More than three decades after his appointment Richard Chartres has stepped down as the Bishop of London. During an emotional Candlemas farewell service at St Paul’s on Thursday last week, the outgoing head of the Diocese of London emphasised the need for local and global community collaboration at a time when information can be freely transmitted around the globe at the touch of button.
“I began life as an ink monitor in a primary school; I retire in a digital world,” he said. “It is a long distance from steel nibs and copperplate to smart apps and the Twittersphere, but it gives us an opportunity of communicating.”
Bishop Chartres, who has held the influential post for 33 years and is the 132nd person to do so, then sent his first ever tweet. The farewell service was attended by clergy from across London and the UK, as well as by a number of visiting bishops from across the world. Guests included the Archbishop of Westminster, the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Primate of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Bishop Jovan of Slavonia, and the secretary of the Methodist Conference.
There were also representatives of the Bishop of Berlin, the Diocese of New York; and the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Before beginning the formal service, the Bishop and a procession of 200 clergy welcomed crowds at a ‘pop-up’ cathedral in Paternoster Square. And, while the service took place inside the cathedral proper, the gathered masses watched highlights and took part in parallel acts of worship led by the Bishop of Edmonton, Rob Wickham, the Archdeacon of London, Luke Miller, and the Rev Pete Hughes.
Following Holy Communion the Bishop handed over his crozier – the hooked staff he carries as a symbol of his office – to the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, who will be Acting Bishop of London until a new appointment is made. Bishop Broadbent was full of admiration for his colleague in his tribute.
“When you started as Bishop of London, it was the era of Toy Story and Braveheart,” he said, continuing Bishop Chartres’ own theme of time and change. “Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. Amazon sold its first book. Windows 95 was the operating system. Facebook was nine
years away; the iPhone didn’t appear until 2007.
“Quite simply, the Diocese of London is unrecognisable from the introverted, selfregarding, melancholy place of prissiness and factions that many of us knew in the 1980s.” Bishop Chartres then gave his valedictory sermon which discussed his time at the helm of the Diocese and the team he has assembled in London.
He also spoke of the need to tackle climate change and embrace difference and diversity. In particular, he called on the church to remember its identity in a “postdenominational, multi-polar world”. “We are simply Christians seeking to serve the world in a spirit of humility,” he said.
“Jesus Christ, as our second lesson reminded us, teaches that the first step in becoming a mature human being is to refuse to be a little god. He came in the form of a servant and so should we.” At the conclusion of the service, the Bishop went to the west doors of the cathedral and blessed the Capital and its population one final time, a mirror of the blessing he performed when he was first installed 33 years ago.