My Yorkshire: The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu on his favourite people and places

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Dr John Sentamu practiced law in Uganda before coming to the UK in 1974. He was ordained as a priest five years later and is now the 
97th Archbishop of York.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? York Minster made a lasting impression.It is a stunning building that speaks of the heritage of faith. People like to call Yorkshire ‘God’s own county’ and I like to talk to people about God who has been worshipped on this spot for 1,500 years.

Thixendale is one of Dr John Sentamu's favourite spots.

Thixendale is one of Dr John Sentamu's favourite spots.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? That is a bit like asking a parent ‘Which is your favourite child?’ Whether it is the glorious beaches of the east coast, the stunning countryside of the moors, the Dales and the Wolds, or the vibrancy of the cities like Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and Middlesbrough, Yorkshire really does have something for everyone.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? Every day starts with a prayer. A perfect one would have to include spending some time with my family, and also getting out to explore some of the hidden corners of this amazing county. As many of you probably know, I love my cooking, and Yorkshire has some fantastic produce, so maybe a little time in the kitchen?

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? This year I spent six months walking the Diocese of York as part of my Pilgrimage of Prayer, Witness and Blessing and each step offered something different – whether it was the beauty of Thixendale, the rugged expanse of the North York Moors, or coming around a corner and catching sight of an iconic structure like the Humber Bridge or York Minster. Fabulous.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? Dickie Bird is a Yorkshire legend, and a man of faith. He set the standard for decent behaviour on the field, and was respected for it by the professionals.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu would like to take Dickie Bird to lunch.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu would like to take Dickie Bird to lunch.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Dame Judi Dench, of course. Every part that she plays is a complete character study, yet she can – ingeniously – also stand apart from it, and be herself. She also has a wonderful sense of humour – what a gift that is.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? While on my Pilgrimage, I spent some time with the pea harvesters at Thorganby. Did you know that a huge proportion of the peas eaten in Europe comes from the East Riding? Isn’t that fascinating?

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? I believe in God who is generous beyond anything that we can ask or imagine. can this be a blessing to others?’

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? I love my rugby, and I used to play in my younger days. During that memorable Pilgrimage I visited many football and rugby grounds, as well as a racing stable, but my season ticket for York City FC is a special possession. You have to support your local team.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? There are just so many wonderful places to eat. We visited a great pizza place near Brandesburton on my Pilgrimage, and we shared a tasty lunch at the Crown and Cushion at Welburn. Food always seems to taste so much better when you are eating among friends. In Hornsea, we found some fantastic fish and chips – sadly I was fasting for Ash Wednesday, but I promise you that I will be back.

Do you have a favourite food shop? Farmers’ markets and weekly markets in town like Easingwold and Pocklington are always something special.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? During the past 10 years, Yorkshire has really put itself on the map. The Grand Départ of the Tour de France, and our own Tour de Yorkshire have shown off the county to the whole world. Next year, Hull is the UK City of Culture, and of course Leeds is a vibrant cultural and financial centre. However, prosperity is not shared by all. We need Yorkshire to be a place where all can flourish.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? My longing is that everyone in Yorkshire will know and experience the love of God made known in Jesus Christ so that we really can call ourselves ‘God’s own county’.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? William Wilberforce, whose sustained campaigning eventually led to the abolition of slavery across what was then the British Empire. He became MP for Hull, having been a member of the Clapham Sect – each one of that Christian group helped make the world a better place. It can be done.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yorkshire folk have a reputation for speaking the unvarnished truth. In all my conversations I try to help people to understand the truth of God’s love for them. To that extent, I am truly proud to be known as an ‘honorary Yorkshireman’.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? David Hockney, Alan Ayckbourn, Dickie Bird and Gary Verity have made, in their own special ways and fields, a huge contribution to enriching the life of the county.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? It has to be York Minister, for, as well as being one of the world’s finest buildings, with glorious stained glass and magnificent music, the Minster provides a space where anyone whose ears are open to God can hear his voice.

Services at York Minster: December 24, Crib service at 12pm, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols 4pm. First Eucharist of Christmas, 11pm. Christmas Day: Sung Eucharist, 10am, Choral Matins, 11.45am. Evensong, 4pm. Boxing Day: Carols around the crib, 4pm. No charge for entry on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.