The consecration of the new Bishop of Penrith

The new Bishop of Penrith has been consecrated in the first such service to be fully open at York Minster since the Covid pandemic.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Minster (Friday 15 July, 2022) to witness the consecration of the Rt Rev Rob Saner-Haigh. He comes to the role having served nearly all his ministry in Cumbria, including 10 years as vicar at Kendal Parish Church (KPC). Since 2020 he has been the Residentiary Canon Director of Mission and Ministry for the Diocese of Newcastle.

The two-hour service was presided over by the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev and Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell, and was attended by dozens of people from Cumbria. The Rt Rev Arun Arora was also consecrated as Bishop of Kirkstall in the Diocese of Leeds.

Bishop Rob said: “Today has been both equally exciting and meaningful. It’s also been very moving. I truly believe that there is a message of hope for the churches across our diocese. So often we talk about the Church going through difficult times, but we are a Church of hope.

“We have a message of hope and that’s what we need to tell people about: the love of God and the hope this represents for our communities and parishes. Today has been all about that joy and hope.”

The service began at 11am with the processional hymn ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing’, a family favourite of Bishop Rob’s. After prayers, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, and the Bishop of Berwick, the Rt Rev Mark Wroe, formally presented him for consecration prior to those other bishops present conferring a spiritual blessing by the laying on of hands.

Readings were taken from the Book of Proverbs- read by Rob’s wife, Emma - and from the Letter of James, read by the Rev Dr Joanne Logan, Director of Postgraduate Studies at the Lindisfarne College of Theology. Dr Paula Gooder, Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral, gave the sermon.

Cumbria’s heritage was also reflected within the consecration. Bishop Rob now wears a silver Bishop’s ring, which includes a tiny gold cross of St Cuthbert - a famed northern saint - and which will include the engraving ‘Robert, a servant of Jesus Christ’.

Members of the congregation of KPC gifted him a wooden pectoral cross and which has been fashioned from Cumbrian oak by Staveley-based furniture company Peter Hall and Son.

And the Diocese of Newcastle gifted him a Bishop’s crozier (a staff) with a handle fashioned from the horn of a Herdwick sheep.

Rob will take up his role from 1 September and will once again live in Kendal. He will have particular responsibility for continuing to develop the county’s ecumenical God for All vision and strategy, based around its four key themes: Follow Daily, Speak Boldly, Care Deeply and Tread Gently.

Archbishop Stephen said: “I welcome the appointment of Rob as Suffragan Bishop of Penrith. His love of the communities of Cumbria and his significant experience of mission in Newcastle Diocese will equip him well as he joins Bishop James in encouraging the people and the parishes of Cumbria in sharing the good news of the gospel. He has my prayers as he prepares to take up this new role.”

He originally served his curacy in Appleby Deanery before serving in the parishes of Dalston with Cumdivock, Raughtonhead and Wreay. He was Bishop’s Chaplain for three years and Director of Ordinands for two and from 2010 was the Vicar of Holy Trinity Kendal and assistant Rural Dean for seven years. He is also currently a member of the Northern Mission Centre Steering Group, a collaboration between God for All and Church Mission Society to support creative and innovative mission which has its base in Penrith.

He was born and raised in Birkenhead on Merseyside prior to studying for a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University, later completing his MPhil research in Archaeology. After working as an archaeologist, he worked for a church in Birmingham and then as a project manager in an IT firm before training for ordination at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He and Emma have three children: Ollie (20), Jemima (18) and Hal (16).

Commenting after the consecration, Bishop James said: “It was a great service, one which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which was very moving. The questions were answered clearly and well, the sermon was excellent, and the music was great. Everything about it was just marvellous.

“My prayer for Rob in his new ministry will be for joy – which I’m sure there will be a lot of – but also for perseverance, energy and stamina.”

Bishop Rob will be officially installed as the Suffragan Bishop of Penrith at a Service of Welcome and Installation at Carlisle Cathedral on Sunday 11 September at 3pm.

ENDS

Information about the County and Diocesan Vision and Strategy can be found on:

www.godforall.org.uk or https://www.carlislediocese.org.uk/our-vision.html.

For more information contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658 or at [email protected].