Welcome Bishop Debbie Sellin
A warm welcome to the Diocese’s new Bishop, Debbie Sellin! This month we discuss Christmas, and Debbie’s hopes for the future as she prepares to take on her new role in spring 2024…
Vibrant. Really vibrant and exciting. The first impressions of Bishop Debbie Sellin’s new city were of a thriving city with many different communities, co-existing and living happily alongside one another.
“It was really lovely to see, and gives cause for a sense of optimism about community generally and about inter-faith friendship and cooperation,” says Debbie.
“I first came down to spend time in the city this summer and there was an Italian market on… which was a good start. I like cooking and I particularly enjoy Mediterranean cuisine. It was a lovely warm day and Market Square was really busy with lots of people sitting outside restaurants, enjoying coffee and sharing a meal together.”
Since then Debbie has returned to the area a number of times, enjoying walks along the Nene and an afternoon recording a short introductory video by the shores of Rutland Water saying hello to her new diocese.
With the retirement of Bishop Donald Allister in January this year, Bishop Debbie will take over the position, and she will be officially installed around March 2024.
Debbie was raised in Stirling – known as the Gateway to the Highlands – which is a small city, only designated as such in 2002, perched on a craggy volcanic rock and home to about 38,000 people. Her father was ordained in ministry so Debbie, living in The Rectory, grew up surrounded by faith and the ministry of God.
Attending the University of St Andrews, Debbie then pursued a career working in the NHS in Edinburgh, liaising between the Royal Infirmary’s support staff and those on the wards, ensuring everyone had the resources they needed to perform their roles.
She also worked in A&E, describing it as busy and stressful but rewarding. Most importantly, it was in this role that she recognised the value of being able to communicate with everyone from patients and porters to clinicians and consultants.
Having moved down to Sheffield with husband Paul and whilst raising the couple’s two sons, Debbie took up a position as a Children and Families worker, building upon her own experience developing her faith in the Church’s Crusaders youth group.
It was during this time that Debbie felt a definite call to ordained ministry which deepened over time, leading her to begin her training in 2004.
This was a three-year course covering theology and Bible studies as well as pastoral care – a role which came naturally given Debbie’s experience in the NHS and working with children and families in the Church.
Moving to Guildford and serving as Minister, Vicar and as Area Dean, Debbie was made an Honorary Canon of Guildford Cathedral in 2018 before being consecrated as the Bishop of Southampton a year later.
Upon the retirement of Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, Debbie has been Acting Diocesan Bishop before the announcement in late September that she would take up the
position of Bishop of Peterborough in 2024.
“I’m really looking forward to helping all of the parishes in the Diocese to thrive. You sometimes hear that congregation numbers are in decline but the value of the Church doesn’t just extend to worship within the walls of the buildings themselves.”
“From lunch clubs for the elderly to youth groups and inter-faith groups, there’s a lot that the Church can do in the community – both practically and in terms of offering support – working with others to tackle issues like food poverty.”
“Right across the Diocese I’ve already seen some beautiful churches in some equally beautiful villages – especially in Rutland – and I don’t quite know how I’m going to get round all 386 of them, but I can see myself becoming very fond of Peterborough Cathedral in particular.”
“It’s a very well-maintained building with unusual Norman architecture, and the programme of events that has been established there over the past few years has ensured it’s a place for the whole community to spend time.”
“That’s important because one of the most important jobs is to ensure our churches aren’t just places for Sunday morning; everybody is welcome, and not just for worship but to come together and enjoy being a community.”
“On my last visit to the Cathedral, a crowd were gathering in the grounds awaiting the start of a concert of music by Fleetwood Mac which was presented by candlelight in the nave. Everybody was pleased and excited to be there and the whole building was alive. It was the same story with other events like Unofficial Galaxies – one of the largest privately-owned collections of Star Wars memorabilia – earlier in the year.”
“This season I’m looking forward to seeing Luxmuralis returning to the Cathedral with its beautiful colourful projections of light and its audio soundtrack. Such an event can really make the most of the architecture of an area like the nave. The event takes place just before the beginning of advent and as this year’s theme is The Manger, it should be a wonderful, colourful start to Christmas.”
“The festive season is busy for anybody in the Church, but it’s a time to celebrate family and community; a time to reflect and take stock.After delivering midnight mass and then leading a service on Christmas Day morning, I’m looking forward to Christmas lunch prepared (expertly) by Paul and spending time with family enjoying the usual rituals of the King’s Speech, exchanging gifts and playing board games.”
“My hope is that into next year, both in the Diocese and around the world too, we can live together harmoniously and celebrate our differences rather than using them as a point of division.”
“I hope that we can set aside our differences and come together to tackle larger problems like environmental issues, addressing climate change and sustainability. Solving big problems and making a big difference can begin with small but significant acts.”
“That might mean making small changes in our behaviour to benefit the planet, it might mean acts of charity in our communities or those small acts of kindness towards one another which take little effort but mean so much.”
“I’m sure I’ll witness many of those myself, whilst I’m working in the Diocese next year and into the future!”