Dr Lee Rayfield is the new Bishop of Swindon. His official welcome to the town took place just a week and a half after being consecrated at St Paul's Cathedral.
Before I write about the 'big do' at Christ Church in Old Town, which took place on the evening of Saturday 18th June 2005, let's look at some facts and figures.
Bishop Lee Facts and Figures
Bishop Lee is also a scientist, having worked in immunology, and has an active interest in gene therapy. He likes movies (especially the Matrix) and sport including running and golf (his handicap is 28).
Hailing from Maidenhead, after being a vicar and Area Dean for Maidenhead and Windsor for 7 years, he comes to the town with his wife Liz and three children; Matt, Simon and Louise.
According to Bishop Lee his current living conditions are more in keeping with those of a student rather than a high ranking church leader:
"I've a sofa bed, a kettle, a television and some sundries."
But he's here at last and is glad to be here and his first impressions of the town were positive:
"It strikes me as a very pleasant place, there's a lot of good housing, a lot of good amenities. I think the town has an awful lot going for it."
|"I really should have an 'L' for learner, because we are all, always learning..."|
Using his experience, his connections and his name Bishop Lee says he'll try to help support and back the clergy, churches and people in those churches on a local level within the Bristol Diocese. And it's not just Swindon that he'll be looking after but the area spreading across North Wiltshire right over to the edges of Bristol.
Christ Church Welcoming Ceremony
Christ Church was packed for the welcoming ceremony. Hundreds of people poured into the pews to watch this relatively informal event, despite the importance of the evening and the importance of some of the high ranking church officials present.
The church was warm, as the day had been, but that didn't seem to bother any of the parishioners, members of the laity, clergy and officials from the town who were all packed into the pews like sardines.
Often, time can drag at large events like this but it's a testimony to the organisers that everything went so smoothly and as a result the two hours spent inside went very quickly.
One of the highlights for me was when a few youngsters, from Christ Church, presented the Bishop with welcome gifts. Gifts including an A to Z (just in case he gets lost), a map and photo of the famous Magic Roundabout, a Swindon Town FC scarf and a green 'P' on a white plastic square, often used for new drivers.
To his credit he wore it around his neck for the rest of the service:
"I really should have an 'L' for learner, because we are all, always learning."
But then Bishop Lee does have a sense of humour. In the original job description, for the post, the last part insists that the applicant must have just that and he fits the description. In fact he said when it's his time to meet God he'll say one of many things to him; why wasn't there a verse in the bible which said; "Jesus laughed his sandals off."