29 March 2018

The Very Revd Charles Tyrrell writes:

Further to your obituary of the Rt Revd John Bickersteth (Gazette, 16 March): he came to Liverpool diocese just as I was going through the discernment process for the ordained ministry. Among other things, I remember one incident that sums up the nature of his episcopate and the genuineness of his faith.

Bishop John came to St George’s, Huyton, to officiate at a confirmation service for a small group of people with learning difficulties. I was asked to play the organ for the service. I wondered how, dressed in episcopal attire, and with his clear, but clipped, accent, the bishop would cope with the confirmation ques­tions usually put to the candidates.

I needn’t have worried. Bishop Bickersteth came down from the chancel step, and stood next to the young candidates. “Is Jesus your friend?” he asked the first person. “Oh yes,” she answered. “Well, he’s my friend, too. Come and be confirmed.” And, with, that he walked with each of them and without towering over them, laid hands upon them and then walked them back to their pew.

Years later, when I was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson, New Zealand, the Bishop and his wife came to visit some mutual friends. I related the story about the confirmation to him. With typical humility, Bishop John said to me, “Did I say that, really?”

May he rest in peace with Jesus his friend, and ours.

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