Ceremony and tradition will be interspersed with personal touches when the tenth Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, is inaugurated at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday February 28 (11am).
The service will begin dramatically with Bishop Andrew (53) striking the Cathedral’s West doors three times with his staff before they are flung open for the occasion which will mark the start of the Bishop’s formal ministry in the role.
Senior faith and civic leaders from across the region will attend the service alongside family and friends from parishes where Bishop Andrew has served throughout his ministry and representatives of parishes from across the diocese.
Almost 1,000 people will take part in the service, which will include traditional elements such as the Dean of Guildford handing Bishop Andrew his diocesan crozier, before the Archdeacon of Canterbury (representing the Archbishop) leads him to his bishop’s chair, or ‘cathedra’.
Other elements of the two-hour service will be distinctly personal with Bishop Andrew’s daughter Hannah (24) reading the Old Testament lesson, and an anthem with music written by Bishop Andrew himself, a setting of George Herbert’s poem, Love Bade me Welcome.
Bishop Andrew, who was the Bishop of Aston from 2008-2014, is married to Beverly, who is also ordained. In addition to Hannah, the couple have three younger children; Sam, 22, Joe, 20, and Lydia, 16.
'Humbling, exciting, and not a little scary!'
Bishop Andrew said: “Approaching the inauguration feels exciting, humbling, and not a little scary! We have already been made to feel very welcome in the diocese, and it’s good to be getting started.
“Although this region seems quite affluent compared with my previous experience in Birmingham, people are people, and all have emotional and spiritual needs which are powerfully addressed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“There are also many pockets of poverty in surprising places, and it’s sometimes hardest to struggle when others around you are prospering. I’m delighted that Christians in the diocese are running 17 food banks and are involved in a huge range of projects reaching out to those in need - the young, the elderly, and all points in between.
“These are exciting times for the Church worldwide, which has grown more in the past hundred years than all the other centuries put together. In particular I’m pleased that the diocese is linked with Nigeria, whose Christians have a huge amount to teach us in the midst of their many struggles.
“Here in England the Church faces plenty of challenges, not least from a secularising agenda that frequently sees faith as a problem not an opportunity. Surveys show in fact that most of the voluntary work and charitable giving across the country is initiated by churches and other faith-based organisations working with people of all faiths and none.
“My first priority as Bishop will be to get out and about across the diocese, meeting as many people as possible and having time to talk and reflect together about what we’re being called to do.
“Although church-going numbers are comparatively high across the region – there are over 28,000 regular worshippers in the diocese - there’s certainly no room for complacency.
“A diocese like Guildford also needs to have a vision that goes way outside its own borders, sharing its abilities and initiatives, its gifted people and financial resources, across the country and way beyond. It’s that sense of extraordinary potential that makes me so excited about all that lies ahead”.
The previous Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill retired after nine years in the post in November 2013.