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Young people take centre stage at bishop’s installation
IN the moments before Bishop Jonathan strode into our cathedral as the tenth Bishop of Portsmouth, 15-year-old Christina Barnard whispered some comforting words to him.
It was an apt illustration of Bishop Jonathan’s vision that God can use this emerging generation to help lead more mature Christians deeper into faith. It was a point that was reinforced throughout his installation service and to which he returned in his sermon.
Around 500 churchgoers, civic dignitaries, community representatives and guests packed our cathedral for this special service, at which the Rt Rev Jonathan Frost was formally welcomed to our diocese. He was officially placed in his ‘seat’ in the cathedral, dressed in his bishop’s robes, mitre and cross, and handed the bishop’s crozier that had been placed on the cathedral altar by his predecessor Bishop Christopher.
You can relive the whole of the installation service on our Youtube channel here.
Bishop Jonathan had chosen children and young people to play major roles throughout the service. Young singers from Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, our pioneering Choir Church project, and the Cathedral Sing school workshops sang beforehand and throughout. And Charter Academy students Christina Barnard and Areen Saeed processed in and out of the cathedral alongside him, and helped him to robe. Christina read a responsive Psalm, and Areen spoke the words reminding Bishop Jonathan that he was first and foremost a child of God.
“It was magical,” said Christina afterwards. “It was really spiritually overwhelming and so special. It was such an important day, and it was great to be able to talk to Bishop Jonathan beforehand and to tell him that this was the Lord's day, and we should rejoice in it. I was so happy and honoured to experience this beside him.”
Areen, who is 14, was a last-minute replacement for head boy Oren Campbell who had tested positive for Covid. He said: “This has been the biggest honour of my life. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be involved. I feel sorry for Oren, but it felt like a gift from God that I was able to take over. I’ve never felt as spiritual in my life, and God was guiding us through this ceremony.”
The installation service began with Bishop Jonathan outside the cathedral’s west doors in a simple white robe, with Christina, Areen and representatives from his previous role in York Minster. As Bishop Jonathan walked in with Christina and Areen to be presented to the Dean, some of the singers lined the aisle. Bishop Jonathan then declared his Christian beliefs and made vows to HM the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Our commissary bishop, Bishop Rob Wickham, anointed Bishop Jonathan’s forehead with oil, after which Christina and Areen brought him his bishop’s cross, his robes and his mitre. He was then taken to the bishop’s seat and placed in it by the acting Archdeacon of Canterbury, on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As this happened, the three choirs sang a special composition, The Heaven of Heavens, written especially for Choir Church by Richard Shephard, shortly before his death. He had been Chamberlain at York Minster, where Bishop Jonathan had recently served.
The trumpets of HM’s Royal Marines sounded a fanfare before Areen declared that Bishop Jonathan should remember that he is a child of God. The newly-installed bishop was then greeted by dignitaries and community leaders, including the Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the Archbishop of Ghana, and the Chaplain of the Fleet.
Christina led a responsorial Psalm, and children held lit candles as the Rev Rajiv Sidhu, curate at St Mary’s Church, Fratton, read the gospel reading, about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Bishop Jonathan then used this as the text of his sermon.
“The disciple Andrew felt overwhelmed by the task of feeding these people – he had a huge need in front of him,” said Bishop Jonathan. “There is an ocean of need in front of us too. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we pray for the people of Ukraine; when we look at the poverty – even in our city – that stifles opportunity and snatches life from so many; when we look at the plight of our planet. But the unnamed boy in this story returns us to the ‘Kingdom of God perspective’. He is close enough to Jesus to respond when his moment comes. He trusted Jesus enough to give all he had, without embarrassment, without shame, in the simplicity of trust – and 5,000 were fed.
“As adults, we can often see the scale of the problem, the lack of resources or that there’s not enough time, energy or faith. This boy tells us to offer what we can: take the next step of faith and trust, and discover what this genius, this beauty, this radiance can do in our midst. This is a call in which we go together, in prayer, in courage, in bold acts of loving service. We can join in on that journey because we are ‘enough’ in the kingdom. We are loved, we are known, we are called, and have purpose and meaning that we find in serving Christ and in serving one another.”
After the prayers, Bishop Jonathan was then handed his bishop’s crozier by Debbie Sutton, the lay chair of our Diocesan Synod. It was Debbie who had received the crozier from Bishop Christopher Foster at his farewell service in April 2021 and laid it on the altar. Now she took it from the altar and placed it into Bishop Jonathan's hands.
Applause then rang out as the newly-installed Bishop of Portsmouth processed through the cathedral and out of the west doors, with Christina, Areen, and children from their three choirs alongside and behind him. They headed for the outskirts of Cathedral Green, with the entire congregation joining them outside. After another fanfare from HM Royal Marines, Bishop Jonathan then blessed the city of Portsmouth and the Diocese of Portsmouth.
The next day, Bishop Jonathan preached at an Isle of Wight welcome service in St Mary's Church, Cowes, which was attended by clergy, churchgoers and community representatives. Area dean the Rev Steve Daughtery led Evensong, after which there was a chance for worshippers to meet the new bishop.
Bishop Jonathan’s new role will involve him leading the Church of England’s Diocese of Portsmouth, which covers 133 parishes across south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. His previous role was as Dean of York. Before that he worked in the Guildford diocese, and then as Bishop of Southampton.
Among his priorities are prayer and spirituality, evangelism, discipleship, and working alongside others to tackle the scandal of poverty. He has already stressed the importance of tackling the epidemic of mental health issues among young people and how vital it is to work towards climate justice. Jonathan is married to Christine, an integrative child psychotherapist. They have three adult children.
He had been announced as the tenth Bishop of Portsmouth last October, while he visited Charter Academy and other church and community projects in our diocese. And he was formally confirmed in that role by the Archbishop of Canterbury in January, at a service in London.