‘What’s a bishop?’ and ‘what’s a diocese?’ are two questions you may well be asking if you happen to be reading this. Well, put simply, a bishop is someone who looks after clergy and people across a geographical area (that’s the meaning of the word ‘diocese’). In the case of Newcastle diocese, this is an area that goes from the City of Newcastle Upon Tyne up to the Scottish border, and over into bits of Cumbria. This means that the chances are I am interested in your life (yes, that’s you!) because God is interested in all the things that make us human and bind us together, and challenges us along the way.
For the Church of England place and identity matter; we are ordered in such a way that we rejoice in being a Christian presence in every community. Maybe you’ve been to one of our churches at some point, or spoken with one of our chaplains in a hospital perhaps? Maybe you’ve been educated at a Church school, or know someone who has, or have distant memories of the local vicar visiting to take an assembly? Maybe you don’t really care about all this God stuff anyway; maybe you’ve been hurt by the Church in the past. If that is so, then I am sorry. The Church hasn’t always got things right, but at the same time, the Church does an awful lot that is good and that goes unseen.
As I come into this new role as Bishop of Newcastle, I am coming home to a region I grew up in and which nurtured and encouraged my own faith in Jesus. Jesus taught his friends, the disciples to notice things, to look out for the lost, last, and least, and above all to show the light and love of God, the God who loves us unconditionally. Maybe you’ll see me on my travels and if you do say hello.
I look forward to meeting you and to celebrating our brilliant city and wider region in the new season that lies ahead!