” of a Church of England primate paying a visit.

He then led prayers. The archbishop asked God to bless the town, the borough and the council – and bring “regeneration in every possible sense”. The crowd responded with “amen” and “alleluia”.

Mr Welby then invited people to pray with him individually as he mingled with the Market Place throng. He had said ahead of his visit: “I look forward to joining all kinds of people – of any church or faith or no faith background.”

He spent some 40 minutes in Ilkeston before heading to Shelton Lock for a children’s tea party. The archbishop then travelled to Derby, where he led prayers at the city’s cathedral.