The congregation at Croydon Minster, Croydon’s parish church for more than a century, has a new vicar this Sunday, following a formal service this week.
Canon Andrew Bishop was named as the new priest-in-charge at the Minster by the Diocese of Southwark in May, after a two-year hiatus following the retirement of Canon Colin Boswell.
With wide-ranging responsibilities, during Boswell’s 21 years in post the Vicar of Croydon was a position that was a widely respected and recognised as an important civic, as well as religious, figure in the borough.
Not that you will have known that looking along the pews at the Minster for Canon Bishop’s licensing service on Monday evening.
Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, Croydon Council’s £200,000 per year chief executive, was expected to attend, but inexplicitly failed to make an appearance.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour-run council, was also missing, as was Tim Pollard, the leader of the Conservatives on the council.
Indeed, considering that the Church of England was once regarded as “the Conservative Party at prayer”, it might be seen as shockingly disrespectful that there was not a single elected Tory councillor present for this solemn ceremony.
Even the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Bernadette Khan, didn’t manage to make it to the Minster, and instead she was represented by the Deputy Mayor, Humayun Kabir.
The Minster is understood to have sent out 70 invitations, one to each of Croydon’s elected councillors, to attend the special service.
In the event, only Kabir and four other councillors bothered to show up.
Councillors are not usually so reluctant to attend ceremonial events – after all, the annual Mayor Making at the Town Hall, a preposterous ceremony of equivalent vacuousness, usually always has a full house.
Maybe the free drinks in the Mayor’s Parlour are more free-flowing?
Perhaps, in Negrini and Newman’s race to over-develop the borough and gentrify the town centre, the role of the Minster in the daily life of Croydon has been forgotten by the well-paid fat cats who inhabit Fisher’s Folly?
Or maybe Negrini is just plain rude?
They missed what the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Christopher Chessum, called “a joyful beginning”.
As well as Chessun, the Bishop of Croydon, Jonathan Clark, was there, as was Colonel Ian McRobbie, the Lord Lieutenant of Croydon (yes, we have one of them, too), plus representatives from Westfield, the Whitgift Foundation, the Elis David almshouses, the Croydon Nightwatch charity and figures from other religions and churches in the borough.
The arrival as Vicar of Canon Bishop (yes, with that name and titles, this could all get most confusing) coincides with the announcement of a departure from the Minster.
Old time Music Hall enthusiast Father Lee Anthony has held the fort, as it were, since Boswell’s departure, his time in charge as “associate vicar” including seeing him taking his vestments and church equipment down Surrey Street to perform a beer blessing in the Dog and Bull pub.
Father Anthony is leaving Croydon to take up a vicar’s appointment somewhere unpronounceable in North Wales.
Apparently, it is where they stage a vast international music festival, an annual eisteddfod, and which is also renowned for having as many pubs as it has chapels. Iechyd da!
That should keep him busy.
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