The Right Reverend Paul Butler today (Friday February 21) formally entered his new Diocese ahead of his inauguration of public ministry, enthronement and installation as Bishop of Durham, which takes place in a service at Durham Cathedral tomorrow (Saturday 22nd February). Bishop Paul took part in the historic welcome to the Diocese on Croft Bridge near Darlington then attended a joint Darlington Deanery and Darlington Borough Council Civic Reception at St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington. The traditional welcoming of the Bishop into the Diocese over the River Tees at Croft took place at noon and was attended by local and church dignitaries, watched by a large crowd of well-wishers. Bishop Paul was accompanied by members of his family. Mayor of Darlington Councillor Charles Johnson presented a falchion to the Bishop as part of the ceremony, which dates back to Medieval times when Sir John Conyers is said to have slain a dragon or “worm” that was terrorising the district. Conyers, apparently wearing a blade studded suit of armour, slew the dragon with his falchion. The encounter is described in the Bowe’s Manuscript in the British Library and the falchion is on public display in the treasury of Durham Cathedral. As Sockburn was the most southerly point in the Durham diocese, the sword was ceremonially presented by the Lord of the Manor to each new Bishop of Durham when he entered his diocese for the first time at the local ford or the nearby bridge. This custom died out in the early nineteenth century, but was revived by Bishop Jenkins in 1984. Addressing the audience during his visit to the Academy following the ceremony, Bishop Paul said: “It is indeed a huge honour to be called to serve all the people of this Diocese as its 74th bishop; simply saying 74th is a little scary without even thinking of many of the names of those who have gone before. “You will, I trust, understand why alongside excitement and anticipation there is not a little nervousness and knee knocking at the thought of the responsibilities I now undertake.” Reiterating his determination to lead the Church as it tackles issues such as poverty, he added: “I want to be someone who seeks the welfare of the community, someone who both does good and who encourages them to do good as well. We all know that there are many challenges faced by our communities – unemployment is far too high, poverty is a reality for too many children, families and elderly people. This poverty is not simply economic it is social and spiritual too. So together, and it can only be effective together, we will have to seek to confront these evils. “Alongside these concerns we know there are many great people in this region. Together as a region, we contribute hugely to our nation’s wealth and well-being economically, culturally, socially and spiritually. There are fabulous projects working alongside those in all kinds of need. We know that leaders in local government, industry, schools, colleges, community organisations and services like police, fire and ambulance are working tirelessly for the good of the whole community. “I promise to play my part by speaking up for the region nationally where I am able to do so; working alongside local leaders, encouraging churches to engage fully and, I hope, by stirring individuals to action.” At the Academy, he signed Darlington’s Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Book, which has been signed by many of his predecessors on their official arrival in the Diocese. During the visit, he also answered questions, light-hearted and serious, from three local young people; Bronte Raeburn-Prouse and Helen McKittrick (both St Laurence’s Church, Middleton St George) and Katie Richardson (St Matthew’s, Darlington). Earlier in the day, he had spoken about his determination to help children and young people achieve their dreams. He said: “One of my deepest concerns is for children and young people. How do we raise the aspirations of children and young people? “Far too many children and young people feel there is no hope for them at far too young an age. We must create opportunities for them and that is something in which everyone must be involved.”
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