The Right Revd Mark Rylands bid farewell to the diocese last night, saying it had been a 'huge privilege' to serve as Bishop of Shrewsbury for nine years.
The popular 56-year-old announced in March that he had chosen to leave his role for a return to parish ministry in the south-west where he and his wife Mandy have previously lived, served and have family.
He will take up a new role as a Priest-in-Charge of the Ashburton and Moorland Team in Exeter Diocese, where he will also be an Assistant Bishop.
During the farewell service at Shrewsbury Abbey, tributes were paid to both Mandy and Bishop Mark by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave; the Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven Paul Thomas; Diocesan Director of Vocations Dr Lindsey Hall and the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire Sir Algernon Heber-Percy
In his final address as Bishop of Shrewsbury, Bishop Mark spoke on Jonah and Peter (Acts 11):
"The main characteristics of being a disciple are continued learning and obedience to Gods call - obedience to witness in our own way and through the character and gifts God has given us (not by trying to be someone else); to witness to the love of God as seen in Jesus Christ. This is not something that we can keep to ourselves.
Two weeks this evening, I will be licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Ashburton and the Moorland team Ministry on Dartmoor. I am praying that I may learn these lessons:
- Be obedient to my calling as a disciple of Jesus
- Be obedient in witnessing to the love of God seen in Jesus Christ
- Be prepared to be used in Gods purposes
- Expect to be surprised in who God reaches as I try to be faithful to that calling.
It has been a huge privilege to serve here in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Lichfield Diocese as Bishop of Shrewsbury. I am going to miss you…a lot. Mandy and I are so grateful for your kindness, friendship and love. We have been so lucky these past nine years.
I would like to finish with a prayer of St Ignatius Loyola. It is really for myself but maybe, as I pray, you might like to let the words echo in your heart and mind and make it your prayer, too:
Lord, take over all the
remaining years of my life;
all that I am and all that I possess.
It is you who have given them;
To you I give them back entire.
From now on to your service I surrender them.
Give me, in return, deep love for you and,
With it, give your gracious Spirit.
Then am I rich enough and ask no more'."
Now that the diocese has bid a fond farewell to Bishop Mark, in the autumn the process will begin to appoint a new Area Bishop of Shrewsbury. This will be the responsibility of the Bishop of Lichfield as diocesan bishop. Bishop Michael will be appointing a small advisory group to assist him in the process; this will include people from the Shrewsbury Episcopal Area, the wider diocese and a national representative from another diocese, and will be supported by the Archbishops Secretary for Appointments.
The first task of the group will be to make the case for filling the vacancy, both in terms of the support of pastoral ministry in the northern part of Shropshire and Telford, and in terms of a new area bishops diocesan-wide responsibilities. With the support of Diocesan Synod, this will be presented to the national Dioceses Commission at their November meeting; when approval to proceed with filling the see is received, a role specification will be drawn up.
In early 2019, the group will work with the Bishop of Lichfield to identify suitable candidates. Bishop Michael said: "We will be looking for experienced priests who are ready for episcopal ministry; who have the right qualities and gifts for the Shrewsbury Episcopal Area; whose appointment would bring good balance to the team of bishops in the diocese; and, most importantly, who have a strong sense of calling to the role of Bishop of Shrewsbury. I am grateful to the many people who have already brought names to my attention, and I am always open to suggestions. Most of all, the members of the advisory group and I will value prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this very important process."
When the discernment of an appropriate candidate is completed, approval of the nomination will be sought from the Crown, and a consecration date identified. It is unlikely that the new Bishop of Shrewsbury will begin his or her ministry in Shropshire before the summer of 2019. In the meantime, Bishop Michael will aim to devote a larger proportion of his time to the Shrewsbury Episcopal Area, working closely with the Archdeacon of Salop and with the rural deans and lay chairs of the area.