I have also stood with around 100 children surrounding the altar at St Paul’s while Bishop Richard in all his finery prepared the table for communion with every child utterly transfixed, silent and motionless. Bishop Richard made no concessions to the children being there other than to welcome them and to trust them to realise the significance of what was happening. On the inside all I could think was that he was going slower and slower but still the attention of not a single child broke from him. I thought he showed an amazing respect of those children to resist the urge to simplify and dumb down.
However it is in a wider sphere that Bishop Richard has made the biggest difference to children and young people, setting a course that has gradually raised their profile and seeking to allow people like me the freedom to do our job with his blessing while trusting us to get on with it. Capital Vision 2020, the Diocese’s plan for the seven years up to 2020 includes a core commitment to see more young people in our churches. You see the fruit of that in our budget for children and youth that has gone up every year that I’ve been here, and perhaps the fruit is most strongly seen in the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund which he founded. There is no doubt that a paid youth worker is the most valuable thing a church can do to grow its youth work and this fund has allowed parishes for whom the cost of such a project would be prohibitive to reach out to young people in the poorest areas of London. Four years ago the fund decided to focus its efforts entirely onto youth work and there are still many youth workers in post in London who only exist because their church was able to access this funding and has allowed the launch of a ground breaking apprentice scheme that works with young people from London to become youth workers in their communities. Of course in the bishop’s retirement the Richard Chatres Fund for London will continue this legacy of providing funding for Christian youth work in our city among other things.