Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Day the Bishop Came

What a wonderful day!

You may remember me saying that last Sunday was the day we would be welcoming (or not, as it is his church, but you know what I mean) the Bishop of London to our little edifice. It was always going to be a complex piece of liturgy, given that it had baptisms (2), confirmations (12), a flavour of a dedication festival and the mighty Harvest Festival thrown in for good measure. The church comfortably seats 150 but we shoehorned 176 into the wonky pews, and yes, the Sun she shone.

First things first - I was nervous. The Eight O'clockers were probably short-changed as my mind raced forward to the next service, and I get hopelessly tongue-tied with the BCP Rite when my mind wanders. Yes, I was nervous - but no-one told me that +Richard was flippin' huge. I am a tall bloke but he made me feel short and that happens rarely! Slap the pointy titfer on his head and he was in very serious danger of colliding with sanctuary lamps! 

That all said, my nerves weren't really required. He was gracious, encouraging, relaxed and happy to 'be pushed around where he was needed', and from the first encounter was a joy to have around. He was interested in the history of our church (in this its 150th year) and waxed lyrical about it on more than one occasion. Before doing the things that I would normally do when going into a church for the first time (things that involve words, robes and 'where would I stand when ...'), he walked with me to the Parish Hall to meet the candidates. He took the time to speak to each in person, and privately - gave them a letter and a card, and did a remarkable thing - remembered their names from that moment onwards (and made something of a party-trick of it later). I could tell that he had made each of the candidates feel special taking interest in their names and stories. The younger ones loved him!

I needn't have worried. I sense that he knew a little about me, had made an educated guess that I may have been bricking it, and did much to reassure me that all would be well. The sound system failed but he made light of that, and if anyone has a voice to fill our shoe-box of a church, it is him. He preached beautifully on the subject of love ("knowledge puff up, love builds up") and the gathered assembly were rapt. Now, boys and girls - a lesson for you if you write a blog. The bishop not only referred to this blog, but quoted from it, in his sermon (in a good way, I think). If you write a blog, remember the possibilities as regards readers and never presume that someone doesn't! Enough said. 

All went very well indeed. He even whipped up the candidates to re-do a response because they weren't loud enough, and that added a dimension of relaxedness to the occasion that made it work so well. At the end, when it came to candles, he joked that "we will need a production line here, brothers". 

The candidates were confirmed, their guests fed, our local history-buff put in direct contact with 'the right person', approaching 200 people happy, a Vicar relieved and a congregation affirmed. Could I have asked for more? Not one bit. It isn't often that little parishes get to receive the Big Guns, but our day will be one that we treasure for a very long time. 

...and we thank him, most sincerely!


  1. Sounds to have been a great occasion.

    A couple of years ago the Bishop came to us for confirmation and baptisms. We had nearly 20 for confirmation and four for Baptism and Confirmation.

    Like your service it was powerful and grace filled. I was able to serve and to assist in distributing the wine at a side Altar as there were so many for HC.

    A wonderful experience that I blogged at the time.

    Loving to hear how your ministry is progressing and you seem to grow each time you write (if you don't mind me saying that?).

    God is alive and well and in abundance in your parish.

  2. Thank you E - we reflect on life in those terms too, and we feel daily blessed by God!

  3. Brilliant, David! Our former Bishop (now Archbishop of Wales) had the same wonderful trick of learning names instantly and what's more when he came back for the next confirmation could still remember the previous year's candidates!

  4. Well done that lad!
    We did all tell you there was nothing to worry about and as it turned out, you seem to have enjoyed it too. Good.
    I have total recall about my baptism and confirmation and just in case you don't, can say it went swimmingly.
    You have obviously landed in the right spot David.
    Many blessings.

  5. So pleased for you that it went well. I must say though I find it encouraging to read that you, one who I view as confident and never at a loss for exactly the right word, felt nervous. It gives me hope that I might be able to put such a confident face towards the world if needed.

    I am in awe of people that remember names, Mr Murray is able to do this and always uses it to make people feel better as I have witness on many occasions. He has tried to explain his Jedi mind tricks to me, alas I cannot seem to master them.

    Keep doing what you're doing, you do it well :-)

  6. Happy news indeed, David. Well done.



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