New Bishop of Manchester elect

Published: 10 June 2013

Reflection from The Rt. Rev'd David Walker


One of the proudest days of my mother's life was when she was called upon to carry her parish's Mothers Union banner in procession at Manchester Cathedral. If I can start the day on a sad note, it would be that she didn't live long enough to come again with her MU branch from St George's, Mossley, but this time with me as the bishop. Though perhaps it's better for my humility, there's only so much maternal pride that any of us should be asked to live with. This will be for me a coming home. It has been announced today that the Queen has nominated me to be the next Bishop of Manchester. And I am very much of Manchester. This is the diocese where I was born, baptised, brought up and where I went to school. This is where I rebelled against my Christian upbringing in my early teens, and where I found a new and living faith in Jesus Christ shortly before going off to university. I'm not a great one for family trees, but such ancestors as I know of all came from this part of the country. I was raised on the tales of the Peterloo massacre, the Rochdale Pioneers and the Industrial Revolution. I'm not going to pretend that after 30 years away I understand Manchester as well as those who have lived here through that time, but Manchester has always been in my blood and I can guarantee to bring with me a passion to serve its people and its Christian communities, who after all served me throughout my childhood. I will come very much as a Bishop of Manchester, but I will come to be also a Bishop with Manchester. One of the central aspects of my role will be to journey alongside the people of this diocese in their joys and sorrows, and to listen very hard to how life and faith appear to them, to you. One of the delights of Manchester as a diocese is its sheer diversity. I look forward to discovering more deeply the riches of that diversity. As a young trainee vicar I was sent by an experienced priest simply to knock on all the doors in a neighbourhood, say that I was from the church, and accept any welcome I received. I learned more and deepened more in my Christian faith and my understanding of the world from conversations with Muslims and agnostics, housewives and housebound, than I would have from years of theology lectures. And as I travel with you I will relish the opportunities, as I did back then, and as I've just done now, to share stories from my own journey through life and faith. And if you let me be a Bishop with Manchester, then I would hope in time to become a Bishop for Manchester; a bishop who can be a voice for the people and institutions of this city region, one who can articulate its hopes and aspirations as well as, sometimes, its frustrations and sadnesses. The abiding priority for me over 30 years of ordained ministry has been to do things that make a practical difference for the better. As a mathematician I was trained to recognise patterns, when I began to practice as a priest I discovered how to recognise the repeated patterns across numbers of pastoral conversations and then to make a response that had impact at the political as well as individual level. That is what led me into working as a volunteer in the social housing movement. I know that there will be many opportunities here both for me and the wider church to build strong and effective partnerships with others in order to work for Manchester. Today is simply a day for announcing future events. It will be a few months yet before I will be able to greet you again. That will be the occasion when I arrive to take my place in the cathedral and hence in the life of the Diocese of Manchester. But I know that when I do come I will find myself alongside many others who are striving by God's grace to be "of", "with" and "for" your churches, parishes and neighbourhoods. Together we will engage in the tasks that are set before us: to grow God's church, to serve our communities and to determine the patterns of ministry that will best fit us for both those tasks. I'm both thrilled and humbled to have been invited to take up this work with you.

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