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Bishop Karen and Dean Nicholas
 

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by ben last modified 09 Jul, 2021 11:23 AM

The Acting Bishop of Salisbury, Karen Gorham, and the Dean of Salisbury, Nicholas Papadopulos

This month brings a significant change in the life of the Diocese with the departure of Bishop Nicholas. We give thanks for his ministry and all that he and Helen have been amongst us, and we pray for them as they move to pastures new. Bishop Nicholas has steered us through some significant times during which we have had an emphasis on praying, serving, and growing as we have sought to renew hope inside and outside the church. Politically there has been much to bring theological insight too including Brexit and the Salisbury poisonings and of course there has been the increasing urgency of environmental awareness as we steward God’s wonderful world. All these and much more have demanded Diocesan and national engagement and commitment.

In one way we now enter a time of waiting as those from the Diocese elected to the Crown Nomination Commission, with others, begin the task of discerning who God might be calling to be the next Diocesan Bishop. Yet Christians are not called to complacency, and the expectation of the arrival of a new Bishop needs to be balanced by a commitment to the tasks in hand, and the continuous joining in with all that God is doing in our midst. As we emerge from the pandemic there is a calling to take stock, to do the looking back and looking forward to see what we have valued and want to retain, or where things need to be different; there is a real need to address some of the challenges including the affordability of ministry and how we can properly resource a changing church with realism; and there is an opportunity to celebrate the new things that God is doing and join in with them.

In this time of change, I therefore invite you to join with me in the interim as we tackle some of these challenges and opportunities together. As we do so we can be encouraged by the helpful instructions given to the Church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 -18) ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you’.

Bishop Karen

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A street art installation in Salisbury’s High Street features the words “WHAT IF WE…” emblazoned across the top of a blackboard. Passers-by are invited to chalk their hopes and aspirations beneath. I read through the responses this morning and some of them made me smile. One reads “What if we… all had more ice-cream”. That gets my vote. Another reads “What if we… had an underground skate park”. Niche. Many more are really heartening, the sorts of pleas for peace, reconciliation and environmental sustainability that are a feature of most church intercessions boards.

This year I have had the privilege of chairing the Diocesan Vacancy in See Committee. We have now produced our statement of what we believe we need in our new Bishop. I am hugely grateful to the Committee’s members for their strenuous efforts in its compilation. One of the disciplines we had to learn as we worked was that of reminding ourselves that we were not embarked upon a churchy version of that piece of art. We were not setting out a wish list of everything that would be “nice to have” in a new Bishop.

No: our task was to discern what we might need in a new Bishop. That is a very different exercise because it starts from a very different place. It starts not with our agenda, but with God’s. “He measures us by our needs, and we must not measure Him by our impatience”, as Jeremy Taylor writes.

Accordingly, after much prayer and widespread consultation, we have prioritised five qualities. We believe we need a holy bishop, a visionary bishop, a courageous bishop, a unifying bishop, and a visible bishop. Yet because the agenda is God’s and not ours we know that when our new Bishop is appointed s/he may be all of those things – and may still tell us things we don’t wish to hear and lead us down paths we have not yet followed.

We pray that the six Diocesan representatives who will serve on the Crown Nominations Commission will work effectively with their colleagues from the national Church to realise God’s will for our needs. And if the next Bishop of Salisbury gives us all more ice-cream then I for one will not be complaining...

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