Bishop Philip’s Service of Welcome

Bishop Philip’s Service of Welcome

On Saturday 13 January, we welcomed Bishop Philip into our diocese at a memorable and moving service at Winchester Cathedral. Although Bishop Philip has legally been Bishop of Winchester since the autumn of 2023, this service of welcome and installation marked the beginning of his public ministry in the diocese. The sense of starting a new chapter in the life of the diocese was palpable at this service as many people from our parishes and schools gathered to mark this momentous occasion.

The service began at the ancient church of St Lawrence in the city centre. The Bishop, accompanied by the Archdeacon of Canterbury and officers of the diocese, was received here by the Rector and wardens of St Bartholomew and St Lawrence with St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate.

In accordance with Church custom and law, the Declaration of Assent was made, along with oaths of allegiance to His Majesty the King, and of canonical obedience to the Metropolitan His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Once these oaths had been sworn, the Bishop’s party moved to the Square where he was greeted by the Mayor of Winchester, the Leader of Winchester City Council, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, as well as the Headteacher and a student of The Bishop of Winchester Academy.

A procession of the clergy and civic authorities conducting a Bishop to his cathedra dates from early times. In the Annals of Winchester we read that in 1206 Peter, Bishop of Winchester, was received in solemn procession and installed in his Cathedral Church on Palm Sunday.

The Register of William of Wykeham (1366) records more specifically: ‘The Bishop shall change his shoes in some church or building near the Cathedral Church, to which the archdeacon shall then conduct him; and after making his offering, the Bishop shall enter the porch, and there be stripped of his cope, hood, cap and gloves and then shall the Bishop be robed in pontificals, and the archdeacon shall lead him to the cathedra…’.

Once he reached the Cathedral, according to tradition, Bishop Philip knocked on the West Doors of the Cathedral and was greeted by Sarah Shelley, one of the choristers at Winchester Cathedral. Sarah and her brother Shane have been an integral part of the cathedral music community – watch a short video clip about their musical contribution:

According to custom, in greeting the Bishop, Sarah asked the question ‘Why have you been sent to us?’, to which he replied, ‘I come as one sent as Bishop to serve you.’

The themes of love, service, and humility continued throughout the service, from the carefully curated prayers to the anthem sung as Sarah led Bishop Philip through the Nave to the Font.

This anthem, ‘Love Bade me Welcome’, is a setting of George Herbert’s poem by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was chosen by Bishop Philip himself and sung by Cathedral Choir and the Junior Choir.

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
from my first entrance in,
drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
if I lacked anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve….

George Herbert (1593-1633), Ralf Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Perhaps one of the most poignant moments of the service was the Preparation and Anointing, as Bishop Philip knelt on his own at the front of the nave, at this point without his episcopal robes on, while the choir sang a setting of Isaiah 43, ‘Do not be afraid’ by Philip Stopford – creating a sense of one person’s vulnerability, humility and call to rely utterly on the Lord for the weighty task ahead. After this Bishop Philip was anointed with holy oil and ceremonially vested by the Archdeacons of the diocese, who placed his robes, stole and mitre upon him while the choir sang John Dove’s dramatic anthem ‘Seek Him that Maketh the Seven Stars’.

At the heart of this service was the moment when Bishop Philip, the 98th Bishop of the See of Winchester, was installed in the cathedra, the chair which is the seat of authority. In fact the word ‘See’ comes from the Latin sedes, meaning seat. The authority of the cathedra is a real authority, but it is also the authority of the Christian ruler, and its badge is humility and service. It is fitting then that this moment is marked by the bishop’s request for the prayers of the people that he may know God’s grace in the task which lies before him.

The Church of England recognises the importance of humility in its bishops, charging them to become pastors in their communities, inspiring and bringing hope to all. The Ordinal of the Church of England says that bishops are “called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. They are to love and pray for those committed to their charge, knowing their people and being known by them.”

In his charge to Bishop Philip at the Confirmation of Election service back in October 2023, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the responsibilities of the office but urged Bishop Philip to always bear in mind that he need not carry this weight alone:

There will be much for you to consider, great challenges to face, as well as, I pray. great joy along the way.

Amidst all the responsibility that rests on your shoulders, and all the many things you must do, may I urge you to remember that your ministry, and the church itself, does not depend on you, but the one who has called and commissioned you. Jesus Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14.6).

I charge you, therefore, to hold on and remember that the most important thing for you us a Bishop is not who you are but whose you are. Hold fast to Christ, do not lose sight of Him, and He will guide you in all things.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

While the service followed ancient customs, it was full of life – all those in attendance recognised the occasion as a time of joy and celebration! The exuberant applause when Bishop Philip was presented as anointed and installed as our Bishop was a testimony to the hope of new beginnings.

In his sermon, Bishop Philip’s first public address since he legally became Bishop of Winchester, Bishop Philip spoke of heritage, healing and hope. He touched on how the heritage of the Diocese of Winchester has not only shaped our diocese, but also the wider world, demonstrating how our God has been at work in and through us throughout our ancient history up to the present day – “a legacy of grace” from which we can draw inspiration and hope.

A full transcript and video of Bishop Philip’s sermon can be found here.

The Cathedral and diocese were also delighted to welcome some special visitors at the service, including Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, who was invited to give the reading, and other friends from the Anglican Communion overseas, including the Bishop of Rumonge in Burundi.

At the end of the service, Bishop Philip processed out through the West Doors and gave a blessing over the city and the diocese, asking that God would ‘grant gifts of wisdom, love and compassion to all who live and work’ within it.

All those who were able to view the service, whether in person or online, came together to welcome our new Bishop to the diocese, and to ask for God’s blessing on Bishop Philip’s ministry. Let us continue to pray that God will strengthen and guide Bishop Philip, as he takes us on a journey of heritage, healing and hope.