Dean’s reflection – our new bishop just installed.

On Saturday we welcome our new bishop, Richard Jackson. Bishop Richard is the 106th bishop of Hereford and enters into a long tradition, dating back to 676, when the first bishop, Putta came to Hereford. Each bishop brings his or her own gifts to a diocese and as we look back in history, we see different qualities in each.

Today, I’m thinking about the 46th bishop, Richard Swinfield, who was bishop 1283-1317. Why him? Because he was a bishop who knew all about ‘waiting’ and I sense that for us all this is a ‘waiting time’.

But first, an image to raise a smile! It’s part of a memorial to a relative of Richard Swinfield, John Swinfield, who was Precentor, in the late 13th century. His memorial is decorated with piglets, swine – a pun on his name – Swinfield.   Children love to count the piglets, running round the archway, each piglet in his coat, adorned with the shield of the dean of Hereford!

Richard Swinfield, the bishop, succeeded his master, Thomas Cantilupe in 1283, and set about a campaign to have his master canonised - made a saint -  in recognition of his holiness and he large number of miracles which had taken place at his tomb.  Some saints were ‘fast-tracked’.  Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in Canterbury cathedral in 1170, was made a saint within three years of his death. But for Thomas Cantilupe, it came so much more slowly. Richard Swinfied patiently worked with successive popes, kings, cardinals, to make his case. Eventually, in 1317, 35 years after Cantilupe’s death, he was made a saint. And so much of this was due to Swinfield’s patient waiting and watching.

All of us are waiting and watching at the moment. Many of us are confined to our homes, having to endure the present difficulties patiently. Many of us are waiting – waiting for news of loved ones – waiting for news of how our lives will be affected in the coming weeks. Perhaps this story of Richard, and his piglets, will raise a smile - but will also encourage us in our own waiting and watching.

I remember, many years ago, when a boy, a wise teacher giving me this prayer when I was being impatient!

O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same to the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake  1540-96