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Farewell Service for Bishop Paul

On Saturday 27 January, Bishop Paul bid farewell as Bishop of Durham during a Service at Durham Cathedral. People gathered from far and wide to thank Bishop Paul and Rosemary for their ten years of service and ministry and wish them well as they move on to their next chapter. 

All photos from the service can be viewed on our Flickr page. (Photos:North News)

You can read Bishop Paul's sermon from the service below. 


10 years ago I stood in this pulpit and preached my inaugural sermon as the 79th Bishop of Durham. I serve in this line that began with the 25 Bishops of Lindisfarne; Aidan, Cuthbert and finally Aldhun who became the first Bishop of Durham. Standing outside the Feretory reading the long list of bishops is deeply humbling. I am after all nothing more than a frail ‘clay jar’. But then so too were all my predecessors.

But the God they served, and whom we serve, is amazing. He is the God of mercy, and glory. The God who speaks and creates. The God who has made himself known in Jesus Christ. This God is utterly faithful.

That first sermon was rooted in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which Rosemary read earlier. I spoke of our ‘Offering Welcome, Expecting Growth and Not Underestimating the Small.’ I had no idea how deeply this would resonate with people. I am still being told, 10 years on, how it shaped people’s thinking and ministry. In particular it was, ‘Don’t underestimate the small’ that struck the chord. It still does for me. I absolutely believe in growth. I want more people to follow Jesus; I want Jesus’ followers to grow in their depth of discipleship; together I want us to grow in how we serve and shape the communities in which we are set. But I also know that God revels in doing things in hidden places; in and through unexpected people and that often God works through the small. So please keep offering welcome; keep expecting growth but still never underestimate the small; it might just grow into a great tree.

Together we developed the vision of being ‘From the Tyne to the Tees and the Dales to the sea; Blessing our Communities in Jesus’ name for the transformation of us all.’ We had our three priorities, identified by the Diocese before I began, of ‘Tackling Poverty, Children and Young people and Growing the Church’. When we reviewed this through the Waymark process we affirmed ‘Blessing our communities’ as our core vision, tweaked the 3 priorities, to ‘Challenging Poverty, Energising Growth and Engaging with children, youth and the 18-25s’. Inspired and guided by our children and young people, we added the fourth, ‘Caring for God’s Creation’. Together we are still seeking to work these out within parishes, chaplaincies, schools, Cathedral, deaneries and Diocese. We do so sometimes feeling afflicted, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down but we do so also knowing the extraordinary power of God in and through Jesus Christ our Lord and so are not crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed. We remain convinced that wonderfully and mercifully God still chooses to use people like us to make the life of Jesus visible to the world.



Being visible is a challenge as the Bishop. It is only possible to be in one place at a time; though through Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp, emails and texts it is possible to engage from one place with others; sometimes many others.

But for me Prayer walking has been a key part of my visible ministry as a Bishop, since my consecration in 2004. I am deeply grateful to all who planned, walked and talked with me across all the Deanery Prayer Walks over these years. At the outset of the 10 years here Pilgrimage was not a word I used for these. But pilgrimage has become a theme and image which has meant much to me, and to us all. We are God’s pilgrim people. This Cathedral is a place for pilgrims and pilgrimage. The development of the Northern Saints Trails, led by the remarkable David Potts, has been one of the highlights for me of these past years.

So I reflect briefly on my fellow pilgrims; my 2 wonderful suffragans, Mark and Sarah; the 6 archdeacons, Stuart, Ian, Nick, Rick, Bob and Libby; the 3 Diocesan Secretaries, Andrew, Edward and James; others who have served in differing roles on the leadership team, Jen Bradshaw, David Tomlinson, Sophie Jelley, Duncan Podbury, Remi Omole, Gill Booth; the 2 Chairs of Finance, Sheila and Mags, and the 3 Cathedral Deans, Michael, Andrew and Philip. As I reflect I wonder if I might have made the workings of the Bishop’s Leadership Team more visible. I do so mainly because I do not think many realise just how stunningly well all these people have served the Diocese in their differing roles. I am indebted to them all. You have been wonderful colleagues.

There have been the fellow pilgrims in this place; vergers, clergy, musicians, choristers, staff, guides. It is the finest Cathedral in the world.

Then there are the Area Deans and Lay Chairs, who give so much; the members of Bishop’s Council who guide clearly; and those who serve on Diocesan Advisory, Finance, Audit & Risk, Board of Education and other committees.

There are all my fellow priests and deacons, stipended, self supporting, retired but very active, serving in parishes, hospitals, prisons, universities, schools and other chaplaincies. There are all the licensed lay ministers, pastoral assistants, churchwardens, musicians, volunteer chaplains and regular worshippers.

We have a wonderful Joint Education Team, brilliant Headteachers, teaching staff, support staff and pupils in our Church schools – and those who serve as Christ’s followers in State and Independent schools.

There are all the superb staff at Cuthbert House who make sure people get paid, houses are looked after, support is given for children, youth, vocation, training, and safeguarding.

And my dear ecumenical friends who have prayed with and for me, and with whom together we have sought to show that we are ‘one in Christ’.

There are the very many civic and business leaders; MPs and Peers with whom I have shared in varying ways.

There are many national colleagues alongside whom I have worked in education, children and young people, families and households, refugees and asylum seekers, and poverty. I am grateful to them all, especially my Buxton Parliamentary Assistants.

I also want to honour all that my worldwide Anglican, and other church, friends have given to me. Whilst here the Nordkirche, the Romanian Orthodox in Alba Julia, and the Durham-Lesotho link. Rwanda and Burundi have been much longer links and I am delighted that Fabien, Provincial Secretary of Burundi represents his church here today.

Last but by no means least my own office team; Ann who has been with me from day one; Claire; Jo who has been with me for all bar the first few months; Heather, Rachael; the legendary Gerry and Ange and my chaplains Denise and Chris (with a brief cameo also from Cameron).

I am deeply indebted to you all.

Then there is also a big thank you to the friends who have walked with me since Nottingham University and Wycliffe Hall days; and from our time in Wandsworth, Forest Gate, and especially Walthamstow.

But the biggest thank you of all is to my family. Rosemary and I moved here on our own for the first time since we moved to my curacy. Everywhere in between Caroline, David, Andrew and Sarah have travelled with us. Sarah and husband Will are currently touring New Zealand but she wrote me a letter for today. At one point she says this, ‘to me being a Bishop was always just the side hustle to being my Dad.’ This is deeply reassuring because there has been a cost to them in the ministry to which I have been called in its various forms over these years. They, along with my parents, and my sisters and brothers in law, have been the most significant supporters throughout these years. Thank you all.

Rosemary you have been astonishing. You have travelled and moved with me. You have put up with the ridiculous hours I have often worked. You have opened our home to others. You have made many stained glass crosses as gifts for clergy. You have committed to supporting spouses. You have prayed with me and for me. You have kept me going. And you are still the person who is best able to remind me that I am nothing more than a frail clay jar; but one who knows he is loved deeply. Who knows what God has in store for us next; as Sarah also said it will be exciting.


Whatever that future may hold, living in Newark on Trent, it is a fresh call from God. Whatever lies ahead for this wonderful Diocese it is about responding to God’s call, worshipping, witnessing and serving. For all that we do and are as disciples of Jesus is ‘by God’s mercy’. I have always found these words of Paul to the Corinthians inspiring for how I seek to live and serve. I have sought to conduct ministry openly. Accusations get made about church leaders, and perhaps especially bishops, about secrecy and lies. Now I am a frail, sinful, human being so I make no claim to have been perfect on this score. But I can honestly say that I have sought to ‘renounce the shameful things that one hides; I have refused to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word’. Sometimes our processes are so slow and convoluted they might well give a different impression. We make wrong calls. But from the heart I have sought to make an ‘open statement of the truth and I can commend myself to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God’. I know I have failed some, hurt some, angered some needlessly; for which I am sorry and ask forgiveness. But I have sought to minister as a servant of Jesus Christ.

Here is the core point. This ministry is never meant to be about me. It is why I find this kind of event so difficult. I have no desire to proclaim myself. I am not the good news. I am not the Saviour of the world – although the proneness to be tempted to think I am so, and indispensable, is always lurking close by. As it is with all leaders. No, the good news is God’s good news. The good news is Jesus Christ. So, however falteringly and stumblingly in word and life, what I have always wanted to do, and always wanted God’s church to do, is ‘not proclaim ourselves’ but ‘proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord’.

This is what the Church of England is for. This is what this Diocese and Cathedral exists for; to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. This is the ache of my heart for the children, young people and young adults of our nation that they hear and know about Jesus Christ. That they discover how precious they are as people made in the image of, and loved by God; people for whom Jesus Christ came, lived, died and rose again. I want them to discover that life in all its fullness is found in knowing Jesus Christ personally and living life for God, and not for themselves. Of course this is true for all. But how much better to discover this when young if at all possible.

Dear friends, sisters and brothers, ‘since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart’.



So now in drawing to a close I simply want to remind you all that God is faithful. He is the rock; the one under whose wings we can take refuge. We are often faithless, but God, who can never deny himself, remains faithful. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God called me as a teenager to follow Jesus and to give my life in service. The God who calls us is faithful and will sanctify us entirely and keep us blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As was sung before the start of the service

I love you, Lord, oh, your mercy never fails me

And all my days, I’ve been held in your hands …

All my life, You have been faithful

All my life, you have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God.

God’s faithfulness alone has enabled me to serve you as Bishop for these past 10 years. Rosemary and I step into a new adventure knowing God is good and faithful. As a Diocese know that God calls you and is good and faithful. God will not fail or forsake you.

First published on: 28th January 2024
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