Bishop Mark to bid farewell
The Bishop of Shrewsbury has announced that he has chosen to leave his role for a return to parish ministry in Exeter Diocese.
The Right Revd Mark Rylands has served as the Area Bishop of Shrewsbury since October 2009 but has decided the time is right to move with his wife Mandy to the south-west where they have previously lived, served and have family.
The popular 56-year-old will continue as Bishop of Shrewsbury until July when there will be a special farewell service. He will then take up his new role as a Priest-in-Charge of the Ashburton and Moorland Team in Exeter Diocese, where he will also be an Assistant Bishop.
He said: “It has been a huge privilege to serve the people of Shropshire and Telford as the Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury. Working in the Diocese of Lichfield has been an enriching experience and I am grateful to Bishop Jonathan Gledhill for giving me this opportunity back in 2009. His wise and gentle leadership helped foster unity in a diverse diocese. I have also enjoyed working with Bishop Michael as he has introduced a challenging and compelling vision:inviting people to ‘come follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad’. Many in this country are not sure where Lichfield, Telford or Shropshire is. We are slightly off the beaten track, slightly unknown. However, I know that a lot of good comes out of these places – I have been fortunate enough to live and work with the people here. I have been blessed to experience the company of some excellent colleagues who are prepared to pull together for the sake of God’s Mission in our communities.
“It will be sad to leave. And for some it may seem a surprise move. But, for me, I have sensed God’s beckoning to serve as a parish priest again. For the last 16 years, as both diocesan missioner and area bishop, much of my ministry has been to encourage, challenge and help churches and church leaders to embody and share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the local community. I have heard God calling me now to ‘go and walk the talk’.
“I am acutely aware that I have a great deal to learn in becoming a parish priest and am not unaware of the challenges I face. However, I have a heart for rural mission and ministry and am greatly looking forward to getting to know the people of Ashburton and the Moorland Team in Exeter Diocese, to seeing where God will lead us. I am slightly daunted but also know that, where God calls, he also equips.
“Mandy, my wife, has been a wonderful companion and contributed hugely to the life of Lichfield Diocese. She has served in several posts over the last nine years, being willing to fill gaps and pick up ministry where needed.
“An ordained minister since 1985, Mandy retired last year and is now looking forward to being nearer her 90-year-old father and other members of the family in the South West.
“We are both very grateful for the friendship, kindness and love that we have received here in Shropshire, Telford and across the Lichfield Diocese. We feel we have been very lucky.
“Now we prepare for the adventure ahead on Dartmoor.”
Bishop Mark, who was ordained as a curate in Stockport in 1987, served as a Vicar in a multi-parish benefice in south Cheshire from 1991-7 and then as Team Rector in Bath and Wells Diocese from 1997-2002. He was Canon Missioner in Exeter from 2002-09 before becoming Bishop of Shrewsbury. His achievements as Bishop have included encouraging the growth of Messy Churches, including appointing a full-time Messy Church Adviser in 2010; helping set up Street Pastors in Telford and Shrewsbury; leading large deanery gatherings on Spirituality and Mission in the Shrewsbury Area; leading Church Mission Weekends across Shropshire and Telford; and overseeing Lichfield Diocese’s Mission, Ministry and Transforming Communities departments from 2010-2016. He currently chairs the Lichfield Diocesan Board of Education.
A passionate cricketer and angler, he has been a regular fixture in Lichfield Diocese’s cricket team since 2010 - reaching the Church Times Cricket Cup final several times and winning the trophy in 2010 - and managing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Cricket XI since 2014. He is also a trustee of the Farm Community Network and Chair of Melanesian Mission UK.
Mandy, a prebendary emeritus of Exeter Cathedral, has served in a variety of roles in Lichfield Diocese including as Prestfelde School Chaplain, Salop Area Adviser for the Ministry of Women, Diocesan Adviser for Self-Supporting Ministry, Assistant Priest at St Chad’s Shrewsbury, Assistant Rural Dean for Shrewsbury Deanery, Interim Priest for the Severn Loop parishes and Interim Diocesan Director of Ordinands.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “I know that the whole Diocese of Lichfield will want to join with me in wishing Bishop Mark and Mandy well as they return to Devon; but I know too how much they will be missed. Mark’s energy, enthusiasm and imagination are a great witness to so many of the joy and hope which life in Christ can bring. His care for the clergy and people of his episcopal area is exemplary, and has been a source of encouragement and inspiration. He is an utterly trustworthy, supportive and kind colleague to me and to all who share in the leadership of this diocese. Mandy’s gifts of discernment, pastoral care and kindness have enriched many lives. I look forward to sharing the next four months with Bishop Mark and Mandy before the lucky Diocese of Exeter receives the blessings of their ministry.”
Julie Jones, Lichfield Diocese’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Mark is one of the most personable characters I have had the pleasure of working with. His good humour, open heart, willingness to see the good in all situations and passion for his faith have endeared him to all of us and we will miss him.”
The Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven Paul Thomas, said: “It has been a privilege and a joy to work closely with Mark over the last seven years. Mark is an energetic and imaginative leader keen to encourage both clergy and congregations to develop outreach and service in their communities. He has made connections with people right across North Shropshire and his gregariousness, humour, love of life (not least sport!) and obvious interest in others' welfare have endeared him to a great many. Alongside Mark we have also benefited from Mandy's wisdom and experience of ministerial nurture. I pray they will find deep fulfilment in their new work whilst recognising that I and many others will miss them for a long time to come.”
The Revd Preb Chris Thorpe, Vicar of Shifnal, Sheriffhales and Tong, added: “Mark has shared with us his energy for the Gospel, opening up faith accessibly through his confident, lively rapport with people. He has been an outstanding Bishop and he will be greatly missed! Mark has brought clarity of purpose to his ministry here, giving a clear priority to mission and evangelism, with the vision and courage to support new initiatives. In this, he has resourced clergy and congregations across Shropshire, through his inspirational training and quiet days, as well as his personal support and encouragement. He has never lost the gifts and insight of a parish priest – and it is refreshing to know that he is returning to parish ministry with enthusiasm. We are deeply thankful for all Mark and Mandy have shared with us.”
The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Revd Robert Atwell, said: “We are all looking forward to welcoming Bishop Mark as Priest-in-Charge of the Ashburton and Moorland Team, and as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese. Mark brings an energy and life to everything he does which is infectious. It will be a delight to welcome him and Mandy back to Devon.”
The diocesan farewell service to Bishop Mark will take place in Shrewsbury on the evening of Tuesday 17 July. More details to follow.