THE new Bishop of Dudley says his first impressions of the Black Country people are that they are a very welcoming and a very resilient people.
The Rt Rev Graham Usher was speaking after a packed congregation at the Church of St. Thomas and St. Luke (Top Church) in Dudley welcomed him with a Eucharist service on Saturday, May 3.
The following day he was installed as a Canon of Worcester Cathedral in a service of Evensong.
Bishop Graham said: "My first impressions of the Black Country are that the people are very welcoming. They are very warm and friendly and very resilient because of all the changes they have been through."
Although he knows little about the area he is looking forward to the challenge and has come well prepared. Among his leaving presents from his previous congregation at Hexham, where he was Rector and Lecturer, was a Black Country dictionary.
The Bishop, who is 43 and married to Rachel, a GP, is living in Cradley Heath. They have two school aged children, Chad and Olivia. He said: "I'm looking forward to getting to know the people of the Black Country and Worcestershire as I work alongside and support Bishop John at Worcester."
Bishop Graham spent his early life growing up in Ghana and was educated at Pocklington School, Yorkshire, before studying at Edinburgh University and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, while training for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge. He was a curate at Nunthorpe, before becoming vicar of Holy Trinity, North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, which are both in Teesside, and then moving to Hexham in 2004.
He said there was a lot of incredible work going on already in the local parishes, such as with the food banks, and there were encouraging signs of growth – church attendance across the Worcester diocese is up by an average of 400 a week.
Bishop Graham said he wanted to build on this by meeting as many people as possible in the deaneries, celebrating how God is at work in the communities as well as working with the civic leaders and members of other faiths.
He said: "There are a lot of parallels between the Black Country and industrial Teesside with its steel works and I want to give the message of hope, compassion and justice to the people of the Black Country."