NEW WINE IN OLD WINESKIN
(New Bishop in Hexham and Newcastle Diocese)
19th July 2023: as in every Mass, Sanctuary or Liturgical gathering, we were Standing on Holy Ground.
Silently, consciously or unconsciously, from the Cardinal and Nuncio to the least and youngest, three things were celebrated as hundreds of people, priests and bishops gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of Newcastle. One, the Mass was the Votive Mass in honour of the Immaculate Conception. Two, the atmosphere was somber and nearly tensed; the decorations were mostly black and funeral-like with the unmistakable acknowledgement that “safeguarding is here to stay”. Three, the new Bishop was vibrant, eloquent, passionate, compassionate and empathetic.
The music was, to the same token, reflective and capturing of the Church, pilgrim on Earth, suffering in purgatory and triumphant in Heaven, captured in the following lyrics:
Holy Virgin by God’s degree, you were called eternally….. Refuge of your children so weak, sure protection all can seek, problems of life you help us to face, Mary we trust you hail full of grace… To our needy world of today, love and beauty you portray, showing the path to Christ we must trace, mary our Mother, hail full of grace.
We come to your feast, the young and the old, the frightened the bold. The greatest and the least. We come to your feast with fruit of our lands and the work of our hands, we come to your feast…
Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
From the Entrance Procession to the Final Hymn and the drinks, the bites and the hi’s, the theme and mode of the gathered community was both Catholic and Ecumenical, Solemn and sincere, Diocesan and National, Liturgical and Social, Musical and Verbal, loud and silent, carrying the inescapable reality of Good versus Evil (the Fall of Adam and Eve in the First Reading), the Call and Predetermined plans of God for each of us (the Second Reading from Ephesians 1), and the Good News of the Annunciation – rejoice highly favoured one. The diocese, having been groaning as with birth pangs over the past months and years, gathered here, and determined not to ignore or avoid any pain and injury, listened to courageous testimony and presence of those abused or hurt in the Church/diocese, the need for peace, for relentless prayer, for healing, for listening, for goodwill and for collaboration.
The new Bishop, Stephen Wright, came across well, lovely, likeable, engaging, good humoured, unpretentious, attentive, courageous, firm, unwavering and humble… He came across a new wine. The challenge is the old wineskin of hurt, discord, wavering trust, untold shame, uncomfortable fragility… How the new wine fits and transforms the old wineskins, “bruised and battered”, is the challenge that lies ahead – that gates of hell may not prevail against His Church; that the smoke of satan may not permeate, intoxicate, poison, destroy, steal or kill…
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full, is the Lord’s promise for His chosen, for the salvation of all. May the Lord continue to bring, share and spread the new wine, the new life of the Resurrection in our diocese and in our parishes. May the Lord bless, protect and use our new bishop, Stephen Wright, for His glory, for the healing, sanctification and salvation of His Church and people in Hexham and Newcastle.
Emmanuel Mbeh MHM, July 2023.