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Packed farewell service for Bishop Tony Robinson at Wakefield Cathedral

First published on: 8th July 2024

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield said many goodbyes at a special service of gratitude for his 27 years of service in our diocese.

Wakefield Cathedral was packed with well-wishers, bishops and clergy, reflecting Bishop Tony’s great popularity as both a priest, and as a person throughout a total of 42 years of ministry.

Ordained in 1982 in the Diocese of London, he began ministry as assistant curate at St Paul’s Church in Tottenham and later moved to be Team Vicar in the Parish of The Resurrection, in Leicester. In 1989 he was made Team Rector and in 1992 the Rural Dean of Leicester North.

On December 6, 2002 he was consecrated as Bishop of Pontefract in York Minster by the then Archbishop of York, David Hope and after the creation of the Diocese of Leeds in 2014, he became its first Bishop of Wakefield in 2015.

In his sermon, Bishop Tony said, typically : “This final Eucharist is not really about me.

“It’s a celebration of the life and witness of the diocese. As the Wakefield episcopal tree is pruned and I lay down my responsibilities, it’s actually about you and God and your calling, to be faithful, to use your gifts and to serve others in so many ways.

“Faith really matters. Faith is life and pilgrimage and progress. My prayer is that, under God, you continue to flourish in all that you do.”

Bishop Tony had asked local photographer David Peace to get some images of the service. “He told me he wasn’t interested in photos of himself, just to get lots of the people there,” Dave said.

Among those present were Ed Anderson, Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, the Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Blackburn and the Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester and many civic dignitaries. Bishop Martin praised his friend and colleague for his vocational work and gracious and fearless service to the Shrine of Walsingham and the Christian faith.

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds then said how Bishop Tony had played a key part bringing the Diocese of Leeds into being and developing its missional work at home and abroad.

“We have a big debt to you for your time here and helping us to build this diocese from a standing start. What you have helped us do will be etched in history.

“He could not have been a better episcopal colleague during a time of change, challenge and opportunity. I will miss his calm, steady commitment to our diocesan ministry and mission. I am indebted personally to him for his constant support and encouragement.”







Bishop Tony and his wife Sue were presented with a painting of Fountains Abbey as a keepsake to take to their new life in Essex and part of a farewell prayer before the Dismissal is below, followed by Bishop Tony’s sermon.


“We praise and thank you, God of the journey,

For all that we have share with Bishop Tony and Sue.

We entrust them to your loving care,

Knowing that you are always the faithful traveller

And companion on the Way.

Shelter and protect them from all harm and anxiety.

Grant them the courage to meet the future,

And grace to let go into new life;

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Tony and Sue, may God bless you.

All: Go in peace, for our God goes with you.




Like Jeremiah the reluctant prophet, we all run out of excuses in the end, and we go where we are sent and needed. Tottenham, Leicester and Wakefield.

Not so long ago on a visit to a school, the children were interviewing me about my job as Bishop. I explained a bit to them about ordained ministry in the Church, and about serving the wider community. I told them about my beginnings in Tottenham where I began as a curate, then to Leicester for 12 years and then to Wakefield.

”So you’ve done this job a very long time”, one of them concluded …. at which point another young girl looked at me pityingly ….

“Oh dear, could you not find anything else to do …?”

I feel very blessed that my priestly vocation has encompassed such a rich and varied ministry over the years. Along the way I have enjoyed relationships with so many good and interesting people. Being Bishop here has been a privilege and fun, challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

Like all of us here I have tried to be Christ-centred rooted in God and ambitious for our neighbours. At our best we flourish in worship and discipleship, engaging with people and issues, resourceful and imaginative in how we do things – we want to make a difference.

The model church at Ephesus described in our first reading does not just use the varied gifts available in a common purpose, highly desirable though that is. Much more than a managerial exercise, it is about values and the inner life of Christians who strive for a unity and maturity that matches nothing less than the full stature of Jesus Christ.

Bishops balance two clear missionary roles: firstly, oversight of the inner life of the diocese, exercising pastoral care and hospitality, drawing new people into a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly, reaching out in loving service to those beyond our walls speaking truth to power and serving the poor and life’s casualties. I have endeavoured to fulfil the traditional roles rightly expected of an episcopal leader, while introducing some fresh things in the diocese and building relationships with our partners across this city and diocese. I have particularly valued finding a voice in the public square through the Bishop’s Breakfasts and through some exciting and innovative work supporting and working together with other faith communities in Leicester and here in West Yorkshire.

Being one of the group to help set up the City of Sanctuary movement in 2005 which we have seen in grow to over 120 groups nationally providing a welcome to refugees and asylum seekers. Here in Wakefield we are trying to develop St Michael’s Church into a Welcome Centre, we have a Theatre and Art House doing great work with those who have come here because their lives are in danger in their own countries.

Visits to our brothers and sisters in our link dioceses in Tanzania, and Pakistan have been so important for us here in the Uk as well as in those places. Linked parishes and schools with Tanzania have seen amazing projects happen and umpteen visits happen both ways. There are hundreds of goats supplying livelihoods to impoverished people in the Mara region allowing them to feed themselves, their communities.

Many people in recent days and months have asked me how I feel about all my years in ministry and about retiring – some kindly express congratulations, others surprise, disappointment and (much to my wife’s annoyance) flattery about my not looking old enough yet. One lovely man at the gym said he thought I was only 55. He is on the way to Specsavers as I Speak.  

In my reflections of over 42 years of ordained ministry I have had to become a mini expert on so many things involving relationships, singleness ,young marrieds, old marrieds, were marrieds, never marrieds, shouldn’t have marrieds, those who live together, those who live apart, and those who don’t live anywhere ,respectfully mindful of senior citizens and war veterans, familiar with the ravages of such things as arthritis, osteoporosis, post-natal depression, anorexia, whooping-cough and nits, To name but a few.

You may recall the Father Ted TV episode where he finally wins the Priest of the Year Award which he craves so much – and then proceeds at length in his acceptance speech to character assassinate every other priest he has ever known …. So where shall I begin about the bishops I have worked with...? You will have to wait for my memoirs.

Forgive me for not mentioning particular names, ordained or lay, this afternoon – the truth is so many of you in a huge variety of settings within and beyond the Church have been a pleasure to know and brilliant to work with.

I would like to thank all those wardens and others who have greeted me for the first time with what they thought was an original joke. “Hello Baldrick. Do you have a cunning plan and how is Blackadder these days?”

It is for others to say what my achievements have been as Bishop. I have tried to add value to the culture and life of the diocese and its outreach with mature, entrusting leadership, enjoying being hands on in a team of many talents. My default has been to smile and encourage, to keep things do-able. Whilst the Church is a charitable and voluntary organisation, I believe that in the eyes of the public we must be much better than amateur. The right people, lean structures and creativity are paramount. Like you, I am sad when things don’t go so well, but I am sanguine and we move on, because as a Christian I ‘stick with God’ and am ever hopeful for the future.

I apologise for those hopefully few occasions where my ‘bishopping’ has upset or fallen short. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Former Dean, George Nairn Briggs for the brown sauce incident.

I know that you in the Wakefield Area will welcome my successor joining a diocese which I believe is both realistic and optimistic and, above all, in good heart looking to the future together.

Retirement What will I miss? Simply everything really, well …. maybe not quite everything. Meetings. No. Complaints No.

Bearing Fruit in John’s Gospel Jesus uses the image of the vine: “I am the vine you are the branches; you are called to abide in me and bear fruit”. Abiding in Christ is about deep-rootedness in the person and the reason for our faith in action. “You did not choose me but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last”. This final Eucharist is not really about me. It’s a celebration of the life and witness of the diocese. As the Wakefield episcopal tree is pruned and I lay down my responsibilities, it’s actually about you and God and your calling, to be faithful, to use your gifts and to serve others in so many ways. Faith really matters. Faith is life and pilgrimage and progress. My prayer is that, under God, you continue to flourish in all that you do.

I conclude now with a cautionary tale tinged with a gentle humour recounted by William Dalrymple. It comes from one of the fifth century monastic settlements in Upper Egypt and it concerns a novice 'who was very careless with his own soul'. When the novice dies, his teacher is worried that he might have been sent to Hell for his sins, so he prays that it might be revealed what has happened to his pupil's soul. Eventually the teacher goes into a trance, and sees a river of fire with the novice submerged in it up to his neck. The teacher is horrified, but the novice turns to him, saying,"I thank God, oh my teacher, that there is relief for my head. Thanks to your prayers, I am standing on the head of a bishop". 

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield 


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