Saturday 15th September dawned bright and clear above the great cathedral housing the shrine of our proto-martyr Alban. To the thundering strains of Blessed City, Heavenly Salem, 130 priests and bishops raised their voices in chorus with a full nave of traditional worshippers, giving glory to God and in thanksgiving for the ministry of Bishop Edwin Barnes and his wife, Jane.
It was Jane, movingly, who read the first lesson in the place where, she later told us, she was first welcomed and then confirmed in the Church of England.
Deacon Thomas Singh, to be ordained priest by Edwin a week later, read the gospel of Christian sacrifice on the edge of that final and lifelong commitment.
The sermon, by Fr Andy Hawes, was all that we might have hoped from him. Fearless and prophetic, yet gentle in its wisdom, his words will have won few friends in high places yet were marked by those qualities which draw people to Christ – authenticity and conviction.
The beautiful musical setting swirled around the colonnade of arches, each one a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of English history. The incense rose with the prayers as the quiet but authoritative voice of our pastor and chief celebrant broke the bread and the massed ranks of his brothers in Christ joined him on the great platform of the nave altar.
A foretaste of the heavenly banquet received, Bishop Edwin led a procession to a devotion at the Martyrs shrine with a beauty, dignity and prayers that it has probably not enjoyed since the Reformation. It was a celebration to remember.
No small thanks are due to Fr James Cope and his wife, Phaea, without whose monumental efforts of organization this wonderful day would not have been possible. We are also grateful to St Albans Cathedral for allowing us to hold this very special service there and enjoy a glorious day of faith and fellowship.
Before we processed out to the militant strains of Lift high the Cross, there were speeches of thanks and appreciation by Fr David Houlding on behalf of SSC and Sara Low, your Editor, on behalf of the laity and a presentation was made. Both expressed our immense gratitude to Edwin and Jane for their tireless care of our people and sturdy defence of the faith. We have indeed been very fortunate. In their retirement we wish them joy and time for each other and, as Sara summed it up in the Orthodox greeting, ‘Many Years’.
If we have been fortunate in our PEVs so far, it looks like we shall be again. Bishop Edwin was able to introduce his successor, Fr Keith Newton (Holy Trinity, Knowle, Bristol). Fr Newton is widely respected and liked in the constituency and everyone who knows him affirms that he is an excellent choice and worthy successor. We look forward to telling you more about our new bishop in the next issues.
In the meantime – THANK YOU EDWIN. THANK YOU JANE. God bless you both!