The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the head of the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion, shared in a recent interview about the night in college when he first really felt God's presence and became a believer.
Welby "vaguely assumed there was a God" before the night in question on Oct. 12, 1975, at Trinity College, Cambridge. "But I didn't believe. I wasn't interested at all," he said in an interview with The Telegraph while recalling the path that eventually led him to lead the Church of England.
According to The Telegraph, Welby said he felt "a clear sense of something changing, the presence of something that had not been there before in my life" while praying with a friend. "I said to my friend, 'Please don't tell anyone about this,' because I was desperately embarrassed that this had happened to me, like getting measles,'" he told the publication.
Welby noted that there are different ways a person can come to God, and that a personal conversation experience is not necessary. "Absolutely not. There is an incredible range of ways in which the Spirit works. It doesn't matter how you get there. It really does quite matter where you are," the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion said.
As for his personal experience with faith, Welby admitted that long periods have passed with "no sense of any presence at all," but that has not discouraged him from his decision on that night in 1975 to follow Christ.
"It's grace. Grace is a reality: feelings are ephemeral," Welby stated.
The Telegraph report offers a detailed look inside Welby's background, including his troublesome childhood with a father described as a "fantasist and a fraud."
In June, Welby met for the first time Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the two talked about the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, noting the differences between the two denominations, but also the progress the two traditions have recently made in their relations.
Francis noted that Welby was officially installed as senior bishop of the Church of England just days after the pontiff was elected to succeed Benedict XVI, and said that the two leaders "will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer."
Francis and Welby also had a private meeting, on which the latter reflected:
"Obviously there are big issues (in Anglican-Catholic relations) such as the ordination of women to the episcopate, but where I see a great deal of hope is a welling up of a sense that we cannot tolerate complacently that we live separately ... there's a sense of vigor which is important and also important work on the theological level."