Walsingham Administrator – Rumours Multiply and then are found to be well founded!

(this bit written earlier)

The Assumption tomorrow is, of course, significant for us all as Catholics, but it takes on further significance as it is expected to be the announcement of the new Shrine Administrator.

They have played it very close to their chest, but one name kept cropping up, a name well known to the Shrine, to the Youth Pilgrimage and to myself. Today, my wife met someone who also repeated the name, and she is currently in an adjacent diocese; so these rumours are now coming in from all quarters and they all say the same person. It was mentioned that it was “all over the internet”, but I haven’t found it anywhere.

Of course, I have to declare an interest in the outcome of the appointment; the Children’s and Youth Pilgrimages I now consider to be an essential part of my priestly ministry, and although I also long for the day when I can take groups of my own to these events, all the whilst I feel I have a contribution to make to the Audiovisual Ministry, I hope to do so: I would love to be superceded by some firey, skilled young deacon, but until he or she makes themselves known, I shall be stuck with the ministry of button pushing.

If the name hopefully announced tomorrow is the one I am hearing, then the Shrine and Ministry there to Children and Young People will be safe; which is my prime concern; whether I myself will have a part in that future remains to be seen, but with this youth-focussed person in charge then these key evangelistic pilgrimages will have an important place. It will certainly mean a change from the wonderful, inspirational style of Fr. North;but a change, especially in a place of tradition, can be a good thing: I suspect things will be a little more arms-length, and the hands-on involvement of the Administrator in the Children’s and Youth Pilgrimages might change. If it is who I believe it to be, then the Shrine will be in the hands of a great pastor, a wonderful preacher, a holy man and an inspiration to many of us: my applause will be one of many.

And yet still, it gives me another opportunity to have a go at my radical proposal for Adoremus – an 18-30’s pilgrimage which speaks to young people and not old fogeys dressed up as young people (let the prospective Staggers ordinands go in Ordinary Time, I say, for the current Adoremus is dully traditional). My vision for Adoremus goes the stage beyond the Youth Pilgrimage: no morning religion bar chilled beats in the Orangery, using the Bull as a venue for Biblical exploration and teaching: Blesséd in the Shrine, effectively, and fellowship around a sacred altar and a profane bar: all of which speaks to the majority of 18-30s who do not want to be ordinands but need to live life in the parishes beyond an artificial ‘big-top’ soul survivor experience. I don’t do cafe church, but here is an opportunity to do something seriously sacramental and experimental, and at present, it is simply too much like, well, every other pilgrimage each week. Too radical a suggestion for many, I expect.

Still, it will be funny to have a pointy hat permanently in the shrine. Ooops!

A text from the Precentor of Lichfield confirms that it has been announced tonight: the next Shrine Administrator is he whom I was not quite descreet enough about just now: the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin, Bishop of Horsham.

Deep, deep joy and a sigh of relief. Deo Gratias. Back to work and pray that I have a role to play next year.

and I have pleasure in quoting the press release (courtesy of James Bradley and the Online Cell in Facebook)


Bishop Lindsay Urwin (presently Bishop of Horsham) is to be the next Priest Administrator of the Shrine. News of the appointment was announced by the Master of the Guardians early on Friday, 15th August – the Feast of the Assumption. Bishop Lindsay will succeed Fr Philip North, who leaves the Shrine at the end of September to move to a parish in London. (See below)

The Master (Canon Martin Warner) said in his announcement that “The Guardians are delighted that Bishop Lindsay has agreed to accept the post of Priest Administrator. He is a wise and experienced pastor whose enthusiasm as a Christian communicator is profound and infectious. Under his leadership we are confident that Walsingham will continue to play a vital role in our church and nation.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams commented: “I am delighted about the appointment of Bishop Lindsay to the Shrine at Walsingham. He has exceptional gifts as a pastor, a teacher and a human being and all who come to the Shrine – not least the young – will be very well cared for. I send my prayers and good wishes for him in this next stage of his ministry.”

Lindsay Urwin (pictured here at the 2007 Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage) was born in Melbourne (Australia) in 1956. He arrived in England in 1976 and began training for the Church of England ministry at Cuddesdon (now Ripon College, Cuddesdon) in 1977. After being ordained priest in 1981, he served in south London as a curate in the Walworth parish before being appointed Vicar of North Dulwich in 1983. He quickly gained a reputation for evangelism and communication – being able to express the great mysteries of faith with simplicity and enthusiasm. The then Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, recognised these gifts and took him south to be his Diocesan Missioner. He was appointed Bishop of Horsham in the Chichester Diocese at the age of 37.

Bishop Lindsay has developed many international links around the theme of evangelism, spirituality and hospitality. He organised the first post-Easter retreat conference at Caister in 1996, attracting 200+ people initially. Held more-or-less annually since then, recent conferences have seen over 700 – 1,000 delegates attending. He is a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd – a world-wide detached order for those who try to live the religious life within the apostolic ministry in the world. Membership involves one hour’s silent prayer a day and total consecration of life.

In May 2006, Bishop Lindsay was installed as a member of the College of Guardians at Walsingham, following a long association with the Shrine. His contributions to the Youth Pilgrimage in August have been much valued.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, commented: “This seems a providential moment for Bishop Lindsay to be appointed as Priest Administrator . . . for England’s Nazareth to have such a mission-minded at its helm will be a source of great confidence to many.”

Dr Stephen Croft (Archbishops’ Missioner and Leader of the Fresh Expressions team) warmly welcomed the appointment: “Bishop Lindsay is one of the most inspiring and creative missionary thinkers in the Church of England committed both to the traditional church and to fresh expressions of the church. His appointment is good news for Walsingham and for the whole church.”

Bishop Lindsay will take up his new post early in 2008.