Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be.’
(Ignatius of Antioch, c.100 A.D.)
On Sunday 4th February, we’ll be joined by the bishop of Hertford, the Rt. Revd Michael Beasley, for our morning services that day. He has kindly agreed to participate in the 8.00am Holy Communion, the 10.00am Christingle Service, and also our Choral Eucharist which will be held at 11.30 that morning.
Bishop Michael is gradually going round the parishes of Hertfordshire, seeing his churches in action, and sharing the Gospel with us. His by a return on Wednesday 7th February, when he will meet with wardens and clergy, visit the school, and lead the PCC in discussion in the evening.
Please do come and join in with the worship on 4th Feb. Hopefully across the 3 services that morning there will be one that fits your taste and timetable! For, as my quotation from Ignatius expresses, there is something special about the opportunity to gather around our bishops when they come to be with us.
Bishops remind us that we are part of something big. Christians don’t just belong to a small local church (though it’s important that we do). We are linked to a much larger family and fellowship formed by all the churches of our diocese. We could not exist without each other, and the bishop is a visible sign and a practical link joining us together in that wider fellowship.
Bishops also remind us that we are part of something ancient — we belong to all the Christians who went before us in previous centuries, and to those who will come after us in years and decades to come. For bishops are made through ‘apostolic succession’.
New bishops are made by the laying on of hands of existing bishops, and these new bishops will go on to ordain future bishops in time to come. This historical, unbroken chain of ministry comes from Jesus’ first apostles, who passed on the faith to figures like Ignatius, by ordaining them all those years ago. And now this living link has come down to us all these years later, in the person of bishop Michael.
Of course bishops reflect the times in which they live, and try to share the faith in the language and culture of their own day. I’m sure bishop Michael will want to stimulate us as we continue to think about how we should serve God in 2018 here in Bishop’s Stortford, in ways that can offer good news to our neighbours. So I do hope his visit will refresh us. But I hope also it will link us to the church universal — the church of our diocese, and the church of the past and the future. It’s a bit special whenever a bishop visits: a link to God’s enduring church. So please do come along, gather round him, and join in!
Blessings from Derwyn.