The Reverend Canon Martin Seeley’s video message for the people of our diocese – his thoughts recorded yesterday evening ahead of this mornings announcement.
Currently Principal at one of the Church of England’s leading theological colleges, Westcott House, Cambridge, Canon Seeley brings a wealth of pastoral, educational and leadership experience, both in this country and in the United States and he will take up his new role sometime after Easter next year. He previously served for ten years as the vicar of the Isle of Dogs in East London, a post once held by one of our former Bishop’s, the Rt Revd John Dennis.
Canon Seeley, 60, is married to Jutta Brueck, Priest-in-Charge of St James, Wulfstan Way, Cambridge and they have two children, Anna, 14, and Luke, 11.
Canon Seeley, whose interests include cooking and learning to play the tenor saxophone, says: “I am absolutely delighted to be coming to Suffolk. I preached my first ever sermon in Haverhill 40 years ago, and most recently, in August, preached in Wingfield in the Hoxne Benefice.”
“Having lived next door in Cambridgeshire for a total of 13 years I have long been attracted to the sheer diversity of Suffolk, from the deep rural villages to growing towns like Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, to the beauty of the countryside and the gorgeous coastline.”
“I am deeply aware that diversity also includes areas of prosperity and of poverty, and one of the gifts of the Church in Suffolk is to hold these differences together so that the whole community can flourish. I see one of my first tasks being listening and learning about the diversity of circumstances and needs of people across the county. I am very grateful to be coming to a diocese that is outward looking, committed to making a difference in our communities, and I will want to build on that.”
Canon Seeley chose to have his nomination announced at Trinity CEVAP School, Stowmarket, because for him it embodies so much of what the diocese will be engaged in during the next decade in the county;
“First, it is about young people, and our need to focus on how we share Christ’s love with youngsters. Many of us know from our own experience how vital contact with the Church is, or has been, for us as youngsters.”
“Secondly, it is about education and schools. I am the son of a school teacher, and education has been in my blood from a very early age. I am passionate about it, both in working hard for the best possible education for our children and in that developing and strengthening Church schools is a priority for me.”
“Of course I am also passionate about the highest standards of theological education for those training for lay and ordained ministry and I will want us both to increase the numbers coming forward for ministry, lay and ordained, and to ensure they are provided excellent training, both initially and then throughout their ministries.
“We will also need to work hard to ensure the Church’s presence in new housing developments across the community. This school is a response to that here, and we will need to ensure that a similarly strong presence is developed where populations are growing.”
During the day Canon Seeley will also visit a pioneering new community project at St Mary Le Tower, Ipswich to see first-hand the close partnership work between the Church, local authorities and organisations and Haughley Post Office, which had been threatened with closure until a legacy left to the village church was used to buy the building and rent it at a nominal rate to the post mistress to retain the service for the community.
He said he was delighted to be visiting such brilliant examples of the Church making a difference to people’s lives in towns and villages throughout Suffolk and stressed the need to reverse decline in Church attendance. “Across the land, we need to reverse the trend of decline if we are to be the transforming presence that I believe the Church is called to be, and we have to ask why numbers have been declining, and what we need to do differently to change that.”
“That will have to do with our worship, pastoral care, and how we embody Christ’s welcome in our congregations, and it will have to do with how we understand and communicate the Gospel through our lives, our words and actions, in our communities. I am excited by the ‘Growing in God’ initiative that has already begun and the ‘Living Faith in Suffolk’ materials that will help us grow as disciples.”
The Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, who Chaired the Vacancy-in-See Committee, announced the name of the county’s new bishop during the school assembly, saying: “As Dean of Suffolk’s Cathedral I am absolutely delighted with the announcement that Canon Martin Seeley will be the next Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
“I know Martin to be someone with real energy and commitment who will come with tremendous experience as Principal of Westcott House of current trends within the Church of England, able to lead this diocese into the future with real hope and joy, confident in God’s grace.”
Canon Seeley paid tribute to the Rt Revd Dr David Thomson who has been caring for the diocese on an interim basis as Acting Bishop; “I have known Bishop David since he came to Ely and I know how much his extraordinary ministry has been valued here. This was a very challenging task, to serve as an interim bishop after Bishop Nigel’s sudden call to Lambeth, and I have heard testimony, long before I had any inkling I might be coming, of Bishop David’s attentive, caring and prayerful ministry for the diocese during this time of transition.”
“I am deeply grateful to Bishop David, both enabling the work of Bishop Nigel to be sustained, but also giving far more than might have been expected of him. I am very humbled that I am following in the footsteps of both Bishop Nigel and Bishop David.”
“I wish him and all the people and clergy of Suffolk, a very happy celebration on Sunday too, to conclude a marvellous centenary year with a special service at the Cathedral. It is very exciting to come in at the start of the second century!”
Bishop David, who continues to look after the diocese during the vacancy, said, “I am delighted that Martin has been nominated to be the next Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. He will bring great gifts to the role, and I hope he and his family will be very happy.”
The Bishop-designate will first have to be consecrated as a bishop by the Archbishop of Canterbury and this will be followed by an official welcome to the diocese after Easter 2015, on a date to be announced.
FACTFILE: The Revd Canon Martin Seeley
• Canon Seeley read geography and then theology at Jesus College, Cambridge, and then spent a year at Ripon College Cuddesdon, before being awarded the English Fellowship at Union Theological Seminary in New York where he studied social ethics. He trained for the priesthood at Ripon College, Cuddesdon and Union Theological Seminary, New York, serving as a curate in Scunthorpe and then in New York.
• He served from 1980 to 1990 in the US, first as curate at the Church of the Epiphany in New York City and as assistant director of Trinity Institute at Trinity Wall Street; and then as Director of the Thompson Center, an ecumenical continuing education centre, in St Louis Before becoming Principal of Westcott House, Canon Seeley served for ten years as vicar of the Isle of Dogs, a large east London parish, and before that worked in the selection and continuing education of clergy at the Advisory Board of Ministry in Church House, Westminster.
• Canon Seeley was installed as an Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral in January 2008, and since 2012 he has served as President of the Cambridge Theological Federation, an ecumenical consortium of theological training institutions.