New bishop in pilgrim’s progress

IT was smiles all round when the new Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, made Luton his first stop on a mini pilgrimage – less than 24 hours after his service of consecration at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The visit, to meet Luton mayor councillor Syd Knight and the town’s faith leaders, started with prayers at St Mary’s and culminated 18 hours later at St Paul’s in Bedford.

The Bishop was accompanied by his wife Helen, a professor of engineering.

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They travelled by train to Leagrave before following part of the Bunyan Trail on foot. This connects significant mile stones in the life of Bedfordshire-born John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The father-of-three was delighted to include a rail trip in his travels and said: “For many people, a daily journey on a train connects them with their work. For others, train are for leisure.

“I hope that by taking the train today, I am making a connection with the journey they make through their lives.

“All our journeys have an origin and a destination and can be lived on the ‘right lines.’ “Whatever our background and faith, we are able to travel together while minimising our impact on the earth’s resources.”

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The 53-year-old former Archdeacon of Leicester takes over the Diocese of St Albans at a time when a BBC survey revealed that more than 80 per cent of the population want the Queen to remain Defender of the Faith.

He said: “Even though John Bunyan was imprisoned for being a Non-Conformist, we can nowadays celebrate both the Church of England and Bunyan as expressing the diversity that we celebrate in our communities and churches.”

He has adopted the 17th Century preacher’s philosophy by having the words ‘To be a pilgrim’ inscribed on his Pectoral cross, traditionally worn round the neck of high ranking clergy.

He explained: “I am passionate about the Church’s capacity to change all lives and communities for the better. I am committed to speaking up for the marginalised, poor and vulnerable. I pay tribute to the work being done all over the Diocese of St Albans, but especially in Luton and Bedfordshire.”

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A church spokesman said the Bishop’s journey was a powerful message of commitment.

He added: “He wants to connect with the Christian community, present and past, as well as being visible to everyone in the places he visits.”

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