THE LUTZ REPORT ON........................THE BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
The Bishop of Birmingham sits down with Richard Lutz and talks about unemployment, Birmingham’s future and how you can help.
The first thing you realise about David Urquhart, the Bishop of Birmingham, is what a reasonable and pleasant guy he is.
There is no great sense of majesty nor ecclesiastical superiority surrounding him. He could be your neighbour, the guy next to you at work or the easy going cricket fan at Edgbaston who can talk about the weather, the coming election or the state of the buses in the same breathe. He’s nice.
The second thing to realise very quickly is that you are not sitting down with an outspoken charismatic as is his predecessor John Sentamu.
Bishop David Urquhart has been in situ for the past six years and he goes about things differently than the present Archbishop of York.
’We are friends and, following him, I am forging my own style and my own path in taking responsibility for the diocese. He is brilliant at the headline and picking out a particular issue. My aim is to be longer term and more strategic and strengthening the church and strengthening our civic life.’
So more of a back room man who makes the ties that bind rather than stepping up to the soap box and unveiling the gesture.
I still think of Bishop Sentamu buying two Rovers for the church when Longbridge was reeling. Bishop Urquhart nods sagely. You feel it isn’t his style…just as he indicated. If he’d bought two Rovers as a symbol, he wouldn’t have had a press release about it. It just would have happened.
He worked for British Petroleum after graduating with a BA and in 1984 was ordained. Business and commerce must be in sights- especially in business-mad Birmingham.
‘Things will be tough,’ he said when I asked about the city’s future. ‘Things will be very different in the years ahead. We will need skilled jobs and jobs that perhaps will mean no great group of employees in one great big factories.’
‘It may mean specialists and people that find a distinctive area.’
He also is pragmatic enough to know that the jobless rate could well remain high in the city and that means people being ‘occupied’ as he puts it. And that may mean volunteering or giving your time to help others. It’s a fluid but functional mixture of business sense and a rigorous Christianity that he symbolises.
That’s all very well but what do you say to a teenager without a job, a home or…well, anything? What do you say to a teenager with tracks up his arm or a knife in his hand?
‘I encourage people who are successful and confident and mature giving their time in their own communities who are struggling.’
He calls it ‘tricky’ but important. ‘You have to come out of your comfort zone to relate to people who are struggling.’
Despite the fact that the bishop enjoys the quiet but persistent networking with city leaders to improve Birmingham and help form long term strategy, he does have a go at coming to terms with people around the city.
He has a Facebook page which, when I opened it, didn’t seem to be a gimmick nor a one-off stunt. It was up to date and quietly ticking away. Just like the Bishop.
The filmed interview with The Bishop of Birmingham is here.
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