A FORMER chaplain to Blackpool Tower Circus has been consecrated as the new Bishop of Penrith at a ceremony in York Minster.

THE Venerable Robert John Freeman took up the role on Friday following a service led by the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu.

Mr Freeman was previously the Archdeacon of Halifax where he had a particular involvement with various initiatives to help churches strengthen their sense of purpose and mission, and look for ways to serve their communities and make their activities and worship more accessible.

He has a particular enthusiasm for helping people outside the church explore and discover Christian faith. This enthusiasm is reflected in his involvement over many years with the innovative web site www.rejesus.co.uk and more recently with the national Christian Enquiry Agency (www.christianity.org.uk).

Before ordination Mr Freeman studied psychology and he continues to retain an interest in science. For many years he has been fascinated by computer technology and the internet, and the openings these bring within church life to improve organisation and communication.

Following ordination Mr Freeman worked as a curate in Blackpool where part of his role for a time was as chaplain to the Tower Circus and Winter Gardens. He also served in Chigwell in the north east London suburbs and as a vicar for 14 years in inner city and multi-cultural Leicester.

From 2003 he was the National Mission and Evangelism Adviser for the Church of England, based in London. His work included editing ‘Mission-Shaped Church’, a ground-breaking Church of England report. It encouraged different styles of church life and ways of making church more accessible to those who do not normally attend. The report led on to the ‘Fresh Expressions’ initiative, an ecumenical movement to stimulate new ways of approaching church life alongside affirming more conventional approaches.

Mr Freeman is married to Chris and they have three daughters and a very recent granddaughter. They have moved to Cumbria from Brighouse.

Mr Freeman replaces the Rt Rev James Newcome in the role. Mr Newcome is now Bishop of Carlisle.