Final service for Bishop of Stafford

A celebration of work across North Staffordshire at Stoke Minister will also be used to say goodbye to the Bishop of Stafford.

The event this afternoon (24 November) will end with Geoff Annas handing over his Bishop's staff to the Bishop of Lichfield for safekeeping, to pass on to his successor once they are appointed.

Bishop Geoff and his wife Ann came to North Staffordshire in 2010, and he has overseen a region that includes Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Newcastle, Burton and many rural communities.

He has also been the chaplain for the Regent Theatre in Hanley.

Ahead of the service, Bishop Geoff has looked back at his time in the role.

He said: "I had no expectations, I had no idea what I would be doing as a Bishop.

"We just arrived and God has guided us through since then.

"The issues of the inner city were not new to me as I had been working with them for so long.

"Things like hardship, homelessness, health issues and school issues were things I had been working with for many years, so I was able to slot in with the excellent work already going on in so many voluntary groups.

"I was able to work with them, and recently have chaired the Hardship Commission.

"The biggest challenge for me was to embrace the rural side of North Staffordshire, because we are so blessed up here with the countryside."

Over the last nine years, Bishop Geoff has tried to give a voice to the vulnerable and marginalised - asking for more help and support.

In 2013, he joined the thousands of people who marched through the streets of Stafford in opposition to plans to downgrade services at Stafford Hospital. 

He also joined other Bishops in calling for more support for people applying for Universal Credit.

Bishop Geoff said: "Being a Bishop does give you a sort of cache - if I write a letter I usually get an answer.

"I have been thrilled to see the work going on at St Mark's in Shelton supporting asylum seekers, and the team down there do a fantastic job.

"It has been a privilege to support them, and at times speak up for the work they are doing.

"This week I have been back to the House of Bread, where Will and Jack and the team there do a great job. 

"I have learned so much from people like them about homeless issues, and how to work with them."

Following today's service, Bishop Geoff and wife Ann will prepare to leave Staffordshire to return to Southampton.

He said: "Our daughter and son-in-law and new granddaughter are living down there, so for three days a week we will be Granny and Grandpa looking after her while our daughter and son-in-law are at work.

"Beyond that, I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing or where I am going to be led!

"What I have found over the years is that everything I have done has equipped me to do the next thing.

"I supposed now I need a bit of space between now and Christmas just to sit about what I have learned having been in North Staffordshire and doing the work I have been doing, what skills have I learned, and and how I can best use those in another context."

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “Bishop Geoff has served the communities and churches of North Staffordshire faithfully for almost a decade – making him one of the longest serving Bishops of Stafford.

"I will be very sad to see Ann and Geoff leave but I am pleased that they will now be closer to family and have more time to spend with them.”

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