Tuesday, March 06, 2012

New Bishop of Bedford Announced

Richard Atkinson
The Bishop-Designate of Bedford

From the St Albans Diocese website...

Next Bishop of Bedford Announced

The next Bishop of Bedford, in the Diocese of St Albans, is to be the Venerable Richard Atkinson, 53, currently Archdeacon of Leicester, 10 Downing Street announced this morning, 1 March 2012.

The Church of England’s latest bishop expressed his excitement and surprise at being asked to take on this significant role, “As you will see from my CV, God clearly feels I need to stay as far away from the sea as possible – and that I have a particular calling to ministry to the M1 and Midland Mainline!” He added, “Bedfordshire is new to me, apart from visits to Whipsnade and Woburn and a friend’s wedding.”

“I am looking forward enormously to getting to know the diversity and depth of the communities of Bedfordshire and Luton. I am passionate about the Church’s capacity to change all lives and communities for the better. I am enthusiastic to enable and equip the Church to reach out in love and service to our contemporary world, and committed to speaking up for the marginalised, poor and vulnerable. I pay tribute to the work being done all over the Diocese of St Albans, but especially in Bedfordshire and Luton”

Following the announcement, Archdeacon Richard will explore some of the diversity of the area as he visits the rainbow community of different faiths, nationalities and other Christian denominations who will gather to welcome him to Luton at All Saints Church.

From Luton, he will go to Goldington, Bedford, to the award winning Golden Gardens project chaired by the Vicar of Goldington, the Revd Richard Howlett. Along with sponsor, the Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association, and other agencies in the community, the Church has helped transform waste ground into a community garden which has taken its creators to win several awards and promote the Jubilee Lottery at Buckingham Palace. Those involved have found new purpose and place, coming from all ages and every part of society, especially the fringes.

He will then visit the Alban Academy in Great Barford, a Church of England middle school, still in its first year as an academy. Like most Church schools, it draws children from the whole local community and educates them in a Christian ethos where tolerance and acceptance of themselves and others is a keynote.

To take in the breadth of the communities in Bedfordshire, Archdeacon Richard will visit Trumpetons Farm, near Northill, accompanied by the Revd Monica Robinson, Agricultural Chaplain to Bedfordshire for the Diocese. He will hear first hand about the life of a farmer in the Diocese and the support that the Church offers through its networks. There are sheep on the farm so there is anxiety about the Schmallenberg virus.

Archdeacon Richard has nearly thirty years’ experience in ministry, in parish life. Most recently, since 2002, he has been Archdeacon of Leicester with responsibility for the City of Leicester and rural East Leicestershire.

As well as being the Bishop of Leicester’s right hand man, he has held major responsibilities. He is the founder Chair of St Philip’s Centre, Leicester, the award winning centre for study and engagement in a multi-faith society. A Christian foundation, with ecumenical Trustees, it resources churches for confident witness in a plural world, and other partners, for their contribution to a cohesive multi-faith society.

He has also chaired the major redevelopment of a former school building to provide new office, meeting and outreach facilities for the Diocese and Cathedral of Leicester.

Throughout his ministry, he has had considerable experience of involvement in wider society through a variety of appointments in civic life, significantly as Chair of the Braunstone New Deal for Communities in Leicestershire, where he led a successful turn-round, taking it from near failure to national acclaim.

He has also been a member of the Rotheram Local Strategic Partnership and Deputy Chair of a major Housing Association Group and has most recently been a member of the Carnegie Trust UK Commission on the Future of Civil Society which reported in 2010. He was awarded an OBE in 2002 for ‘services to unemployed people in Rotherham’.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, welcomed the appointment, saying: “Richard Atkinson comes with a wealth of experience, especially relevant to the communities of Bedfordshire and Luton. He has ministered both in deprived urban areas, working alongside people of other faiths, and he also has a deep knowledge of rural communities. In his present post he has been one of the prime movers in developing and implementing the diocesan strategy. We have found a worthy successor to Bishop Richard Inwood.”

The current Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, who retires on 31 March said: “I am delighted that there is such an early announcement of my successor as Bishop of Bedford. Bedfordshire and Luton provide a varied ministry for the Bishop of urban, suburban and rural parishes. Archdeacon Richard Atkinson brings an excellent track record from his current post which will stand him in good stead for his role here. Being Bishop of Bedford has been a very rewarding period of ministry for me and I trust that he will enjoy the joys and challenges as much as I have. I wish him well and we shall pray for him and his wife as they prepare to move here.”

The Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Hertford, added: “It will be very good indeed to work alongside Richard. He has a deep faith and a real commitment to today's multi-faith England and to our national Church. And he brings a very acute mind, a lightness of touch and a sense of humour and humanity.”
Archdeacon Richard is married to Helen, who is a Professor of Engineering at Leicester University. They have three grown up children, two at University and one taking ‘A’ levels this year.

Archdeacon Richard’s interests include cooking, swimming, reading biographies and The Archers.
He will be consecrated on 17 May and welcomed to the Diocese in a service at St Paul’s Church, Bedford on 19 May.

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