Southampton Street Pastor To Be Next Bishop of Stafford

A Southampton priest, who combines his parish role with a chaplaincy to the Mayflower Theatre and a Street Pastor in the south-coast port city, is to be the next Bishop of Stafford.

The appointment of the Revd Canon Geoff Annas was announced today by 10 Downing Street. He succeeds the Rt Revd Gordon Mursell who was forced to retire early on health grounds.

To mark the announcement, the bishop-designate was today embarking on a whirl-wind tour of his new Episcopal Area, which is larger than many dioceses.

He will begin his tour with a visit to Dovedale House, the Diocese of Lichfield’s youth centre in Ilam in the Staffordshire Moorlands; before moving to the County Town for the Staffordshire County Show. While there he will meet the President and Chairman of the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society, the former national hunt jockey Johnny Greenall and farmer Michael Shelley.

He will then move to East Staffordshire with a visit to Burton Albion FC. He will tour the Brewer’s Pirelli Stadium before heading to Stoke for a visit which panders to his love of the theatre. The new bishop and his wife will tread the boards at the City’s Regent Theatre and meet some of the back-stage crew who make the magic of the theatre possible.

Geoff Annas was born on the 29th November 1953. His wife Ann is an ophthalmologist. They have two grown up children.

He is currently Vicar of St Christopher’s Thornhill, Southampton. In addition to this he is Actors’ Church Union Chaplain of the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, a Canon of Winchester Cathedral and assistant Area Dean of Southampton. As Area Dean in addition to thinking through pastoral re-organisations, he has overseen the establishment of the Southampton Street Pastor scheme and chairs its management committee; and does a monthly duty as a Street Pastor.

Prior to theological training at Salisbury and Wells and his ordination in 1983, Geoff was a senior social worker with Surrey County Council with a specialism in fostering and adoption. He was assistant intake team leader dealing with family crisis, non-accidental injury, mental health issues and vulnerable adults. He supervised team members and students and prepared and presented court reports.

Commenting on his appointment, he said:

“I have to be honest in that on hearing I was going to be the new Bishop of Stafford I was quite overawed, really. It is a huge responsibility, a great privilege; but also it is really exciting because, although I don’t know the area very much I’m looking forward to getting to know it and certainly getting to know all the people there ““ particularly the clergy but the communities as well. I hope I have something to offer and I’m looking forward to discovering it.

“I think the key issues on taking up office will be to get out of the office! What I really want to do is to get to know the people and the issues they are coping with in their day to day lives. Obviously I have a general knowledge of the area but it’s very different when you’re living there. So I want to spend a lot of time listening and seeing out how the church relates to people in their situations.”

His current bishop, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, is himself a previous Bishop of Stafford. Geoff Annas commented:

“Bishop Michael has been very good in that until a public announcement has been made he and I have not discussed it at all. However, I have said to him that when it becomes public knowledge, today, I’d very much like to go and have a cup of coffee with him and get the low-down on Stafford. He said he would be delighted to tell me all about it. What he has said is that it is a wonderful place and he was very happy as Bishop of Stafford. He’s quite thrilled that somebody from Winchester should be going there.”

He said the secrecy about the appointment leading up to today’s announcement was extremely difficult; but says it has helped him to understand the need to tell others about the Good News of the Gospel. He said:

“I’ve actually known for some months now that my name was going to be put forward but of course until the Prime Minister has passed that name to Her Majesty The Queen and she has signed giving her permission nothing is definite.

“As Bishop Jonathan in Lichfield described it when he said he was putting my name forward, it was entering a long tunnel; and it has been a long tunnel. Apart from the bishop here, Bishop Michael, there has been no-one that we have been able to share this with; so it hasn’t been easy. But what it has taught me is that if something is really, really special then actually you’re bursting to tell other people about it and it’s quite hard when you can’t tell people.

“So what I am hoping is that when I get to Stafford and as I get around I will find people who are desperate to tell others about the love God has for them. That telling of others is a very special thing and perhaps something we sometimes take for granted. It will be good to see how other people are hearing about the love of God in the Staffordshire area.”

Canon Geoff Annas will be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury with other bishops from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion during a special service in Westminster Abbey on 21st September. He will be officially begin his new role when he is installed in Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 26th September.

He will leave his current parish of St Christopher’s Thornhill after a weekend of celebrations, from 23rd to 25th July, to mark the 50th anniversary of its founding as a parish and the 40th anniversary of the church building.

Jesus and I

Its Good Friday and the most solemn , reflective day in the Christian calendar. One of the products of having a 6-year-old daughter attending a church school is that you are often called to answer some metaphysical questions on God and Jesus. Over recent months these questions have ranged from where does God Sleep to why does God allow bad things to children. This was after the Haiti earthquake.

She also makes up hymns on a keyboard the most plangent being one that began O God, help,help,help,help and she insists that we say Grace at mealtime.

Personally I think that’s its important that Phoebe has knowledge of the Bible stories for without a grasp of the Christian Tradition how can she understands much of Western Art, Literature and Music. Without knowledge of the Bible how do you deconstruct the work of Bach, Caravaggio, Milton or Rembrandt?

In such circumstances I thought that I would re evaluate my relationship with Jesus. I have always been drawn to the historical figure of Jesus as a revolutionary figure rather than the treacly rather spruced up figure that I used to see in the Methodist Sunday school I attended in Boothen.

I even made it to being a choirboy at the local church in Abbey Hulton although I did not take much notice of the service as I used to read a bird identification book under my cassock.

When I was 17 or so I was “converted” although in my case the conversion did not happen on the Road to Damascus. In my case it was the A6 on the road to Matlock since that brief infatuation with the evangelical movement I have maintained a deep scepticism with sometimes surfaces as the case of the Bethel City Church proved.

I enjoy visiting churches and cathedrals. I have visited most medieval founded Cathedrals in England with the exception of Rochester. I have seen the chapel of St Francis- my favourite saint- in Assisi. I have smelt rosemary in the Greek Orthodox monastery above the cave in which the Book of Revelations was written on Patmos. I have sat in the amphitheatre in Ephesus where St Paul preached. And above the most spiritual pace for me was the white sand of Iona.

I am or at least think I am a spiritual person but cannot make the leap of faith. Its partly rational and its partly embarrassment but mainly it’s the Christians

Part of the problem with Jesus is that Christians tend to get in the way. As I have explained before I regularly attend church and it is a truism that church going leastways in the Church of England is a middle class interest and a rather straight laced one at that. I went to an Easter Sunday service in Aldeburgh in Suffolk a few years ago and it’s was one of the more unwelcoming occasion I can recall.

It’s also an issue with me that the emphasis that some Christians give to sexuality over more pressing issues. Last June Churches in Leek arranged for the Bishop of Stafford to visit one lunchtime and answer questions in a local pub. I was always think of the Mencken comment that a Bishop is a figure who reaches a higher position in the church than did Jesus Christ. I went over and rather predictably someone asked a question of gay clergy. I forget what Bishop Gordon Mursell had to say. I was next and simply pointed out that a child in the developing world dies every 16 seconds of preventable disease, we have global conflict and environmental degradation and yet the Church or anyway its members have this obsession what adults do in the privacy of their homes.

But there remains the figure of Jesus and as I said its Jesus the revolutionary figure that I have the most regard for. Jesus the advocate of the oppressed, the vulnerable and the marginalised. And I see Jesus in the form of some of the great Christians of the 20th century Archbishop Romero of El Salvador murdered at the high altar by rightists 30 years ago, Thomas Merton peace campaigner and monk who reached out to eastern religions and Dietrich Bonhoffer the opponent of the Nazis who was hanged by them in the closing days of the war.

But it’s the representation of Jesus in the Pasolini film Gospel according to St Matthew that makes the most resonance dedicated to the peasant Pope John XX111. Christ becomes, in the hands of the Gay Marxist intellectual Pasolini, an expressly political figure – a serene, utterly self-contained messenger who recruits his disciples and preaches with a passion identifying completely with the poor and suffered for them.

I’ll be working at the supermarket this afternoon in the jostling, impatient crowds and I’m sure that the message of sacrifice and redemption will be completely lost on them

Family life breaking down because of texts and emails warns Bishop of Stafford

Source: The Telegraph

Family life is breaking down because of the emails and text messaging and the church is at risk of becoming a “lifeless, dangerous and useless distraction,” a leading Bishop has warned.

By Andrew Pierce

Rt Rev Gordon Mursell

Rt Rev Gordon Mursell

The Bishop of Stafford the Rt Rev Gordon Mursell also said that social networking sites had contributed to the demise of the family by replacing traditional conversation.

“In Britain, 33 per cent of our children hardly ever eat a meal with their parents. In the rest of Europe the figure is 17 per cent. In the city of Stoke-on-Trent, where I live, the principal industry is making china and pottery products ““ dishes, plates, cups, etc. This industry is in terrible decline, not only because of the world recession, but because families no longer have meals together.

“Children do not talk to grandparents or even parents. The art of talking together, of having a good social conversation, has been replaced by texts and emails. Nearly all the talking is done electronically, and almost all of it is carried out between people of the same age and background.

“Talking to people who are not like you is become more and more difficult, even in our super-technological society.”

The Bishop, who made his comments in a sermon in Güstrow Cathedral to celebrate a 20-year link between the diocese of Lichfield and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenbur, also delivered a withering attack on the state of the church in Britain.

“Over the centuries, many people, including many Christians, must have asked themselves”¦ “ËœWhat is the point of the church?’ All those crusades, burning of heretics, wars of religion: what were they for? If there really is a God, why doesn’t he show himself directly to the people outside the Church? Well, of course he can and does. But, if he does, why do we need a church at all?”

He said it was a matter of not just what the church believed but how it lived its life.The Church had to make a home with God in a relationship of unconditional love

“When it fails to live like that, when it becomes preoccupied with its own structures and turns in on itself, it becomes lifeless, a dangerous and useless distraction.”