Signing off for a few months - Reflection by Canon Bob


Read Canon Bob's reflection for Tuesday, 2 February, 2021.

Stipendary clergy in the Diocese of Liverpool can apply for ‘Study Leave’ every seven years. This allows for an individual to be released from their usual ministry to spend some time following up a particular interest or researching a topic in some detail. I have never taken such time out in all of my ministry so a few years ago (when the world was somewhat different) I was granted a ‘Sabbatical’ beginning on March 1st. this year. Although inevitably it will be somewhat different to what I had hoped I shall be absent from the Cathedral from March until the beginning of July.

As you may know the Diocese of Liverpool came into being when, in Parliament the New Bishopric Act was approved on the 16th August 1878, and Bishop Ryle was then consecrated the first Bishop on 1880. As I was ordained in 1978 I have been around for over 40 of those 140 years and I intend to write a personal social history of what it has been like to be part of a changing and developing Diocese since my ordination. Although as you can see I have kept my appointments diaries, much of what I will be relying on is memory and impression.

By way of introduction, a friend took me to Bishop’s Lodge for an evening meeting for potential ordinands in the mid 1970s when Stuart Blanch was Bishop of Liverpool and John Bickersteth Bishop of Warrington. It was the first time I had entered the residence of the Bishop and I spent most of the evening in the toilet being violently sick! Perhaps I should have taken the hint but even now I look upon that particular room with some dread.

Other horror moments include completely forgetting to meet Bishop John Robinson, the then best- selling author of ‘Honest to God’ off his train at Lime Street station as he was arriving to give a Lent lecture at Liverpool Parish Church; being pinned to a wall by a previous Bishop of Liverpool whose anger apparently knew no bounds, and completely covering the crew of a Mersey Dredger with human remains as I attempted to scatter ashes at sea. And then there have been the meetings – oh the endless meetings!

As well as these and other personal anecdotes is the whole concept of how the Church has changed during these years. The role of women is perhaps the most welcome and dramatic. I doubt that in 1978 many would have predicted that we would benefit from the ministry of a female Bishop of Warrington or Dean of Liverpool. I proudly had a small hand in the appointment of both!

So I am signing off for a few months but will return soon

Canon Bob

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