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Dean Hails Completion of New Episcopal Team

For a small rural diocese Swinkerby punches far above its weight in terms of influence over the national and international Anglican family. And this was clear for all to see recently when the ‘Episcopal Team’ (ET) was brought up to strength once again, as our correspondent Becky Vagans reports.

The Very Reverend Mandy Monk, Dean of Swinkerby and Chairperson-for-life of Affirming Church (AC) welcomed the recent consecration of four new Bishops for the Diocese of Swinkerby on the Feast of Josephine Butler. Preaching at the service held in Swinkerby Minster she said, ‘Praise be! Inclusivity has been affirmed! Now our new bishops can minister to the whole flock in this inclusive, affirming Diocese where modern things happen and diversity is respected.’

The visiting assembled College of Bishops at this point were heard to heave what sounded like a collective sigh of affirmation.

The Dean welcomed the arrival of the four new bishops to complete the Episcopal Team headed by the Bishop of Swinkerby, the Rt Revd Charles Chesterton. Bishop Chesterton’s spokesperson and Executive Chairperson of AC’s Diocesan Committee (ACDC), Canon Diantha Cassowary said that the Bishop was delighted to have such able colleagues to assist him in the ET as Area Bishops in the Diocese. She added, ‘Affirming Church is delighted by the arrival of these new bishops for the work of the diocese following an uncontroversial selection process that was both free and fair.

In the discernment process all views of ministry were taken into account by the Vacancy-in-See committee in the Diocese, which is one of the most vibrant in the midland counties south of the River and centred on the ancient Cathedral Church of St Ethelbenda, situated next to the picturesque square of the Borough with its weekly cattle market.’

The Venerable Malcolm Hapless, now Bishop of Tweeting, the Revd Dr Hugo Cheltham-Freeze, Bishop of Addingby, the Very Reverend Geoffrey Jack, Bishop of Chissick and the Reverend Canon Jonty Clack, Bishop of Batterstone, all posed for photographs after the service before retiring for high tea with buttered scones at the Diocesan Office. The Bishops will begin their ministries at various times over the next few months following a time of inculturation and sabbatical reflection. Bishop Clack will make a tour of his area during half term week by carbon neutral bicycle rickshaw before a well-earned holiday in the Dordogne.

One of the many highlights of the multicultural service was the playing of mwari drums by members of the majority Shamba tribe from the Diocese of Mutaliland which is partnered-in-mission by the Diocese of Swinkerby. People in the congregation were visibly moved by the testimony of the Chief Drummer Ozias Nenyashapanesu who tearfully expressed the hope that his own Diocese would soon have such a lovely cathedral and he explained that in his tradition the membership of drumming teams would remain a sign of ancestral patrimony for the heads of families in the Baba-tutu culture, which predates by many centuries the arrival of missionaries to his country. He brought greetings from the Bishop of Mutaliland who had been inexplicably prevented from joining in the festivities owing to an allegedly reactionary tendency in his senior staff meeting.

The Diocese of Swinkerby has been linked with Mutaliland thanks to members of the Diocesan Synod supporting links with the Intranational Cooperation Bank’s Money Talks ‘DOSH’ (Dioceses Offer Supportive Handouts) programme and frequent intercultural visits take place within the Diocesan CME curriculum.

It was clear that Swinkerby’s people and parishes had taken the new appointments to their hearts and the presence of so many dignitaries including the Coalition Deputy Leader and MP for Swinkerby, with his partner Alfonso, who had taken the opportunity to attend.

The Imam of Swinkerby Mosque, Ali Afzar Gawdeti, joined in the procession of massed ranks of variously robed clergy which included other more charmingly robed ministers of a number of other churches and newcomers to the minster of all faiths and none. The Imam also assisted with the administration of Communion, which is thought to be ground-breaking in the sphere of inter-faith-reciprocal communion fellowship.

The Dean of the Cathedral summed up the day as one of ‘Revisioning the Church and re-imagining its mission for the vital ministry of Bishops in the Church of the twenty-first century following the Canadian model’. Canon Diantha Cassowary added on behalf of the Bishop of Swinkerby that it would be a sign of things to come in an inclusive church, that those who could be affirmed would be affirmed and that in her view bishops of the future should have the opportunity to socialize, network and reflect.

In a further news item, later that week the Diocesan Synod decisively rejected the Anglican Conventicle as a dangerously reactionary colonialist and sexist innovation at odds with well-established Diocesan policy. ND

(The above article is taken with permission from Pontifex, the newspaper of the Anglican Diocese of Swinkerby ©)

Ed: The views espoused in this article are not necessarily those held in the wider Church of England.

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