A day in the life of...
A look at the "typical" day for John Sentamu and a reflection on his life so far
I try to get up early and its not unusual for me to be up and about before 6am. My routine for each morning involves prayers and whenever possible also going to the gym. I've learnt that keeping in shape is important the more hectic your diary is, and mine tends to be pretty full so I try and make time to stay fit. There's a gym not too far from me in York where I've been a member for a while and if I don't get there in the morning I'll try to get there at some point during the day or after I leave the office.
Wherever I am my day begins with prayer. I think it was Dom Helder Camara, after Martin Luther, who said that: "I find these days that I am so busy, I have to spend at least four hours each morning in prayer." I'm nowhere near the discipline of Camara, but I understand what he means. A solid prayer life is essential for every Christian - regardless of their ministry - and taking time to be with God is what we should be about. I believe that no Christian is greater than their prayer life.
Morning Prayer – in the form of the Daily Office - is said at Bishopthorpe Palace at 8.30 each day which is a little late for me. By then I'm already into the flow of things, but when I can I will join with my staff and also pray with them.
There really isn't a typical day as such. I have a good team working at Bishopthorpe and walking into the Palace I'm always struck at the graciousness of God that led the sixth of 13 children, born thousands of miles away in Uganda, to this wonderful place known as "God's own county".
In his Missions in the Universities of Cambridge, Dublin and Oxford in 1960, Archbishop Michael Ramsey spoke of the stupendous missionary century that saw the wonderful spread of Christian faith in Africa and Asia, by missionaries from these islands, and compared it to the spiritual decay in England. He longed for the day in England when the Church would learn the faith afresh from Christians of Africa and Asia.
He ended his address by saying, "I should love to think of a black Archbishop of York holding a mission here, and telling a future generation of the scandal and the glory of the Church".
It was a wondrous thing to be able to quote Michael Ramsey's words in the Sheldonian Theatre when I led a Mission at Oxford University in February 2007.
I'm thankful for a great many things that God has blessed me with, not least the fact that I am still here. I was born weighing only four pounds and had to be baptised within two hours of my birth because it wasn't certain that I would survive.
In my role as the Diocesan Bishop for the Diocese of York I have day to day duties and meetings to support the people and parishes of one of the largest Dioceses in the Church of England. York is geographically widespread - serving an area between the rivers Humber and Tees and from the east coast of Yorkshire to the foot of the Dales. This includes a family of 602 churches and 127 schools in 469 parishes so I spend a lot of time travelling around and working in the back of my car.
I try to send an individual response to every person that writes to me directly, so on longer journeys I sometimes have 12 books or so of letters to sign. It's important for people to know that I have read their letters and they're not just getting an automated response. Sometimes it may be weeks before they get a reply – after my vigil for peace in the Summer of 2006 I received thousands of letters – but if all our systems are working properly then they will get one directly from me.
As an Archbishop I have to spend quite a bit of time outside of the diocese. I'm not a big fan of meetings as a whole, but the role of Archbishop means that I co-chair both the House of Bishops and Archbishops' Council as well as other groups. I manage to get to spend some quality time with the Archbishop of Canterbury when we go on joint retreats, which happens whenever we can make our diaries fit.
Many of the meetings I have to attend are in London. When I'm there I always try to make sure I get to spend time in the House of Lords, but combining the two diary wise isn't easy. It's an enormous privilege to sit in the Upper Chamber and I take it seriously. However my other duties mean I don't get to spend as much time there as I would like.
Food is important to me. I remember the times when I was growing up when we coped with very little food as a family. When I appeared on Desert Island Discs, the luxury that I wanted to take on my island was a well equipped kitchen. I also cook for the staff a couple of times of year. I make Christmas dinner each year with a choice of beef or turkey – people particularly like my special recipe which makes Brussels Sprouts "edible" - and I also cook up some pancakes every shrove Tuesday. I enjoy cooking and also cook at home when I get the opportunity. My children used to tell me that if everything else went wrong I could always open up a restaurant.
Holidays are valuable as the time when I get to spend quality time with my family. My two children and our two foster children are all grown up and scattered in between Birmingham, London, Cambridge and York, but we get to see most of them quite often. Each of them has a vibrant faith and I'm grateful to God to see Him at work in each of their lives.
People say I'm outspoken but I don't actually think that's the case. I actually spend a very little of time doing media directly, but in a twenty four hour media age, doing a little can get reported a lot ! I think the media have an incredibly important role in our global village. I recently met the BBC journalist Alan Johnston who told me that during his captivity in Palestine he heard me saying in an interview: "Alan, if you're listening, I want you to know that we're praying for you and you need to hold on, just hold on." He told me those words gave him sustenance in his cell and encouraged him to keep holding on during those difficult days.
I try to get to bed by ten thirty or eleven at the latest. I'll catch the headlines or watch the news and pray before turning in. Inevitably the next day will be busy and I can't keep asking God for strength if I'm not prepared to do my bit !