As we say goodbye to 2022 and greet 2023, I’d like to reflect on what has been an unprecedented year in the history of our nation, world and indeed our Diocese. My prayer is that in all that has taken place this past year and for all that is to come, we continue to trust in our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ who comforts us and tells us to cast our burdens on him. After all, he assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. According to the UN 7.8 million Ukrainians have been displaced across Europe. Just four days after the invasion, Bishop Christopher called on the UK Government to lift significant visa restrictions for refugees fleeing Ukraine. Read full report here: Bishop of Southwark calls on UK Government to lift significant visa restrictions.
In response to the growing numbers of Ukrainian refugees seeking refuge in the U.K. and our Diocese, JPIC provided practical support and signposting to people in the diocese who wanted to help and sponsor a refugee family in their homes. Churches across the Diocese continue to provide support in many varied ways, from youth clubs to services in Ukrainian. Not all people seeking asylum were as welcome as the Ukrainians. We saw this in the Government’s Rwanda asylum policy. Bishop Christopher spoke out against it alongside other church leaders. Unfortunately, the High Court ruled in December that Britain’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda is lawful.
We have seen changes in two of our Episcopal areas during 2022. Bishop Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, left in March and in May we announced the appointment of the Rt Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett, then Archdeacon of Croydon, as the new Bishop of Croydon. The Revd Greg Prior has replaced her as Archdeacon of Croydon. Bishop Rosemarie was consecrated at Southwark Cathedral in June.
Bishop Richard Cheetham, Bishop of Kingston, retired in October and it was announced in December that the Revd Martin Gainsborough is Bishop of Kingston designate.
A highlight in the calendar for me was the Diocesan Conference held at Bacon’s College in early September. It brought together clergy and lay leaders from across the Diocese for three days of worship, listening to sterling keynote speakers addressing what it means to be Christ Centred and Outward focused. Above all it provided space and time for people to meet together again and catch up, laugh, pray and fellowship together.
Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth died on 8 September. Like many Communications teams across the country we changed the website, sent out a press release, emailed information to the parishes and reported on the various services that were taking place, including the Proclamation of His Majesty King Charles III. None of us will forget The Queue which wound its way through parts of Diocese and passed Southwark Cathedral across to where Her Late Majesty lay in State in Westminster Hall. It is estimated that about 250,000 people waited in the Queue, and many clergy and laity from our Diocese ministered to those queuing.
Our Coronavirus Task Group was replaced by the Cost of Living Task Group in late 2022 in response to supporting parishes as they support their communities. The year has seen the growing need and dependence on food banks, warm spaces, free school meals, extra benefits because of the rise in the cost of living.
There is so much more that I could share. I have been blessed and privileged by the news and stories that people from across this large and diverse diocese have shared with myself and the Communications team so that we can share them more widely. This is my last blog post, as I will be leaving the Diocese at the end of January. God continue to guide and bless you all.