FAREWELL: Ian Chaplin and Bishop Sarah Macneil walk out of the Christ Church Cathedral ahead of her retirement.
FAREWELL: Ian Chaplin and Bishop Sarah Macneil walk out of the Christ Church Cathedral ahead of her retirement. Caitlan Charles

Tears and well wishes for retiring Bishop Sarah

THERE is no question that The Right Reverend Dr Sarah Anne Macneil, Bishop of Grafton will be missed.

Four years ago, Bishop Sarah arrived in Grafton, to a diocese in need of leadership, and that is exactly what she provided.

Through tears and well-wishers, Bishop Sarah lay down her Pastoral Staff and said goodbye to the Grafton Diocese, the 11th Bishop of Grafton moved into retirement with her husband Ian Chaplin.

Archdeacon Sally Miller, representing the Clergy of the Diocese of Grafton, spoke of when they first heard Bishop Sarah would be joining them in Grafton. She described the Facebook stalking and research they did after discovering their next Bishop would be a woman.

"It was kind of like a birth announcement, 'It's a girl!'," she said.

"It's funny how things like that seem important until the fullness of the person is revealed.

"And in Sarah, what a wonderful fullness that has been."

Likening the Clergy of Grafton to Bertie Botts Every-Flavour Beans from Harry Potter, with a full range of personalities, she said Bishop Sarah was able to appreciate every one of those flavours.

Bishop Macneil said while their four years at Grafton may have been the right time for the diocese, it was also the right time for them.

"It has been a great blessing for us," she said.

"As you all know, it's been quite a wild ride, these four years in one way or another, but we have had, very much, a sense of being blessed by your openness to us and your willingness to be part of this journey of the diocese.

"Those who were uncertain about having a woman as a bishop at the beginning, for the most part extraordinarily gracious is not actually telling me that.

"It sounds a humorous kind of thing, but it is actually important as we have journeyed together."


Bishop Sarah thanked all the people who travelled from far and wide to be at the cathedral, remembering those who she met at the beginning of her journey with God.

Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis said it was a sad day for the diocese and the wider community.

"Everyone is here as a mark of respect for Bishop Sarah and all the wonderful work you have carried out," he said.

"You came to Grafton when the church was in somewhat of a turmoil and you bought peace, you brought tranquillity and you bought back respect for the church both within the church and the community.

"You've been able to engage the community at a very grass roots level, you've been able to connect and be really concerned about their well-being and their spiritual well-being.

"You've done that with humility, humanity and humour."

Mr Gulaptis likened the church to the TV show The Vicar of Dibley - not for the resemblance, but for warmth and humanity Bishop Sarah brings to the community.

"Looking around, I'm sure people are wondering which character am I," he joked.

"(You have brought) something that is very down to earth and we've been able to connect with the bishop in a way that we have never done before, and it's a wonderful thing.

"I have found engaging with the Bishop has been wonderful, she had listened, she has a high intellect and she makes a wonderful contribution."

Bishop Sarah sighted health reasons for her move into retirement.

Archdeacon Gail Hagon will be administrator of the church until a new Bishop is appointed.

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