The Church is not 'on the way out' but has a great future, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop preaches at the new missional community at St Thomas' Normanton in Derby, currently undergoing refurbishments.Ruth Gledhill

The Church is recovering its confidence and has a "huge contribution" to make to society, the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday.

"We're not on the way out. There's a great future because we serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead," he said.

Archbishop Welby was speaking to Christian Today at the end of a three-day visit to the Derby diocese.

With Bishop of Derby Alastair Redfern, he visited and spoke to university, business and civic leaders, met and prayed with children and adults across the diocese and carried out open air full-immersion baptisms in a temporary swimming pool in Glossop town square.

The Archbishop said that he had witnessed an extraordinary working out of the power of God.

Speaking at St Peter's Swadlincote, he said: "What we are seeing is huge amounts of partnership and where we are seeing the partnership you see a sort of liberation of the Spirit of God – not that we need to liberate him – but the Spirit of God working in a powerful way, drawing people together, and people coming to faith.

The Archbishop of Canterbury carries out an open air baptism in Glossop town square during his three-day visit to the Derby diocese.Lambeth Palace

"Now we've seen people coming to faith over the last few days, and you've seen it in the context of the Church working with lots of other people. I think we're recovering the confidence, and we have been for many years now."

Earlier, at St Thomas's Normanton in Derby, a church being refurbished with Heritage Lottery funding as a new type of missional church, he spoke about the Bible story of Ruth, who accepts the religion of Naomi, her mother-in-law, as her own.

"It's an extraordinary example to us of what it means to be those who allow the breaking down of barriers, which is God's truth, to overcome the setting up of barriers, the resistance to the incomer, the dislike of the stranger, the fear of the other that is human truth – and sadly, occasionally, government truth.

"We are the ones who are called, under God, to be the breakers down of barriers.

"When I look at this church, a closed church is a barrier. And if you can break down that barrier, open it up, open the doors, make it a place of welcome, the Ruths will come in. So will the Naomis. So will a bunch of others."

Bishop Redfern told Christian Today that just eight years ago, St Thomas' was about to be closed and had become a sign of a church in decline.

Now the building was almost fully restored and the church has gone into partnership with faith groups, voluntary organisations and others.

"It's a sign of how the Church needs to be different in our culture," he said. "Regeneration and resurrection are two sides of the same coin. In our culture where there's so much need, so much power of the forces of darkness, we've got to join with others as you see Jesus doing, bumping into people from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds, and creating goodness and grace in the midst of communities."

Watch Archbishop Welby speaking exclusively to Christian Today below: