RIP Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A genuine modern legend who truly had an impact upon the world and brought about change for the better. Someone who gave gave us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, a hope of a world in which people are created equal and not trapped by the structures society places them into.
When I met Desmond Tutu, I had been ordained about five minutes. I was a young guy with long hair who spent most of his life answering the question “are you really a vicar?” On the day of my ordination I wasn’t even sure my own bishop thought I was suitable. I imagined him going along the line, putting his hands on the other candidates heads, getting to me and skipping me in the line.
I met Archbishop Tutu when I was his photographer for the day. He came to the monastery in Mirfield as part of the process for rebuilding the church for the modern world. There was a ceremony in which he blessed a foundation stone followed by a service. I took photos for about 12 hours that day. After a lot of the commotion subsided, I said “I’ve taken photos of you all day shaking hands with the important people. I’m just a curate. Would you mind being in a photo with me?”
“Of course Father” he said as he put his arm around me and sorted out a pose.
I literally threw my DSLR four feet at Ruth and stood there jabbering in front of the camera.
Here was one of the greatest icons of the 20th century, a figure from my childhood, someone I’d only ever seen on TV next to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. He turned around and accepted me at face value as a cleric even though I didn’t feel much like it myself.
Archbishop Tutu was a total legend. He transformed me and how I viewed myself in the space of a minute. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.