Welcoming the new bishop

Today, at the cathedral, we formally welcomed our new bishop, Philip Mounstephen, to the diocese with a wonderful service attended by over 1,000 people. 

The most moving thing about the service involved the use of a stick! Firstly, when Philip arrived at the cathedral, having gone on a brief walkabout in the centre of Truro accompanied by the Mayor, he banged on the great west door using the end of his pastoral staff, the one given to him when he was consecrated a bishop at St Paul’s cathedral. Being a polite bunch, we let him in and the service commenced. Philip was acclaimed as the bishop, he was anointed with holy oil, signifying the sacred nature of the ministry to which he has been called, and then he was placed in his episcopal chair, the cathedra, which gives the big, pointy building in Truro its name. (The cathedral is where the chair is, so if the bishop moved it to a small chapel by the river Fowey, for instance, that would become the cathedral.)

But then I had the privilege, as dean, to hand over to Philip the pastoral staff which Bishop Benson had when he became the first bishop of Truro in 1876. This ‘stick’ has been used by every bishop of Truro since, and when Bishop Tim left in July 2017, he handed the staff over to me for safe keeping. Handing it to the new bishop is a sign that his pastoral ministry has now begun, and that the office of diocesan bishop, continuing for nearly 150 years, is active once again.

A new ministry is opening up for Bishop Philip, and I am sure he will bring to this a warmth of engagement and a concern for the people that will enable him to get alongside everyone he meets very quickly. He wants to listen and learn, and he also wants to encourage parishes up and down the diocese to think about how they can serve their communities, as well as be an advocate for the people of Cornwall. In this he is placing himself precisely where the bishop needs to be: to discover the joys of and the challenges facing the people of Cornwall, and to represent them wherever he can, and however appropriately this is possible. A bishop is for everyone, not just for a select few!