A heartfelt farewell service is set to take place this Sunday at the magnificent Exeter Cathedral, as the Rt Rev Robert Atwell prepares to step down from his role as the esteemed leader of the diocese.
After nearly a decade of devoted service, the 69-year-old announced his retirement earlier this year, reflecting on his profound journey with deep gratitude for the privilege of ministering in this remarkable county.
In his parting words, Bishop Robert expressed his profound gratitude for the honor of serving as the Bishop of Exeter, in the embrace of Devon’s scenic beauty and countless historic and awe-inspiring churches, each cherished by devoted congregations. He acknowledged the blessings of a remarkable team of clergy colleagues and dedicated diocesan staff, whose camaraderie he will dearly miss.
With unwavering optimism, he expressed his confidence that the people of the diocese will continue to embody their shared vision: to grow in prayer, welcome new disciples, and selflessly serve the people of Devon with unbridled joy.
“I know the people of the diocese will continue to live out our vision to grow in prayer, make new disciples and to serve the people of Devon with joy,” he said, leaving a legacy of faith, hope, and dedication to the community.
Bishop Robert’s journey of service and faith has been a remarkable one. He began his theological studies at St John’s College, Durham, before pursuing ordination training in the picturesque setting of Cambridge. His ministry commenced as a curate in the Diocese of London. A pivotal moment in his spiritual journey saw him return to Cambridge as the chaplain of Trinity College, where he dedicated six years to teaching on early Christian life and thought, sharing his profound knowledge and spiritual wisdom.
Taking a different path, Bishop Robert spent a transformative decade as a Benedictine monk in the serene surroundings of Oxfordshire. This period of introspection and devotion laid the foundation for his return to parish ministry in the vibrant neighborhood of Primrose Hill, London, ultimately culminating in his appointment as Bishop of Stockport in 2008.
Throughout his remarkable tenure as Bishop of Exeter, Bishop Robert Atwell championed the pivotal role of the rural church in community life. He initiated groundbreaking projects like the ‘Growing the Rural Church’ initiative, aimed at nurturing and revitalizing these cherished institutions. His most recent endeavor involved editing the illuminating book ‘How Village Churches Thrive,’ a testament to his unwavering commitment to fostering the spiritual growth of rural communities.
As a testament to his influence and dedication, in 2021, Bishop Robert was bestowed the honor of becoming a member of the House of Lords, serving as a vital member of the Lord’s Spiritual. He assumed the crucial role of Chair of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, contributing significantly to the development and sustenance of the church’s liturgical practices. Additionally, he served as the lead bishop for Rural Affairs, ensuring that the unique needs and aspirations of rural congregations were given due recognition and support.
As Bishop Robert Atwell prepares to bid adieu to his role as the Bishop of Exeter, the diocese is in capable hands. The Bishop of Crediton, Rt Rev Jackie Searle, will step in as the acting
Bishop of Exeter, maintaining continuity in spiritual leadership until a new bishop is appointed. Bishop Robert’s legacy of dedication, faith, and tireless service will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those he has served, and his influence will continue to resonate within the hallowed halls of Exeter Cathedral and throughout the entire diocese.