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New Bishop of Durham enjoys interesting wedding anniversary
BISHOP Paul Butler was as good as his word when he said he wanted to get out and about meeting people on the ground.
He concluded a busy first day with a relaxed visit to St Mary's, the 900-year-old parish church of Barnard Castle, during which the gathering of clergy and well-wishers got to know their bishop designate a litter better.
Bishop Paul and his wife, Rosemary, celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on Wednesday and he told those at St Mary's his introduction day had been “a very interesting way to celebrate.”
At least the couple were spending the day together this time - for the past two years meetings of the College of Bishops had coincided with their anniversary.
“It is very nice to be physically in the same place,” he said.
Mrs Butler said despite the busy schedule, it had been an enjoyable tour of their new patch.
“It has been a good introduction to the diocese – it is all new to me,” she said. It transpired neighbouring Swaledale is as close as she's come in the past.
The couple have four children. Caroline, the eldest at 28, is an archaeologist based in London.
David, 26, is training to be an accountant, also based in London; 24-year-old Andrew is a reporter with BBC Radio Nottingham and 19-year-old Sarah is a student nurse.
The move from Nottingham to Durham promises to be more straightforward than some previous relocations, said Mrs Butler – no schools involved this time.
For those welcoming Bishop Paul, it had also been something of a strange day.
Like everyone else, Canon Alec Harding, vicar of St Mary's, only found out exactly who he would be greeting once the announcement had been made in London that morning.
“I had no knowledge who it was, just that an announcement was likely to be made made,” he said.
Canon Harding had been asked earlier in the week to make the church available and that the new bishop wanted to meet as many people as possible.
“But I had to keep this under my hat.”
Former Bishop of Durham Dr David Jenkins greets the new incumbent
He said he wasn't too sure why St Mary's had been chosen, but was “absolutely chuffed” the church was playing such a leading role in Bishop Paul's announcement day.
“The Durham diocese is made up of some quite wide extremes. I suppose Barnard Castle being in a rural area shows we are not all industry and mass population and that there is another side to the diocese.
“St Mary's is an important church in this part of the diocese and they know they will get a warm welcome here,” added Canon Harding.
It was quite a surprise for a group of children from Green Lane CE Primary School, who turned out at short notice to meet Bishop Paul.
“But as always, we are ready for anything Rev Alec wants us to do,” said head teacher Paula Ford.
The small group of pupils who met their new bishop had been briefed as to what was going on. The rest of the school was having to wait until collective worship today (Friday).
First impressions of Bishop Paul were favourable.
Mrs Ford said: “It was really nice for him to get down to their level – he is quite a tall person.
“He seems to know all about how schools are run and the things they are learning.”
Others on hand to welcome Bishop Paul included one of his predecessors, Dr David Jenkins who held the post from 1984 to 1994.
Now 88, Dr Jenkins, lives in the town and counts St Mary's as his local church.
Bishop Paul concluded his visit by leading prayers and promising to be a familiar face around the diocese.
“My initial priority is to get to know the area so I will be out and about visiting communities – I just don't promise to be in four different communities every day,” he joked.
Bishop Butler shares the stage in Durham Cathedral with wife, Rosemary, and revealed it was their 31st wedding anniversary on Wednesday
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