Read the sermon by the Rt Revd Stephen Lake at Evensong on 17 November 2022. The special Evensong was held to admit to Salisbury Cathedral's College of Canons the Dean of Jersey and the Dean of Guernsey, as the Channel Islands become attached to the Diocese of Salisbury.
Thank you for coming this evening, especially to those of you who, like me, have walked here. It is a bit further from Winchester to Salisbury than from my home in the Close The South Canonry but at least Mike and Tim, we are in step.
The two Deans decided to have a mini-break by walking the 27 miles from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral. Seen off the premises by the Dean and the Acting Bishop, Tim and Mike said a prayerful goodbye to the Diocese of Winchester and made the pilgrimage here as a sign of the new relationship we are now enjoying. Let us give thanks to God for all those days that Winchester and the Channel Islands have walked together and pray for God’s blessing on the days to come.
Of course, I am reliably informed, that when the pilgrimage reached the diocesan boundary during Tuesday’s downpour, the sun came out and shined upon the righteous. We would expect nothing less in the Diocese of Salisbury.
This is not the first time Salisbury and the Islands have been in partnership. In 1496 Pope Alexander 6th endorsed a link between the Islands and Salisbury. We haven’t consulted His Holiness this time round. And in 1818, the first bishop to visit the islands was the Bishop of Salisbury. We’ll try not to leave a first visit for 400 years.
So, with the benefit of history hindsight, to the people of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, I say as Bishop, welcome home.
It is also right in this service to thank those who have walked this journey with you, including Lord Chartres and Bishop Trevor who has been Bishop for The Channel Islands now for several years and who has been a vital link in the pilgrimage of faith. Trevor, thank you, you have been a blessing.
Of course, the bishop with responsibility for the Channel Islands is not the bishop of the Channel Islands. The language is subtle but important. Whilst the Bishop of Salisbury does indeed hold episcopal authority for the Islands, that authority is expressed as being for the Islands, not of the Islands. Of course, we know that everything to do with the Islands is just a little bit different, and just when you think you’ve nailed it down, it changes, but the difference, the for, is because this is not about ecclesiastical ownership but about episcopal service. What we are celebrating in this worship this evening, is the opportunity to serve, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. This service is for all the people of the Bailiwicks, not just those in our churches, as together we seek to serve all God’s people and grow his Kingdom of peace, love and joy.
The other bit of key language is that the Islands are not part of the diocese in the way that every Benefice is but are attached to the diocese. This attachment is once again rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ with bonds of affection and grace. This is not belonging in the sense of ownership but belonging in the way that we belong to the Body of Christ, members of one body, his bride, the Church. The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Diocese of Salisbury now belong to one another, and are attached in mission and ministry.
To this extent, we are all now on a continuing pilgrimage, by land, sea and air, to serve God’s people and to proclaim the Good News of the faith that sustains us through choppy waters and choppy times. My prayer, as the Deans becomes Canons of this cathedral and diocese, is that we can all journey together into a new future of hope and holiness. Every time I come to Jersey and Guernsey, I shall say and pray with thanksgiving, that I have come home. And every time the people of God in the Islands come to this diocese and cathedral, we shall say and pray, welcome home.
As the first reading ended this evening; ‘for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’.