The Archbishop's Sermon on Hilltop; Beveridge Remembered at Service

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Archbishop's Sermon on Hilltop; Beveridge Remembered at Service


Byline: Dave Black? 07884 117069 ? dave.black@ncjmedia.co.uk

ATINY hilltop church in the wilds of Northumberland welcomed a VIP guest yesterday thanks to its permanent link to one of the great social reformers in Britain's history.

The Archbishop of York - Dr John Sentamu - took to the pulpit at a special service held in 900-year-old St Aidan's Church at remote Thockrington, about 10 miles north of Hexham.

He accepted an invitation to preach a sermon at the service of thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord William Beveridge, who is still revered as the founding father of the British welfare state in the 1940s.

Lord Beveridge died 50 years ago and was buried alongside his wife, Janet, in the churchyard at St Aidan's, whose 60-seat capacity was exceeded by the 80 or so worshippers who crammed in for yesterday's special occasion.

Dr Sentamu walked through a grassy field, populated by a flock of sheep, to reach the historic church, which is a far cry from the majesty and splendour of York Minster. After the service he was joined by senior North East clergymen and local residents in a brief visit to Lord Beveridge's grave.

Dr Sentamu has often referred to the significance of Beveridge's 1942 Social Insurance Report, which was implemented by Clement Attlee's Labour Government after the war.

This was what led to the Rev Mike Slade, vicar of Chollerton, to make the request for the Archbishop to come and speak at yesterday's commemorative service.

Dr Sentamu told the congregation that Beveridge had developed his own vision of a Big Society after being touched by the poverty he witnessed in the east end of London as a young man.

"He called his system social insurance, and didn't like the term welfare state. For Beveridge there must always been something for something, not something for nothing.

He transformed the lives of millions of people." Dr Sentamu said Beveridge's reforms gave Britain a health service which became a model for Europe and the rest of the world, and a system of free and full education for all.

He said he would have regarded today's problems of child poverty as "the greatest scandal of all."

After the service Dr Sentamu said: "What William Beveridge achieved in this country is remarkable and his reforms transformed the country after World War Two. …

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