This week is Stephen’s final week as Dean of Gloucester. On Friday there will be an ancient legal ceremony at St Mary-le-Bow in London when his election will be confirmed and he will legally become the Bishop of Salisbury.
We will be giving thanks as a diocese for Stephen’s ministry among us at Cathedral Evensong on Thursday evening (31 March at 5.30 pm) and sending him on his way with our love. I hope that many of you will come and be present. All are welcome. And it is that word of welcome I want to reflect on as we say farewell to Stephen.
The cathedral was once a Benedictine abbey, and at the heart of Benedictine tradition is hospitality and welcome. Indeed, St Benedict instructed his monks to receive all guests ‘as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35)’. It is therefore fitting that welcome has underpinned Stephen’s ministry as Dean and the culture change he has enabled and supported.
This has been reflected in the major works of Project Pilgrim, both inside the Cathedral and externally, with the beautiful and welcoming space of the green, as well as the establishment of new structures and teams around welcome and visitors. Indeed in all the many initiatives, activities and changes lived at the Cathedral under Stephen’s leadership, welcome has been writ large. From diocesan services and events to school leavers’ services; from football in the nave to the establishment of the girls’ choir; from a variety of exhibitions and installations celebrating the wider community through to acts of worship giving glory to God, the words ‘welcome to your Cathedral’ have always been on Stephen’s lips and echoed by staff and volunteers alike. I will personally be ever thankful for Stephen’s personal welcome to me on my appointment.
As we say farewell and thank you to Stephen, Carol and the family, we are grateful for Stephen’s legacy of welcome and I pray that the Cathedral will go on being a place where visitors and pilgrims are welcomed, and where people increasingly encounter the welcome of God in Christ, rooted in prayer and worship.
Stephen, we are so sad to see you go but you go with our blessing, knowing that you as a gifted welcomer will be warmly welcomed in Salisbury.
…And as we say farewell and thank you to Stephen, we offer a wholehearted welcome to The Revd Canon Dr Andrew Braddock as the Interim Dean:
Andrew said, “I delight in being able to affirm and echo all that Bishop Rachel says about Stephen’s outstanding ministry and the outward-looking culture of welcome and hospitality that is his gift to us.
“As we look to the next season in our life as cathedral and diocese, it is that culture and vision we will continue to grow and develop. Building on the strong foundations Stephen has enabled, we will go on being a cathedral that seeks to be ‘in tune with heaven and in touch with daily life’. Thank you, Stephen. You go with our love, gratitude and blessing.”