The Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, continues to look to the future despite his impending retirement at the end of this month.
In a short final video interview with Diocesan Communications Manager, Ronnie Semley, Bishop Geoff talks of how pleased he is that the Diocese continues to move forward with Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.
Vision 2026 encourages parishes and church schools to make disciples, be witnesses and grow leaders for Jesus Christ and more than 80% of parishes now have a ‘Vision Champion’.
The Bishop has always been a strong advocate for ministry to children and young people, so he also takes the opportunity to encourage the Diocese to engage as much as possible with these age groups.
Bishop Geoff speaks further in a longer written retirement interview (see below) in which he expands on Vision 2026 and work with young people, as well as covering other topics as wide-ranging as increasing secularisation and safeguarding.
His official retirement service took place at Blackburn Cathedral in mid-July and he and his wife Jean will attend a smaller leaving service this Sunday at St James’, Shireshead.
Speaking in the video, available now on the Diocesan YouTube channel, Bishop Geoff says: “I want to thank God for the opportunity to minister and for the friendship and fellowship across the Diocese.
“But as we think about the future, I am pleased about the way the Diocese is gathering around Vision 2026. I think the role the Vision Champions in parishes play is crucial.
“But perhaps the priority I would like to leave with the Diocese is not to forget the focus on children and young people.
“In recent years, we have seen some great encouragements through confirmation camps; scriptural challenges and the development of various other ways of engaging with young people … but we need to do more.”
In the written interview below, Bishop Geoff expands further saying: “I would like the Church to focus more of its resources in actively reaching the hearts and minds of the younger generation growing up in this technology-obsessed age. We need to raise up a generation of gifted and inspired children to be leaders.”
The Bishop is looking forward to moving back to his native Liverpool with his wife Jean when he retires and he says his first priority (apart from decorating) is watching Mo Farah run the 10,000 metres in early August!
As he and his wife Jean head home to ’Scouseland’ to enjoy a well-earned retirement, the Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, talks to Mark Ashley about his time as Bishop and his hopes for the future of The Church of England in Lancashire ... and read some further personal reflections, written by Bishop Geoff himself, via the link at the close of this page.
You are never in any doubt that you are talking to a Scouser ... natives of Liverpool make sure their lineage is clear within the first minute or so of meeting them!
So it is with Bishop Geoff, the lad from Wavertree in the heart of that great seaport who, after a lifetime spent in the service of Christ and his Gospel, is heading for home (well, Rainhill to be exact) with his wife Jean to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
“I’m looking forward to living life at a slightly slower pace than the last few years,” he told me when we caught up at the Landmark Church in Preston, “I will be spending more time with my three children and four grandchildren and enjoying my sport!
Bishop Geoff, an ardent fan of his beloved Liverpool FC, also has a keen affection for athletics.
An athlete from his days at school in Merseyside, he was the West Yorkshire 800m champion in the mid-1970s whilst curate in Kirkheaton, Huddersfield - the year before the title was won by Sebastian, now Lord, Coe!
Bishop Geoff, like so many people responding to news of his retirement, is particularly grateful to Jean, his wife of 43 years, for her part in their ministry over the decades.
He says: “Jean has been a rock; 120% committed to our work of ministry in our marriage, and a great church leader and disciple in her own right.”
Jean’s ministry includes preaching, teaching and pastoral care for the clergy and their families, as well as her generous hospitality and leadership in organising retreats.
Bishop Geoff laughs as he recalls: “The Rev Canon John Hall in Fleetwood was heard to say: ‘The best thing about Bishop Geoff - his wife Jean!!’ I couldn’t agree with him more!”
The Bishop bows out formally on July 31st, after a service bidding him farewell at Blackburn Cathedral in mid-July, when he was joined by his fellow Bishops, colleagues from Blackburn Diocese, and clergy and parishioners from across the Diocese in Lancashire, as well as former church colleagues and friends from his previous roles in his long career in ministry.
So this is an ideal time to reflect on more than a decade as Bishop, a decade of so much change both in the Church and in our nation: “In the last ten years I have become acutely aware of the increasing secularisation of our communities and society in general.
“Those who oppose the beliefs and work of the Christian Church in our country have become more strident and challenging.
“Our work of ministry is becoming harder and so too is the challenge of growing new Churches in our communities and growing new believers.
“People are increasingly of the opinion that they can manage their way through life without any relationship or even understanding of God and his role in providing them with a full life,” he continues. “They are relying on their own, isolated strengths and missing out on this adventurous life they could have when close to God.”
Bishop Geoff welcomes the ongoing Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities strategy for the Diocese: “We have to be proactive as a church community to stem the tide of this secularisation, and Vision 2026 is equipping us with the right people and tools to fight for the Gospel in the next few years.”
The Bishop has a particular, personal, passion for ministry to the young: “Over the next few years I would like to see our Church focusing on bringing the joy of faith in Christ to our young people as much as possible and our Vision 2026 makes that clear as a priority.
Bishop Geoff adds: “There is an acute lack of knowledge in many families and communities of the love that God bears for us all.
“I would like the Church to focus more of its resources in actively reaching the hearts and minds of the young generation growing up in this technology-obsessed age. We need to raise up a generation of gifted and inspired children to be leaders.
“I am sometimes discouraged to hear of a poor welcome offered to children in some of our Churches, whether as families attending regular worship or as schools. In the future, we need to be totally welcoming of youngsters in our Church communities."
The Bishop has recently been encouraged however by the huge response to his Bible Challenge in the Diocese: 3000 young people took part in the initiative that started in October 2016, a number that he hopes will increase in the years ahead.
Also this year’s Confirmation Camp was over-subscribed with a number of young people missing out and he comments: “I hope that will be resolved in 2018 with a second Camp being organised.”
Bishop Geoff is unequivocal in his support for the proper safeguarding of children and young people in our Church families:
He says: “There must be right and proper provision for the safety of children from any form of abuse in any aspects of our life as a Christian community, and we need to make sure that all necessary steps are taken to make it easy for those with a calling to minister to young people to facilitate that commitment.
“At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the emphasis on avoiding all risk: The Boys Brigade unit that I was closely involved with as a parish vicar had a substantial membership, much of it enthusiastic about the edgy, outdoor activities we regularly took part in. There is a danger that we are taking all the challenges out of young peoples’ lives. So simple common sense should be a big factor as well.”
There are no regrets to report - but Bishop Geoff did offer a ‘missed opportunity’ to follow up on to his successor.
“I would have liked to have spent more time involved with our Lancashire universities, UCLan, Lancaster and Cumbria.
“There are many opportunities for ministry and discipleship in our educational institutions, and Christian organisations and staff and students who would benefit from involvement with the Diocese.“But I have been so grateful to God for the opportunity to preach the Gospel as Bishop of Lancaster across the Diocese over these last 11 years, and have received so many blessings in that time."
Posted by Ronnie Semley, July 24, 2017