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Welcome, Bishop Sean and Jenny

The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf is delighted to welcome its new Bishop, the Right Reverend Sean Semple, whose Service of Consecration and Enthronement was held at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama, Bahrain on Friday 24 May 2024, and his wife, Jenny. (The service was live-streamed and is available to watch here:

Bishop Sean is the first bishop of the Diocese to be born in Africa, and the first Anglican bishop to be consecrated in Bahrain or indeed the wider Gulf region. Paying tribute to His Majesty King Hamad’s vision of peaceful co-existence, Bishop Sean expressed his gratitude for “the gracious and respectful welcome offered by the Kingdom of Bahrain for all who had travelled from around the world to attend the service”.

The presiding bishop at the Service of Ordination and Consecration was Archbishop Hosam Naoum, Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. The two principal co-consecrating Bishops were the Right Reverend Dr Robert Innes, Bishop in Europe, Chair of the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission and Vice-Chair of the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity; and the Right Reverend Richard Jackson, Bishop of Hereford in England and Clerk of the Closet—head of the College of Chaplains of the Ecclesiastical Household of King Charles III. Also in attendance were the Right Reverend Anthony Poggo, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion; and the Right Reverend Anthony Ball, Bishop of North Africa in the Anglican Province of Alexandria, Chairman of the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association (JMECA), and Canon of Westminster Abbey. The Right Reverend Samy Fawzy Shehata, Primate of the Province of Alexandria was sadly unable to take part, called upon to return to Egypt at short notice.

“The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf has been deeply honoured and encouraged by the bishops’ participation in the service,” said Bishop Sean. “Their presence indicates something of the significance in which our Diocese is held in the wider Anglican Communion, and further enhances these relationships.” He was also particularly grateful for the family and friends who came to support him.

The Service was a wonderful mosaic of influences, drawing on the rich cultural heritage of congregations across the Diocese, including parts in Arabic, Hindi and Tamil—and of Bishop Sean himself, with hymns paying tribute to his birthplace of South Africa and his ministry in the Diocese of Herefordshire. It was also a testament to the dedicated work of the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Richard Fermer, its staff and its volunteers in planning and executing this historic and beautiful occasion.

During the joyful, and often moving service, the symbols of the office of bishop were presented—a Bible, an episcopal ring, a stole, a chasuble, a pectoral cross, a mitre and the bishop’s crosier, or pastoral staff. And then, crosier in hand Bishop Sean departed, ritually turning back to seek re-admittance by knocking three times on the closed West Doors of the Cathedral.

The doors opened, for Dean Richard to join Bahraini dignitaries in welcoming Sean to his cathedral, leading him to the cathedra of the bishop to be enthroned as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Delivering a pledge of commitment to the vision of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for the peaceful co-existence of peoples in mutual partnership with leaders of different faiths, Arab music played on the oud and qanun, carrying with it a soaring sense of spiritual unity as Bishop Sean stepped into his new role as shepherd of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Reflecting on the liturgy of Consecration and Enthronement, Bishop Sean describes the hymns as being “quite simply my favourite, expressing the theology that continues to sustain my spiritual journey”. The processional hymn Yarabba ssalami (God of Peace) recalls, “in the language of much of the Diocese, the attribute of God that we, as people of faith, strive for in our engagement with others,” says Bishop Sean, while the Gradual hymn, sung to the tune Hereford, honoured the presence of the Bishop of Hereford, where Sean served for nine years. “The Veni Creator,” he says, “is the traditional hymn sung at ordinations. But to have it chanted by Archbishop Hosam was an extraordinary privilege.”

“The final hymn We are marching is a joyous celebration of my South African ethnicity,” he says—albeit usually sung in isiZulu, which, he says, “I thought most of us would struggle with! But it brought something of the worship of my country of origin to the Service, reminding us to take our faith out to the world in a positive and life-giving way.” 

Bishop Sean paid tribute to the exceptional musicians taking part in the ceremony—organist Michelle Miles, soprano Hannah Miles, Ziyad Sabt (oud) and Mahmoud Al Hashimi (qanun).

The first reading, from 1 Samuel, has accompanied Bishop Sean throughout the last year’s discernment process. Both the second reading and gospel reading are drawn from the Proper for Bishops and, he says, “express something of the challenges and commission of episcopal ministry. Peter’s restoration and commissioning demonstrate God’s unconditional forgiveness and love; his willingness to offer unworthy disciples new beginnings, and to entrust them with his ongoing work and reputation in the world in every generation.”

One of the most notable moments in the Service was Bishop Sean’s invitation to the readers and clergy of the Diocese to help him in bearing the responsibility for the care of souls: “In this fundamental and essential partnership in the gospel we must support and edify one another in love.”

“I was not expecting to receive this call,” he says. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to now begin my ministry with the people of Cyprus and the Gulf; to hold them in my prayers and heart, and to do all that I can to support our Christian witness and service in the region.”

Bishop Sean will be installed at St Paul’s Cathedral in Nicosia on 22 June 2024. Please pray for Sean, Jenny and their family.

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