Bishop says farewell to diocese

SUFFOLK'S senior bishop will say his farewell to the diocese at a special service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Sunday.Rt Rev Richard Lewis has been bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich since 1997 and officially steps down at the end of this month.

By Paul Geater

SUFFOLK'S senior bishop will say his farewell to the diocese at a special service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Sunday.

Rt Rev Richard Lewis has been bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich since 1997 and officially steps down at the end of this month.

But Sunday's service is his formal farewell to clergy and church members, over the next few weeks he will be tidying up and leaving his office ready for his successor.

The new diocesan bishop, Rt Rev Nigel Stock, is expected to be enthroned during the late autumn. He is currently suffragen (deputy) bishop of Stockport in the Chester diocese.

Bishop Richard has led the church in Suffolk during a difficult time nationally, internationally and locally.

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But there have been significant landmarks over the last few years - including the completion of St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the opening of the St Nicholas Centre and Churchgates House in Ipswich.

Bishop Richard said today: “There have been highs and lows over the decade. The high was certainly the completion of the cathedral - work had effectively ground to a halt there at the end of the 1960s.

“The St Nicholas Centre in Ipswich has been very important in bringing the church and the commercial life of the town together - it was very important that we have a town centre presence.”

The Ipswich killings had been dreadful for the town, but Bishop Richard had been impressed by the way the community had rallied,

He said: “Right from the start it was clear that people were not being judgemental about the lifestyle of the victims. They saw them as women in trouble.

“That has been seen through the Somebody's Daughter appeal and it has been noticed across the country.

“Some of my colleagues warned that Suffolk could be scarred by this kind of thing, but the community has rallied round and while the events were appalling for the victims and their families, I think the spirit that emerged was good.

“People from outside the county have a very positive view of Suffolk after this.”

He has been a fierce critic of the government's policy in Iraq and of America's part in the war against terror.

He said: “It sometimes seems as if we have gone backwards and just want to fight force with force.

“How does it help in the argument against terrorism if the United States is using policies like extraordinary rendition (flying suspected terrorists to American territory) and keeping open Guantanamo Bay?”

Bishop Richard and his wife Sara are retiring to Norfolk where he is hoping to spend more time on his hobby of carpentary and model-making - he is currently building a scale model of Nelson's flagship HMS Victory - and on his passion for bird-watching.

The Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund was launched in conjunction with Ipswich Borough Council in the wake of the killings of five women in Suffolk.

The bodies of Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell were found in remote rural locations last December.

All had worked in the sex trade and all had drug habits.

As a legacy to the five women, and in a bid to prevent others from walking in their same desperate footsteps, The Somebody's Daughter appeal was given a mandate of helping vulnerable young people in Ipswich.

The ultimate goal is to raise enough money to open a refuge where those embroiled in prostitution and drugs can seek support and guidance.

Among the trustees of the Somebody's Daughter appeal, a registered charity, are Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks, borough council leader Liz Harsant and Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover.

Donations to the memorial fund can be made online at www.eveningstar.co.uk, in person at Ipswich Borough Council's customer service centre in the Town Hall, by calling 01473 433777, or by sending a cheque, made payable to Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund, to PO Box 772, Ipswich Borough Council, Grafton House, 15-17 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2DE.

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