On being challenged by my new Bishop

I spent time recently finding and replaying two videos of our new Bishop of Winchester, Right Revd Tim Dakin. Nominally this was for the benefit of my father, but it led me to some reflections of various sorts.

The first video focuses on the challenges Bishop Tim offered at his enthronement in April (which sadly I missed due to a prior wedding invitation): 

The second video is something that it has been suggested be played in parishes so that they can get to know their Bishop: 

My first thought was surprise that these videos are no longer easily searched for and available through our Diocesan website from where they were initially circulated last month. I know one of them should exist in my parish as a DVD, but I’ve not seen it yet. However I felt that for people who might wish to refer to it, to show others or as source material for their own reflections, either personal or parochial, not keeping it accessible through the Diocesan website seemed a little short-sighted. (Or perhaps my search abilities are distinctly lacking!)

Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, photographed by my father at a recent Mothers’ Union Festival Service

Rather more important, was the challenge I heard the Bishop give me personally, which I listened  to through the ears of someone recently selected for training for ordination!

1. How passionate am I in my personal spirituality?

2. Do I have what it takes to be a priest in a faith community that shows pioneering qualities?

3. What might be the prophetic nature of my ministry in both a local and global context?

I can’t answer any of those questions clearly here, but here are a few far flung thoughts, that step beyond my initial reaction of ‘I am not worthy to enter ministry under this man.’

1. I am a lot more aware of how important my personal spirituality is to my survival in life, and particularly in ministry, following the changes I’ve made in my prayer life during my journey through a vacancy and towards selection over the last couple of years. Aware enough to have already made this a priority in my work with spiritual directors over my two years as an ordinand. I know that unless I have a deep, well grounded and stable prayer and pattern of life, I will not be equipped to survive parochial ministry at any level. There will be brief mention of where I’m at with this in my mid-week sermon tomorrow, but I believe that our Bishops’ current call to prayer (we’re on the third day of a Winchester Novena) is a pre-cursor of the mission community concept I understand Bishop Tim started at CMS, and has suggested for this diocese.

2. How many parishes (clergy and laity combined) are truly open and willing to be pioneering? I’ve had several thoughts in recent months about ways it might be possible for some rural churches to be pioneering in the way they use their buildings (probably all done before), or enable ‘unseen’ sectors of their community to worship in a way that responds to their own historic context. I won’t expand here, but I will soon post my BAP presentation which touches on one such idea, already well-tried in communities where it was appropriate.

3. I guess that, as with question 2, the prophetic nature of mission depends on context, existing links, and new opportunities. I do think that where these are international, the time is coming where these need to evolve beyond Christians travelling between countries to share practical and spiritual expertise. Mothers’ Union has spent the last century setting examples like their current Family Life Programme (that I’ve visited myself), but will environmental and economic considerations require that we do such things differently?

At least I’ve stepped beyond my initial feelings of inadequacy when I heard his enthronement sermon, but I guess the adventure of responding to my calling has only just begun. Working it all out with this man setting the example at the helm of the diocese in which I serve, is just going to make it a bit more challenging and exciting than it was already!



  1. Interesting points. I do not think any of the questions can be answered until some formation has been completed. They remind me of when I began training as a teacher. I was asked similarly Are you passionate about teaching? How will you keep your teaching fresh and exciting? All I could do at the time was guess as I had little or no experience. Now, after almost 10 yrs of teaching I have a much better answers. Yet I wonder perhaps the answer is not important as the questions themselves. I think they help to challenge any stagnation that can creep in….


  2. I think ‘engagement’ is important to answer (1). Churches cannot exist in glorious isolation from each other and from the diocese as a whole. There needs to be more ‘this is quite important and we’re going to be a part of the answer’ rather than “we’re going to be apart of the answer”.


  3. I’ve probably mentioned both of these points to you before… Firstly, to large extent, it’s not primarily your choice to enter ministry, its the choice of the church. Secondly, quite a few of us in the church think you ARE worthy, but if YOU thought you were, we might have second thoughts 😉

    As you know I’ve been looking at the the reformers view of priesthood recently. For Martin Luther, the universal priesthood was REALLY important. In fact, apparently, ‘It figured more prominently in his popular pamphlets than the doctrine of justification by faith alone.’ But, on the issue of ‘ministry’ in the church, ‘ Luther made a fundamental distinction between priesthood, on the one hand, which belongs to all Christians, and the ministry, office or call, on the other hand, which is bestowed on selected individuals within the congregation. He lays down the simple but far-reaching rule that what is common to all, no individual may presume to take upon himself without the consent of all.’ And it is by the consent of the church that you, Rachel, are called.

    I often pray this prayer, and I commend it to all, especially those who dare to minister:
    Lord God,
    You have placed me in your church. You know how unsuitable I am. Were it not for your guidance I would long since have brought everything to destruction. I wish to give my heart and mouth to your service. I desire to teach your people, and long to be taught your work. Use me as your workman dear Lord. Do not forsake me; for if I am alone I shall bring it all to naught. Amen.
    – Martin Luther (1483-1546)


    • Peter, thank you for saying again in print what you have said to me personally before. Please, keep saying it in the years to come!
      I think part of my struggle at present is connected to the fact that I am in a time ‘between’ things; though nervous of the MA standards I am looking forward to focusing on my calling through my studies.
      Bless you for being there as God’s servant & one of my chief encouragers.


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