The Installation of Rt Revd Donald Allister as the Bishop of Peterborough
Children lead bishop to his installation
First sermon stresses community cohesion and church unity
Under a cloudless sky, the new Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, was led into the cathedral by a group of nine children from the diocese waving white and gold fabrics for his installation.
They had been preceded by a procession of over 200 clergy and licensed lay minsters who filed through Saturday shoppers in Cathedral Square to get from St John’s Church into the cathedral precincts. In all over 1,000 people from around the diocese filled the building.
Once at the cathedral, Bishop Donald entered in the traditional manner by knocking three times on the closed doors before they were opened for him. The 90-minute service was a mixture of Christian celebration and legal ceremony. The legalities were dealt with first, as the Archdeacon of Canterbury read a mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishop Donald took oaths of allegiance to the Queen, the Archbishop, and the formularies of the Church of England. For the service, Bishop Donald had chosen hymns “of the kind you would hear on Songs of Praise”, he said, so that everyone present could join in. Guests included civic, church and other faith leaders from around the diocese, together with 12 visiting bishops and many local business people.
One absentee, however, was Bishop George Mechumo, the Bishop of Bungoma in Kenya which is linked to Peterborough Diocese. His flight to the UK had been grounded because of the volcanic ash cloud. A member of Bishop Donald’s family was also prevented from attending for the same reason.
The congregation was able to watch the entire service, on CCTV screens set up throughout the building, including the more detailed and intimate parts of the service such as the anointing of Bishop Donald with oil by three bishops, and the presentation to him of the diocesan crozier which had last been seen in public at the funeral of the late Bishop Ian.
Once installed in his cathedra (teaching seat) in the cathedral, Bishop Donald preached his first sermon in the diocese. As on previous occasions he stressed that his first priority was to meet as many people as possible and to listen to their concerns. “I wish to be accessible to you, I wish to get around the Diocese,” he said. “I want to be seen and known. I want people to be able to approach me, and I want to be where you are in your parishes, your places of worship, your homes, your places of work, your places of leisure and recreation. I want to hear about your concerns and your hopes. I want to bring Christ among you into every part of your lives.” However, he also signalled some of the issues close to his heart which will be part of the focus of his ministry. Taking as his cue Jesus’ charge to Peter to “feed my sheep” he spoke of the role of the bishop as a “shepherd” of the people.
Looking ahead to the General Election he spoke of his desire to build good relationships with other churches, faiths and the community leaders. Speaking for the church as a whole, he said, “We want to build harmony in our society. We want to help local authorities and the police and other community leaders to foster good relations between different communities, different ethnic groups, different religious groups. “We want the very best community relations, the best friendships, the best respect for one another. As we approach a General Election we want to insist that all people are made in the image of God and should be respected, accepted and loved for Christ’s sake.” He added that he wanted to stand with other faith leaders to stress the importance of faith in society. He also said that he believed that the decline in church going could be reversed: “I will work and pray that he church may be a growing church, a vibrant church, a powerful and effective church for God in our world.” He wanted to instil into Christians a sense of confidence in the Christian message, he said. Bishop Donald also addressed the problem of divisions within the church, including those within Anglicanism itself. “People are identifying all too often with their own group or tribe or theology within Anglicanism,” he suggested. “Of course no church is perfect, but the Church of England which I love and which I want to be strong and alive, simply has too many divisions within it. I am determined during my time here as Bishop to do all I can to unite Anglican Christians so that our witness is clear and strong and our Lord is glorified.” After the service the congregation had an opportunity to talk informally with the new bishop and each other over drinks and canapés.
Used with kind permission of the Peterborough Diocese