Priest and scientist appointed Bishop of Hertford
5th March 2015
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Hear Canon Michael on BBC Three Counties Radio on Sunday, 8th March. Click below:
The Revd Canon Dr Michael Beasley has been named as the next Bishop of Hertford, in succession to the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, who is now Bishop of Liverpool. Canon Beasley is at present Director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford.
The announcement was made this morning, 5th March 2015, by 10 Downing Street and in a press conference hosted by the Mayor of Stevenage, Cllr Sherma Batson MBE, in the Council Chamber at Daneshill House. Canon Beasley will live near Stevenage, in Knebworth, when he takes up his post later in the year.
Canon Beasley has been Director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford for the last five years. This follows a career in the scientific world, which for over a decade combined priestly ministry and epidemiology, the study of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.
He said: “I am delighted to be coming to St Albans to join in all that’s already taking place here to grow the Church in spiritual depth, outreach to the community and numbers. Sad though I am to leave Oxford Diocese I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the people of Hertfordshire.”
Cllr Batson responded: “I feel honoured to be the first person in Hertfordshire to extend a welcome to the Bishop-designate. Here in Stevenage we are a town with scientific connections, with one of the newest churches in the county and with a strategic plan and ambition to grow, three things which I understand are close to your heart.”
Canon Beasley says both science and his calling as a priest have formed him as a person and have given him an insight into working in two jobs at the same time.
He says: “In Christ, all things hold together.” He sees his work, in both fields, as joining in with God’s work of transformation, whether in Christian ministry or international development.
His conclusion is that both disciplines worked together, one aiding the other:
“Both fields of work came out of a calling to put at God’s service the gifts that he has given me. From 2003-2010, I combined a half time post at Westcott House, Cambridge (a theological college) with another half time post in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College. Each supported and informed the other; for example the pastoral skills of a priest are an invaluable aid to policy development with a number of governments, skills gained in planning and strategy of benefit to the identification of Westcott’s longer term vision.”
Those strategic skills were again invaluable during Canon Beasley’s succeeding five years in Oxford Diocese and are at the heart of what he brings to St Albans Diocese.
“As I come to Hertfordshire I hope that the experience I bring from Oxford will serve well the people of St Albans Diocese. In Oxford I’ve appreciated enormously working with a wide range of people and churches across the spectrum of the Christian tradition. I’ve done this in different settings, working alongside people to address issues from the care of young people to the provision of ministry, from outreach to local communities to action for social justice.”
The Suffragan See of Hertford is in the Diocese of St Albans, comprising over 400 churches in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Luton and Barnet. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, who recommended the appointment, oversees the diocese. The Bishop of Hertford supports the Bishop of St Albans Ministry across all 1100 square miles of the diocese, but will have particular focus on the 230 parishes of Hertfordshire.
Speaking about the announcement, Dr Smith said:
“I am confident that we have found a Bishop of Hertford with the leadership skills, temperament and personality to join in the work of helping the churches in our diocese to flourish. He comes to us from Oxford Diocese, which has many similarities to ours, with its varied communities, urban, rural, richer, poorer. Canon Beasley’s deep faith and his conviction that this is a gift to be shared have also made a deep impression on me.”
The Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Revd Richard Atkinson, also a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of St Albans, said: “I am really looking forward to working with Canon Beasley. His broad experience in ministry as well as other fields all make him someone who will have a great deal to offer our parishes. Our work here, seeking the flourishing and growth of the diocese, will be strengthened by him.”
The Acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, said: “Michael has been an outstanding Director of Mission over the past few years and we will miss him greatly as he now moves to the St Albans Diocese. Our loss is, very definitely, their gain, and our love and prayers go with him and Lizzie, and the children.”
Following the press conference, Canon Beasley made a tour of Hertfordshire, visiting St Nicholas C of E Primary and Nursery School, Stevenage, Rothamsted Research Centre, Harpenden and Holy Trinity, Bushey’s Hot Chocolate after-school ministry.
Canon Beasley is married with two young children and has a love of gardening and bees. His wife Elizabeth is a deputy head teacher.