I am excited by the opportunity to serve at this time of huge change and challenge being faced by church and community in the Croydon episcopal area.
I see my role as one of encouragement and also of leading on the building up of relationships and connections with churches, deaneries, and lay and ordained church leaders throughout the area. There is also a vital role in linking the church into other parts of society. As the archdeacon of Croydon, I built up such links and would look forward to getting to know the civic leaders in Sutton, Reigate and Tandridge as well. While most of my ordained ministry has been spent in inner city areas, I have enjoyed the experience over the past two years of working with a wide range of churches, including inner city, urban conurbations small towns and villages.
The Croydon episcopal area is undoubted riven by perceived and real divides roughly between the south and north – including differences in age demography, ethnicity, class, family size and structure, poverty, and affluence. There are growing numbers of ethnic-specific churches and other faith communities and the waning enculturation of English Christianity. There is also the social and economic fallout from the recent financial meltdown of Croydon borough council. Added to this is the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives and across the whole area, and there are increased needs for services such as mental health counselling, finance and debt management advice and grief support among people of all backgrounds and ages.
There is much to engage with as a bishop with a desire to see the gospel of the God of love and reconciliation being preached and lived out in our church’s ministry and mission and in the public square. The pandemic experience has underscored the need for bridge-building and partnership working between church and community, whether in Thornton Heath or Tandridge. This very much fits with my own zeal for collaborative ministry with civic, community, ecumenical and interfaith groups, schools, and parachurch organisations working in partnership for the common good.
At these uncertain times, the church needs to look to God with confidence, and focus on pragmatic as well as strategic ways to build a kingdom vision at local and diocesan level that is open and welcoming to the wonderfully diverse people we serve. This work must be Christ centred and outward focused, and alongside, teaching, preaching and pastoral responsibilities, the bishop is to be intentional in enabling the mutual flourishing of our churches, whether new missional communities or traditional parishes in the communities they serve. This living out of Koinonia, is at the heart of Christian ministry and will be at the heart of my ministry to the Croydon episcopal area.