Bishop Donald returned from his fourth trip to Korea at the end of September. On this trip he was accompanied by three priests from across our diocese and a member of his office staff. Bishop Donald said that he was looking for parishes from this diocese which had shown an interest in exploring overseas links. He then gave a brief sketch of the parishes to the folk in Korea to see if they could set up some links. This was the first step in establishing a possible link with a Korean counterpart.
In order for the links to work, it was important that each community had similar backgrounds. For example, a parish in Korea with many students could be linked with a parish in Peterborough where students from Anglia Ruskin University live. Similarly, a very urban parish in Seoul could be linked with a correspondingly urban parish in Northampton.
Bishop Donald said, “I tried to find one thing in each of the parishes which would help them gel quite quickly.”
After the links had been identified, the three priests from this diocese, Lee FrancisDehquani from Oakham, Ian Holdsworth from Far Cotton and Greg Roberts from All Saints in Peterborough met with their opposite numbers from Seoul. They spent the weekend in the host parishes and their activities included preaching on the Sunday. Now that this initial contact has been made, the priests from Peterborough have come back to discuss potential links with their PCCs.
Bishop Donald stressed that it was important for each of the parishes to make their own decisions about links at the local level.
“I told them to take this back to their church and talk about how this link might work. It will take a while to sort it out, talking with the PCC and others. I’m not telling them what to do.”
The Bishop explained that having established the preliminary contact he will now allow things to take their course. “It’s a creative process and it’s totally out of my hands. We’ve planted three seeds and put some fertilizer in there. There’s hope that something will grow but we don’t know yet what that might be: it might be a bush, a flower or a tree.”
He stressed that the link is not about personalities; it is about the relationship between the churches. This is why it is important for PCCs and parishes to be involved rather than merely a vicar-to-vicar link. When the link is with a whole parish, if a vicar moves on the relationship can still continue.
While in Korea the bishop also visited the two dioceses of Daejeon and Busan, which, together with Seoul, make up the province of Korea. They are significantly smaller than the diocese of Seoul and not big enough to sustain an overseas link on their own but would like to join the link with the diocese of Peterborough. Our link with the diocese of Seoul is therefore going to be enlarged to include all three dioceses in province of Korea.
Bishop Donald said, “Our link will be expanding a bit. I got to know the other two bishops better – they are very good men. If they came over to England they would be very welcome.”
Since his return from Korea, the diocese of Seoul has elected a new bishop: the former Dean of Seoul, Peter Lee. Arrangements are in hand for Bishop Peter’s consecration and inauguration.