A thought-provoking idea from a Bishop Luffa pupil led to him praying with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Harry Gray was moved to write to Justin Welby after a sermon about praying was delivered by a lay minister at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in West Wittering.
The 12-year-old, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, noticed that his friends spent a lot of time communicating by text message.
In his letter, Harry said: “I know how hard you are trying to reach out to young people like myself and I think it would be really helpful if there was a text number we could use to send our prayers to God.
“Although we find it hard to make time for prayers, we always seem to make time to text.”
The archbishop sent Harry a handwritten reply, praising his idea and inviting him and his family to Lambeth Palace for prayers and lunch.
The family took holy communion, met the archbishop’s wife, Caroline Welby, five visiting American bishops and four guests from the Chemin Neuf community, before eating in the state dining room.
Nick Gray, Harry’s father, said: “We all enjoyed a pleasant hour of good-humoured conversation, which included an in-depth discussion of Harry’s ideas for texting prayers.
“Harry has Asperger’s Syndrome and while he struggles with many differences that can make his life very hard at times, he also has many gifts.
“One of these gifts is his ability to maintain a seemingly naive innocence when considering the world he lives in.
“He is unfettered by convention or etiquette and able to consistently think outside the box.
“Unfortunately, handwriting is something Harry finds painful and difficult. For him to put pen to paper is indicative of the importance he attaches to this matter.”
Archbishop Justin’s desire to make church more relevant to young people struck a chord with Harry.
Jenny Gray, Harry’s mother, said: “Most importantly, Archbishop Justin proved to a young boy with big ideas that anything is possible if you believe strongly and have the courage to ask – even getting to meet, talk with, have lunch and pray with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“Archbishop Justin took Harry aside to talk and to pray with him alone, private moments Harry will remember forever.”