What are Bishops for?
What are Bishops for? What is their purpose - if any? And what sort of people ought to be appointed to that office in the 21st century? How would you answer those questions?
Last Tuesday, on Michaelmas Day, three new bishops of the Church of England were consecrated in St Paul's Cathedral, London. They were the Revd Anne Hollinghurst as Bishop of Aston, the Ven Ruth Worsley as Bishop of Taunton, and the Revd Ric Thorpe as Bishop of Islington.
I heard that the sermon delivered by Bishop Stephen Cottrell on that occasion was an inspiration, so I looked it up. You can read the full text on his website here. One of the things the sermon seems to do is to present a view on the purpose of bishops and both challenge and encourage any feeling daunted by their new role. (OK - that's 2 things.)
What particularly arrested me was Bishop Stephen's suggested 'new line for the litany'. I quote it below, but changing the prose form of setting it out to poetic/prayer form as that is how I hear it.
deliver us from successful bishops,
from too well prepared
or even too well organised bishops,
from ready answer in the back pocket
and PowerPoint strategy self-sufficient,
all efficient bishops.
Take us to those high places,
places of perspective and reality,
where we and all our schemes are set on fire,
which, paradoxically for us,
are also those places where life is raw,
and pain and darkness requisite.
Take us to the heights of prayer,
to the depths of the scriptures,
to the bottom step before the altar,
to a place of silent waiting where,
with mitres off and staffs laid down,
we will be replenished and know our need of God,
and there be renewed and strengthened
for the things that lie ahead
as bishops of God’s church
– messengers, sentinels and pastors."
Image Credit: Pixabay, public domain