After keeping it quiet for so long it’s difficult to say anything – I still feel as if I’m breaking some sort of confidence, even when a press release has announced my appointment. I’ve spent a lot of the last few months trying not to think too much about what lay ahead; it was difficult enough to keep on with normal life as it was. Living two different futures, one of which you have to talk about, and publicly plan for, even though you know it isn’t going to happen, is a very uncomfortable experience. The real future sometimes seemed like a strange fantasy; until this week the only piece of paper I had with my name and ‘Bishop of Croydon’ on it was my CRB disclosure.
The moment Bishop Christopher rang to tell me I was the chosen candidate for Croydon ranks with those very few other memorable times which change your life, which open the door to something new, exciting, and of course scary. I remember getting the news that I had been recommended for ordination training – ringing home from Slough railway station, as it happens. I remember making my marriage vows, and addressing my first words to my newborn daughter. That phone call was another of those moments: everything’s different from here.
Mostly, I’m glad to say – and I hope the people of the Croydon Area will be glad to hear – it’s given me a great sense of joy and anticipation. I’ve done a fair bit of trawling the web, but however wonderful the virtual world might be it can’t beat real life. When I finally get to start work, sometime in May, I know there’ll be plenty to do and a huge amount to learn. I can’t wait.
But in the meantime, it’s only six weeks until I say goodbye to Stoke Newington. After coming up nine years in the parish, and six years before just round the corner in Highbury, it’ll be a real wrench. This has been such a good place to live, and a great community to serve. But there’ll be time for farewells later …
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about living and working in Stoke Newington has been the diversity of the community – different ethnic groups, social classes, religious traditions. Although I’ll miss where I am now, I’m really glad to be coming to an Area which is just as diverse, encompassing everything from inner urban areas to the Surrey countryside via Croydon Town Centre and the surrounding suburbs. It’s that diversity which I see as one of the greatest strengths of the Church, reflecting the richness of God’s love for all people.
I’m also looking forward to working with churches, chaplaincies and communities of faith which reflect the diversity of God’s grace – churches large and small, evangelical, catholic and firmly middle of the road. I’ve always been struck by the many different ways there are to live out the good news – expressing faith, bearing hope and embodying love, as Bishop Christopher expressed it in his Call to Mission. I will do all I can to serve and lead in the Croydon Area so that in our diversity we enjoy our unity in Christ.
It’s used too much, but it felt inescapably appropriate: ‘For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.’ (Dag Hammarskjold)