The archibishop of Canterbury is centre stage as Harry and Meghan marry. He talks disestablishment, gender equality and the future of the church

On a chilly Thursday evening, 400 people have crowded into a vast, open-sided barn in rural Warwickshire to hear the archbishop of Canterbury speak. The warm-up act is a young man with a guitar who performs a song about Hobnobs and custard creams, which may or may not contain a hidden evangelical message. The audience – skewed towards the over-50s, with a preponderance of Barbours and flat caps – listen politely while chomping on their hog roast baps; they haven’t come for the biscuit song.

To one side of the stage, Justin Welby waits, barely noticeable in his customary black clerical shirt and dog collar, his head bowed. When his turn comes, he starts in self-deprecating mode, musing on his job as leader of the Church of England and the global Anglican communion: are you supposed to be a person who dresses up in funny clothes offering spiritual guidance, or a sort of super civil servant, running one of the country’s oldest institutions?

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