The Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, civic guests including the Leicester City Mayor and Leader of Leicestershire County Council, borough mayors, school children, students, university vice chancellors and representatives of Leicestershire Police and of other faiths were all among those attending the service hosted by Brockington Church of England College, Enderby, which was also livestreamed.
The special Cathedral service included a video made by some of the students welcoming Bishop Saju, who has spent the second half of his life in England and before that lived in Bangalore, South India. As a child he lived at a leprosy hospital where his mother was a nurse. You can read more about him here as well as seeing photos and details from his consecration by the Archbishop of Canterbury at St Paul's Cathedral in London here.
The service featured eagles including in Psalm 103 and Isaiah 40 v27–31 readings and Bishop Saju explained the significan of eagles in his sermon (see further below).
The Cathedral Choir Boys, Girls and Songmen sang a choral refrain which recurred throughout the service called Gathering the Light. It was sung in Hindi with the words 'Jyothi dho Prabhu', meaning 'Give us Light'.
Those taking part inthe service included the Dean of Leicester and other members of the Bishop's Leadership Team including Dicoesan of Education Director, the Archdeacons of Loughborough and Leicester, Diocesan Secretary, Director of our Parish and MInistry Development Team and Diocesan Programme Manager, as well as our new Diocesan Director of Ordinands and local Vicar Revd Jerry Taylor, Head Teacher of Brockington College Sadie Batstone, Bishop Saju's wife Katy and their eldest son Abraham.
Abraham read the following poem by Edwin Curran (1892–?):
The dome of heaven is thy house
Bird of the mighty wing,
The silver stars are as thy boughs
Around thee circling.
Thy peace is on the eaves of heaven
Thy white throne all the skies
Thou art like lightning driven
Flashing over paradise.
Bishop Martyn invited Bishop Saju to take his place in the seat specially made for the Bishop of Loughbough when the first Bishop of Loughborough took her place in it four years ago. Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani left Leicestershire last April to become the Bishop of Chelmsford.
Tom Wilson, Director of the St Philips Centre introduced representatives of other faiths to greet Bishop Saju. Two Muslim children as well as Hindus and Seikhs spoke to welcome him and gave him gifts that represented their faith.
Revd Wendy Dalyrymple, Chair of the Hosue of Clergy presented Bishop Saju with his pectoral cross which has been made from Indian rosewood,
Stephen Adshead, Chair of the House of Laity in the diocese, prayed the Christaraksha, a traditional Indian prayer and often used in the Church of South India:
May the cross of the Son of God,
which is mightier than all the hosts of Satan
and more glorious than all the hosts of heaven,
abide with you in your going out and your coming in.
By day and night, at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places,
may it protect and defend you.
From the wrath of evildoers,
from the assaults of evil spirits,
from foes visible and invisible,
from the snares of the devil,
from all passions that beguile the soul and body:
may it guard, protect and deliver you.
Hymns included O Lord, When I in Awesome Wonder, Be Thou My Vision, Cornerstone, and worship was led by the Cathedral Choir and also musicians from our Intercultural Worshipping Communities.
Bishop Martyn presented Bishop Saju with his pastoral staff (or crozier), which has been made for him using both Indian rosewood and English oak and features a brass eagle. Bishop Martyn told him to: "Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you shepherd. Encourage the faithful, restore the lost, build up the body of Christ."
Bishop Martyn prayed for God to guide Bishop Saju in his service as Bishop of Loughborough that "he may be a world of hope for a world in need." He also handed his 'deed of delegation' to Bishop Saju with these words: "Receive this authority to share in the cure of souls in this Diocese of Leicester, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
He also prayed:
Lord Jesus, Word Made Flesh,
from the beginning of creation
you named and claimed us for yourself.
Look with kindness upon your servant, Saju,
marked by your cross, fed by your word,
filled with our Spirit, and sent to be your presence to all he meets.
Guide him in his witness and service as Bishop of Loughborough,
and bless him with your wisdom,
that he may be a word of hope for a world in need.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
More prayers were said by representatives of our Vocations work, our Intercutlural Worshipping Communities and our Resourcing Churches - three areas that Bishop Saju now has responsibility to lead, in addition to helping the Bishop of Leicester in oversight of the whole diocese. The congregation also joined in the Lord's Prayer with everyone speaking in their own chosen language, led by Revd Jitesh Patel who spoke in Tamil.
Mike Kapur OBE, Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, invited everyone at the service to stand to join in an Act of Commitment
based on the Seven Principles of Public Life (the basis of ethical standards expected of public office holders):
Will you work together with selflessness, integrity and objectivity?
Will you work together with accountability, openness and honesty?
Will you lead by example, each one adhering to these principles of public life?
And Bishop Martyn asked the final question:
"Will you, with us, commit yourselves to uphold these principles in all you do, that together we may work for the good of all in our society?" and the congregation responded: "By the help of God, we will."
Bishop Saju, who is also a keen cricketer, gave a sermon after he joked that he couldn't believe that the guests invited to the service had actually turned up. He said that afternoon the Foxes were playing but everyone turned up, the rugby Six Nations were being played but everyone turned up, England were playing India in the finals of the cricket World Cup but he turned up!
In his sermon, Bishop Saju spoke about a disaster which killed thousnds of people in Honduras in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch struck. He said it was such a disastrous story but despite the hugely destructive winds one amazingly strong bridge did not break. It stood firm. The integrity of the bridge was extraordinary. But there was a small problem. The river moved to a different location and no longer ran under the bridge, making it a bridge to nowhere. Bishop Saju asked: "What do you do when the river moves?"
He said that for us the river has moved; Covid 19 has come into the world bringing pain and bewilderment. And he talked about the Isaiah reading saying that in that passage of scripture, prophet Isaiah picks up the pain and bewilderment of the people who sat down by the river of Babylon. As well as prompting the congregation to enthusastically sing the chorus of the Boney M song 'By the Rivers of Babylon', Bishop Saju said Isaiah described the people of God, then in exile by the river, saying 'Has God abandoned us?' He describes how Isaiah pauses and then hear the voice of the prophet who says "Have you not heard? Do you not know?" His is a response to the bewilderment of the homelessness that people were experiencing and goes on to say that the Lord IS and the Lord DOES. From a Christian point of view, the response to exile, homelessness and bewilderment, is asking "Who is God?" . It's more importan than asking ourselves "Who am I?", said Bishop Saju.
"The more fundamental question is 'Who is God?' Over the years I have discovered that the best way to address that question is to look and see how God has revealed himself in scripture and see that he does that in the person of Jesus Christ," said Bishop Saju.
He quoted Shadrach Meshach Lockridge (a prominent African-American Baptist pastor in California from 1953 to 1993) saying Lockridge said: 'Who then is this Jesus?' and answered Jesus is the king of the Jews, the King of Israel, the king of ages, king of heaven, king of kings and Lord of Lords, do you know him? He is the greatest phenomenon that has crossed the horizon of this world, the centrepeice of civlisation. He is unparalled and unpecedented, the key to knowledge, the pathway of peace, the highway of holiness and gateway of glory. From a Christian point of view, what God is like is made most clear in watching the person of Jesus Christ, and one can watch him in the pages of scripture.
"As we speak, my Mum and Dad are listening to me sat by a river in India where I was born and grew up. It is where I call home. I wish I could sit by the river there with each of you. One of my first memories is looking up at the night sky there and seeing dozens of eagles. Dozens of eagles. Sometimes even hundreds, especially on the lake side of the river. I then discovered the Bible has a lot to say about eagles; they're mentioned 33 times. The river is where I see eagles," said Bishop Saju who said India is where Jesus spoke to him and said 'Come and follow me'.
He went on to say that God spoke to the people leaving slavery in Egypt through the prophet Moses, saying: 'It was me who carried you on eagle's wings. He's saying don't you dare make this about yourself. It is not by your might, your power, it is by my strength I carried you one eagle's wings. God has been faithful.
"There is something else which the prophet Isaiah says about eagles: I am an eagle. He says those who wait on God shall renew their strength and rise up one eagle's wings, they shall renew their strength.
"It's no good asking me to write a play like Hamlet but Shakespeare can. It's no good but if the spirit of Shakepspeare comes and lives in me then I can write a play like that. If the spirit of Jesus comes and lives in me, then perhaps I can live like Jesus. This is not about me but us as a community.... It's about God's grace, mercy, peace and compassion."
The blessing at the end of the service was read by both bishops, with Bishop Saju reading in Malayam language as well as English.
All of the photos from the service can be viewed on our Facebook page: