Archdeacon of West Ham Elwin Cockett welcomes Bishop Peter even though he isn’t a local lad


- Credit: Archant

East London’s churches are celebrating! Believers from every part of the world are finding a welcome here. A growing number of people in the capital are exploring their faith, with enquirers groups springing up in churches all over London. And now, in this part of London, following the recent announcement, we are looking forward to the arrival of a new Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill.

Bishop Peter, as he will be known, is not a local lad. He comes to us from Nottingham with a wide experience of serving people in all sorts of urban, suburban and rural communities. But he is much-loved by the people he has lived and worked among there, and I have no doubt that he will be warmly welcomed by the people of East London, too.

He’s not the first Christian leader to come to these parts from elsewhere, of course. Fourteen hundred years ago, a man called Mellitus came with Augustine from Rome to become the first Bishop of London. Two generations later, Cedd, a monk from the North of England, landed on the Essex coast at Bradwell, bringing a distinctly Celtic spirituality with him. And ever since, Essex and East London have both welcomed and sent out leaders with a passion for bearing witness to the love of God.

One of those was John Newton, the author of that great hymn, Amazing Grace. Newton was born in Wapping, the son of a shipmaster. Like his father, he became a captain, in charge of slave ships transporting their human cargo from Africa to plantations in the West Indies, inflicting great suffering along the way. But Newton soon experienced a dramatic change of heart, after which he campaigned passionately for an end to the slave trade.

Newton’s experience convinced him that all people were equally loved by God – even him, despite his past as a slave trader. The hymn Amazing Grace celebrates that – ‘I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see’.

Our new bishop’s message is going to be much the same. Every person in East London matters, whatever their background. That was true when Cedd and Mellitus arrived here, and it remains true now. And that, dear reader, is a message worth celebrating.