The Archbishop of York made a pilgrimage to the pub this week when he surprised drinkers as he led a procession into an Oldham Wetherspoons.
Dr John Sentamu, the 97th holder of the Archbishopric which dates back to the seventh century, was visiting the Greater Manchester town to meet the Street Angels.
The Oldham Street Angels are volunteers dedicated to keeping night-time revellers on the streets safe by handing out free bottles of water, clearing the streets of broken glass, and ensuring inebriated residents get home safely.
A host of angels can often be found outside The Up Steps Inn in Oldham High Street, and after swapping his purple vestments for an orange hi-vis vest and helping the group pick up litter, the Archbishop joined them for a quick pint.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Manchester said: “The Archbishop wanted to come and see some projects we have in Manchester.
“We wanted to get out of the city centre so, we went to Oldham.”
“We wanted him to meet the Street Angels who are doing good work, helping people on the streets at night who are out having a good time, and might find themselves in trouble.
“They might have lost their friends, or run out of money, or just want someone to talk to.”
“One of the places they meet is a Wetherspoons pub so they took him in there for a quick drink.
“He really enjoyed meeting the locals and had a joke with the staff.”
Local drinkers were surprised to see the Church of England’s second most powerful cleric arrive.
Ian Dean, a student who was in the pub at the time, recognised Dr Sentamu whose face rang a (church) bell.
“I was really surprised to see him there,” said Mr Dean. “I was just enjoying a beer and a burger when I looked up to see the Archbishop of York next to me.
“I just stopped myself saying ‘Jesus Christ!’ I recognised him from TV but he’s not the sort of person you expect to see in a ’Spoons.”
Dr Sentamu talked with a flock of local people, shared a joke with staff, and obliged those seeking ecclesiastical selfies.
Pub staff shepherded him behind the bar where he pulled a pint of Bishop’s Finger ale – an appropriately holy spirit.
Mr Dean said the Archbishop seemed happy to give the pub his blessing and meet local people in good faith: “I think he was enjoying himself. He was chatting to anyone who wanted to meet him.
“He was very down to earth, and had a pint and a plate of chips.”
Dr Sentamu was happy to sing Oldham’s praises, saying: “I am delighted to be spending a day in Oldham.
“I first came to know Jesus Christ when I was 10 years old – it will be wonderful to find out how people in Oldham are walking and living out their lives in Christ.
“As they say at Boundary Park, come on Oldham!”
Images courtesy of John Lee Parker via Flickr with thanks.