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Bishop Christopher leaves on a note of mission

Date: 04 December 2013
Stepping down as Bishop of Guildford at the end of November the Rt Revd Christopher Hill revealed that his most treasured goodbye card was from the women at Send Prison.

Speaking at his farewell Eucharist at Guildford Cathedral Bishop Christopher - who had attended his final baptism and confirmation service in this diocese at the prison just three weeks previously - said the card was covered in their personal farewells.

He spoke of the privilege of ministering to those facing death and how in our moments of weakness we are most open to the depths and riches of God. Referring to the women inmates he said: "They know what it is to be at the bottom and so most open to the crucified Christ. When we empty ourselves – as Paul teaches in Philippians, we are most open to maturity of spirit and the grace of Christ."

Looking back over his nine years in the role Bishop Christopher spoke of the joy at conversations with those coming to faith, at being able to walk together and 'gossip the Gospel'.

He said: "Growing the Church in numbers means having such beautiful feet and gossiping the Gospel. Every time I have baptised and confirmed – whether in the Guildford Lido or other churches with immersion baptism or equally movingly here in the Cathedral at the Easter Vigil and in all your churches, it has been deeply moving for me to baptise in the name of the Triune God and invoke the Sevenfold Gifts of the Spirit as children, men and women (of all ages) make their profession of faith and grow the Church.

"Again the episcopal minister is the one also ministered to: the gracing is mutual."

Before passing the baton to the Bishop of Dorking, the Right Revd Ian Brackley who will take care of the diocese during the vacancy, Bishop Christopher thanked all of those who have worked with him and urged the congregation to be as 'living stones' in their communities.

He recalled meeting a little boy in the diocese who was sent to school after watching late night television and without any breakfast.

He said: "At a breakfast club supported by the Bishop of Guildford’s Foundation, a little boy was sent to school without breakfast. So the breakfast club. I had a quiet, sleepy chat with the little boy. Two hours later at break I met him again – a lively, bright lad now enjoying school rejuvenated by a real meal. Remember there are hidden parts of our diocese. [...]

"I must thank all the clergy and laity of this good diocese of Guildford and thank the wider communities of Surrey and north-east Hampshire – including those of other faiths, Jewish and Muslim especially, and those of no faith but goodwill that I have met and also recognised in them the anonymous love of God.

"Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est – ‘where charity and love are there is God’. So a thank all of you as the ‘living stones’ I spoke of when I came. I thank you for having ‘graced’ me by your ministry and examples."

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