Richard Norman reports on Bishop Jonathan Baker’s episcopal visitation to St Mary’s, Rotherhithe

It was a great privilege for us to be the second of Bishop Jonathan Baker’s 62 parishes to receive an episcopal visitation, in March — and a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the important work with which as a church we are involved.

Visiting schools

The Bishop arrived early, for Morning Prayer, before heading to our parish primary school to celebrate Mass. The Eucharist is offered weekly in school, with pupils acting as servers, readers and intercessors. They have learned a simple plainsong melody for the Ordinary of the Mass, and had also rehearsed excerpts from Elgar’s setting of the Introit Ecce Sacerdos Magnus for Bishop Jonathan’s arrival. The Bishop answered the children’s questions about his ministry, and afterwards met staff and toured the school. He then visited the nursery next door, where a strong Christian ethos is again encouraged.

A final educational stop was at Bacon’s College, a Church of England-sponsored Academy in Rotherhithe, where (over an excellent lunch) he met the Principal and senior leadership team, and other staff involved in the schools pastoral and spiritual provision. Two Sixth Form students took Bishop Jonathan around the school, giving him the chance to take part in a GCSE Religious Studies class.

Churches and charities

The afternoon began with two home visits, before calling in on our ecumenical neighbours (and the Deanery Lay Chair) at the Finnish and Norwegian churches in Rotherhithe. Bishop Jonathan was also able to meet staff at a local charity shop supported by four churches in the area, including St Mary’s. A short car journey later he was introduced to the work of Bede House, a local charity which works variously with young people, victims of domestic violence and hate crime, people with learning disabilities, and on community engagement projects.

A final item in his schedule of visits was tea with the local funeral director and the vicar of the neighbouring parish. Evening Prayer followed, and then time with one of our Scout Groups. In the evening, Bishop Jonathan met members of the PCC and with them enjoyed a splendid dinner.

Vibrant places

It was a very positive thing to share with our bishop something of our daily life, and to celebrate the strong relationships we have with others in the local area working to witness to the transforming love of Jesus Christ, whether in the fields of education, church unity or community service. Writing about Bishop Jonathan’s visitation in these pages will hopefully remind others in the Church of what we all know to be true — that our parishes are vibrant and interesting places, in which the Gospel is being faithfully ministered in attractive and effective ways.

The day reinforced our sense of loyalty and affection for our bishop, and our awareness of his prayerful concern for us. Do encourage your own bishops to visit your parishes: and do celebrate the work being done in them under God!lND