Bishop Jonathan welcomed as new Bishop of Rochester

First published on: 22nd September 2022

The new Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, was officially welcomed and his ministry inaugurated at a special service of welcome at Rochester Cathedral on Saturday 24 September.

Bishop Jonathan leads the Church of England Diocese of Rochester, which serves a population of around 1.3 million people and covers 215 parishes across Medway, north and west Kent, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

He is the 108th Bishop of Rochester.

The service

The service, which was livestreamed on YouTube, was attended by civic dignitaries as well as representatives from across the Diocese.

It included several important and symbolic moments.

The service began with Bishop Jonathan knocking on the closed doors of the Cathedral and waiting to be welcomed in. On the other side, he was met by young people from Bennett Memorial School, who questioned him about who he was and the purpose of his ministry.

The Archbishop’s Mandate - a formal commission - was then presented and read aloud by the Chancellor – the legal judge for the Diocese – the Worshipful John Gallagher. 

Bishop Jonathan then made oaths of allegiance and faithfulness to the Church and the Diocese as he placed his hand on the Coverdale Bible, one of the treasures of the Cathedral’s Library.

Representatives of the Diocese then welcomed and prayed for the different aspects of Bishop Jonathan's ministry through the presentation of a series of gifts. These included a cup and saucer to represent his ministry of hospitality and a fruit tree to represent the imperative to respond to the climate crisis.

Bishop Jonathan was then placed in the bishop’s seat – the cathedra – by the Archdeacon of Canterbury who was representing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

After being anointed with oil to represent the blessing of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Jonathan then took up the Diocesan Crozier – a ceremonial staff – as the symbol of his authority and care in the Diocese.

Watch a short montage of the service or watch in full

Bishop Jonathan's sermon

Giving the sermon, Bishop Jonathan reflected on the ‘unprecedented times' we live in and how it is understandable to feel daunted by the challenges we face. He said, however, that we should be reassured that God will use whatever resources we have, and make it enough:

“The Church of Jesus Christ does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the kingdom of God – that is, for the sake of seeing God’s reign of righteousness and peace prevail in our world. 

“Now that can seem a daunting task when we feel that we have few resources – maybe in a small rural church or in a deprived urban parish, or wherever we find ourselves – and certainly the disciples may well have felt daunted when Jesus said to them as they looked at the huge crowd, “You give them something to eat!”

“But as on that day, Jesus takes what we have, blesses it and then asks us to share it out, to give of ourselves and our resources, generously and liberally, trusting that he will use what we give to feed the hungry and refresh the thirsty.”

He continued:

"This is the Calling of the Church in this Diocese, in all our parishes and communities: to put what we have in the hands of Jesus and to ask him to bless and multiply what we have given, so that the hungry may be fed in both body and soul, and discover more of the love of God for themselves.

"Precisely what that looks like and how we go about it will of course differ from place to place in this wonderfully diverse Diocese of ours, but whatever our situation, I believe we need to keep in mind the three priorities I outlined back in March and have re-stated in the order of service today: Grow – Change – Serve"

Messages from overseas

The service was attended by civic dignitaries, as well as representatives from across the family of the Diocese.

There were also messages from our overseas companion links, including from the Anglican Churches in the Diocese of Kondoa and Mpwapwa in Tanzania, Harare in Zimbabwe, and from our ecumenical partners in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia.

Watch the messages

The service ended with Bishop Jonathan going outside the Cathedral to bless the people and area of the Diocese.

Getting to know Bishop Jonathan

In a series of short filmed interviews available online, Bishop Jonathan reflects on some of the key influences and inspirations in his life, outlines some of his priorities as the new Bishop of Rochester, and also shares a particular message of encouragement to young people.

He also talks about his journey to faith. Watch the short film below.

Some of the questions were supplied by pupils from Trinity Church of England School, Belvedere, where Bishop Jonathan was revealed as the new Bishop in March.

More about Bishop Jonathan

Jonathan grew up in Cheshire and then studied at Jesus College, Oxford for his MA in Philosophy and Politics and Jesus College, Cambridge for a PhD on the Theology of Work.

He trained for ordained ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He served his curacy in the Diocese of Chester at Stalybridge, Holy Trinity and Christ Church from 1989 -92. He was Chaplain at Basle with Freiburg-im-Breisgau, in the Diocese of Europe from 1992 – 98 and was Rector of Heswall in the Diocese of Chester from 1998 until 2014.

Jonathan was consecrated as Bishop of Huddersfield in York Minster on 17 October 2014. He currently holds the national church portfolio of Lead Bishop for Safeguarding and will continue in that role until the end of March 2023, completing his three-year term.

He was formerly a member of the Clergy Discipline Commission and is a member of the General Synod and of the Meissen Commission, linking the Church of England with the Evangelical Church in Germany.

He is married to his wife Toni, and they have three grown-up children. His interests include walking, usually accompanied by their Cocker Spaniel, and rummaging in second-hand bookshops.

He is a fluent French speaker with a love of France. He also speaks German and Swiss-German.

He and his wife, who originally met when working in Paris, enjoy entertaining and making new friends. Jonathan is also a member of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Campaign for Real Ale, committed to supporting village and community life.

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