Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Departures and Arrivals

7th Apr 2020

An Easter message from The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

"Easter, and perhaps especially Eastertide through to the feast of Pentecost, is always a season of departures and arrivals. The desolation of Good Friday seems to be about Jesus leaving us. Easter day is about surprising arrival. The feast of the Ascension, though a great triumph, also has Jesus departing into heaven. The great feast of Pentecost, with which Eastertide concludes, is the arrival of the Holy Spirit whereby Jesus is with us in a new and unconstrained way, equally available to everyone.

As I write this, I am feeling the pull of arrivals and departures rather keenly. It isn’t going to be easy leaving the Chelmsford diocese. I have loved being your bishop. Essex is the county I grew up in. It will always be home, and I have been privileged to serve as bishop at such exciting times

 - not just the Olympic Games coming to the diocese in 2012, nor even our glorious centenary celebrations in 2014 where both the Queen one week and the Archbishop of Canterbury the next visited the diocese, but the drive, faithfulness and creativity that has been put into trying to reshape the church for mission. Our vision is that the Church might be a transforming presence, better able to serve the communities of East London and Essex, and demonstrating the love of Christ by our witness and service. Serving as Bishop of Chelmsford at such a time has been a huge privilege. Saying goodbye is going to be hard.

"However the coronavirus epidemic that we are living through makes that goodbye even harder. I don’t just mean the personal sadness that all my farewell events have had to be cancelled, but the uncertainty that all of us are feeling. This doesn’t feel like a good time for the captain to be leaving the bridge.

"But the diocese is in good hands. Until a new diocesan bishop is appointed later this year, Bishop Peter will take my place. Our bishops, archdeacons and diocesan staff are doing a brilliant job. There is lots of help and advice available on our website.

"And perhaps the other things to say, is that the uncertainty and fearfulness we feel at the moment are the very things that Mary Magdalene felt when she went, on her own, self-isolated, to the tomb on the first Easter morning. Even though she didn’t recognise him, Jesus spoke to her sadness, asking her why she was weeping; and  re-directed her life, asking her who she was looking for; and then, in speaking her name, assured her that in the midst of fear and uncertainty God was with her.

As I say goodbye to this diocese and as I prepare myself for challenging new adventures,   I am aware that this is always the pattern of the gospel. God is always with us in our troubles, but God is also leading us on.

“Do not cling to me.”  says Jesus to Mary, (John 20.17). Which I suppose also means for us: don’t expect to ever have all the answers; don’t imagine you can control or constrain me or even completely understand me. My right time is rarely your right time. There is always more.

"May God bless you this Easter with a new knowledge of his love for you and his purpose for your life. And may God lead us through this time of isolation and waiting to new adventures and to resurrection life."




The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford