'I have come to appreciate people of this area'
THE Bishop of Grimsby, the Rt Rev David Rossdale, is following in the footsteps of The Archbishop of Canterbury and retiring at the end of the year.
Bishop David, who celebrates his 60th birthday next year, has held responsibility for appointments, pastoral care and development of clergy in the northern half of the Lincoln Diocese for 12 years.
He has been responsible for 376 parishes stretching from Newton-on-Trent in the west to near Skegness in the south – a congregation spread over 1,300 square miles.
Bishop David said he had received a kind letter from The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams wishing him well in retirement.
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As reported, the Archbishop made his historic visit two years ago and paved the way for St James' Church to become a Minster.
Bishop David said: "One of the things he mentioned in the letter was his visit to Grimsby and how much he enjoyed it and how it stuck in his memory."
He added: "When I was appointed Bishop of Grimsby, it was a town I was yet to discover. Year on year, I have come to appreciate the people and the community and its enterprise.
"That has been a particular joy to me and provided me with so many opportunities in my work as Bishop.
"Over the years I have witnessed many challenges that have come to me in North East Lincolnshire, not least has been the downturn in the economy.
"I am encouraged by the way the community has responded to this. It has also been a fascinating time in the life of the church, having to adapt, and the changing way people express their faith.
"Whilst regular churchgoers continue to support, many have a different pattern of expressing their faith, and in many conversations I have had show that there is an underlying faith, strong in the community and important in people's lives.
"The art of being a minister is how to meet the needs of that faith particularly when people want to express it at times of celebration and sorrow."
The Bishop said North East Lincolnshire is not as secular as many claim it is.
He said: "I have had positive engagement with local councillors, MPs and officers and I have been encouraged as to how many see faith as an important part within the life of the area."
He highlighted the growing migration of people from different countries and faiths into the area, particularly from Eastern European and Muslim countries.
He said: "There has been increasing diversity in the nature of the population. I believe that has enriched the life of the community immensely.
"Also distinctive is the way the churches in North East Lincolnshire have worked strongly together to serve the community.
"I have particularly enjoyed my patronage of St Andrew's Hospice in Grimsby and the Shalom Youth Project which have been distinctive contributors to the life of the town."
He also played a key role in the fundraising for The Blue Cross Animal Hospital for Grimsby.
He said an abiding memory will be the large number of relationships he has established in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham.
He said: "I have always valued the visit by The Archbishop of Canterbury which gave me the opportunity to join him on a visit to the fish docks.
"When St James' Church became a Minster for the area, it offered its potential as a place of Christian hospitality and service to the whole community."
He said the repatriation of servicemen to the area, having died in war zones, was also an abiding memory of the strength and cohesion of the area.
He said: "In contrast, there were many celebrations of how people have flourished through education and developed opportunities to shape their future.
"Over the years, I have particularly enjoyed supporting clergy in developing their own ministry.
"The advice I have always given is they should take responsibility for their vocation and not wait for the ministry. It is time to take my own advice and I am taking the step of taking retirement and hope to be able to discover new ways to serve God's mission and I hope to be able to keep in contact with people in the town."
Bishop David will continue as an assistant bishop in the diocese and he will be moving to a new home in the Spilsby area with his wife Karen. He will have next year as a sabbatical.
There is expected to be a service of thanksgiving later in the year.
He looked back at the development of St James' Church as a Minster in 2010.
He said : "We deliberately resisted the idea of having a weighty report on how it would work. It was an opportunity to be shaped by the people who lead it and use it. I hope it will be a constantly evolving place of Christian witness in the town.
"One of the key things will be the way in which the fabric of the town is developed in the years to come and the way in which the town centre will embrace the Minster. This will lead and help shape this vision."
He foresees a greater role for lay leadership as fewer full-time priests become available to meet the needs of parishes.
Bishop David, who said the support for St Andrew's Hospice was a classic example of the community coming together, said: "As a Londoner moving to Grimsby, I was particularly impressed with how cohesive the area is. Sometimes we do not recognise what a good community it is."
He has also been central to the strategic direction of the Diocese as a member of the Bishop of Lincoln's consultative staff and as a member of Diocesan Synod and Diocesan Council.
The Bishop is also the chair of the Diocesan Board of Education, shaping the direction of Church Schools across the Diocese of Lincoln.
He will remain a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral and a Trustee of the St Lawrence Academy, which is sponsored by the Diocese.
Paying tribute to the work of Bishop David, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend Christopher Lowson, said: "David's energy, his pastoral care of the benefices in his care, and his excellent strategic leadership of the work of the Diocese's Education Department have served the Diocese well over 12 years, and I'm delighted that he will continue to offer a ministry to the region in retirement."