Serpents and Doves: A New Year Message from the Bishop of Stepney

PUBLISHED: 18:00 31 December 2015

Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman

Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman


The Bishop of Stepney in his New Year message to the people of east London reveals a crack in the British reserve from a personal loss in his life—the sad passing of his Labrador companion.

Puppies and babies have an innocence that bring people together, like the New Year, the Rt Rev Adrian Newman believes. He writes:

At home in east London... Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman At home in east London... Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman

Our beautiful old dog has just died. When he was a puppy, this gorgeous black Labrador opened my eyes to a strange phenomenon about British society. Everywhere I went with him, people stopped to talk to me.

“Oh isn’t he lovely—how long have you had him?” a stranger says who I’ve never met. In no time at all we’re chatting away like old friends.

When our children were babies, pushing them out in the pram along the streets of London and Sheffield, passers-by would stop without warning, lean over, coodgy a few coos, and before you knew where you were you would be exchanging life-histories.

What is it about puppies and babies that causes cracks to appear in the Great British ‘reserve’ about talking to strangers?

Casper on beach, 2012 Casper on beach, 2012

I think it’s to do with purity and innocence. New lives, canine or human, are an open book, an unwritten story, virgin territory. They represent a new beginning, something unsullied, before the time of innocence is lost. They are a blank page, waiting for a new story to be written.

And so to a New Year. These coming 12 months are a new page, untouched, unsullied, virgin territory.

We should not despise the hope which springs eternal in that. It reminds me of a piece of wise advice from the lips of Jesus Christ about how to live in a complex world—be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

In the shadow of the Paris attacks in January and October just gone, wrestling with how different communities can live peaceably together, London could easily err on the side of the serpent.

We must prepare sensibly for something we pray will never come—but if those wise preparations are motivated by fear, then we will too quickly destroy an innocence which is at the heart of being human.

We cannot afford to look at one another in a spirit of mistrust born of fear. If we do, then the terrorists would have won.

In every New Year, there is the faint and forgotten pattern of the first sunrise, the distant echo of the first birdsong, the innocence of a dove.

The creator of black labs and babies, God is creating still. Each new day is virgin territory.

I, for one, will carry this hope of a new beginning into the highways and byways of 2016.

Happy New Year!


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Islington Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Islington Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Islington Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Islington News Stories

30 minutes ago

Islington Council has appointed a top family lawyer to begin its probe into a former mayor’s alleged links to a pro-paedophile group.

A man accused of carrying out the Finsbury Park terror attack “decided to take matters into his own hands” after growing angry at a rise in terrorism and the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, a court heard today.


A Clerkenwell pub is set to reopen as a fine dining restaurant selling pigs’ ear crisps, snail skewers and grilled duck hearts.


Hundreds of people celebrated the opening of a new community centre, as well as 23 new council homes, in Crouch Hill on Saturday.


Each week, we profile a company doing business here in Islington. This week, we step inside Clerkenwell Road’s International Magic Shop, where fortunately no one saws us in half.


Labour rebels accused colleagues of abandoning the party’s traditional supporters on Islington’s council estates, after they pushed through a £6 a week rent increase.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Emirates stadium was flooded with hundreds of tech-savvy students yesterday as Islington celebrated its computer-focused curriculum.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A visit from Arsenal Women’s skipper Alex Scott and BBC presenter Gabby Logan to Ashmount Primary School saw students making their screen debuts.


“With teenagers there’s a lot of banter, and you can really establish a relationship. You have to trust teenagers to make their own decisions.”

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now