The Very Revd Geoff Miller bid farewell as Dean of Newcastle at a Service of Leave Taking and Farewell at Newcastle Cathedral on Sunday 20 November 2022.
The service was attended by civic dignitaries and many others who wanted to thank Geoff for his 23 years serving in Newcastle Diocese and particularly the last four as Dean of Newcastle.
Geoff was presented with a painting from a recent exhibition at the Cathedral ‘We are the Pelicans’ as a retirement gift. The mother pelican piercing her breast to feed her young is a widely recognised image of self-sacrificial giving and unconditional love, symbolic of Geoff's many years of service.
On announcing his retirement in September, the Very Revd Geoff Miller said: “It has been a real joy to play a part in the continuing story of the Diocese. I have met so many people in so many rich and varied contexts. I have especially enjoyed my time as Archdeacon of Northumberland and, more recently, sharing in the challenges and the development of the Cathedral. This has become my home and its people my joy to serve in the name of Christ, who calls us all his friends.
“I will miss so much this wonderful Diocese with wonderful people at its heart. I will take much away with me to treasure, but perhaps there will be new configurations, new learning, and new development for me too.”
Born and bred in the council estate of Wythenshawe, Manchester, Geoff had a short career in as a secondary teacher in Leeds before training for ministry at Nottingham. He was ordained in 1983, serving his title in the Parish of Jarrow.
There followed parish responsibilities in Billingham, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington before moving to Newcastle Cathedral as a Residentiary Canon and Diocesan Urban Officer in 1999.
In 2005 Geoff became Archdeacon of Northumberland, remaining attached to the Cathedral until becoming Acting Dean in 2018. He was installed as the Dean of Newcastle the following year, serving the community in a wide variety of civic roles.
As Geoff announced his retirement, the Acting Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Mark Wroe said: “Over the last four years, Geoff has served both Newcastle Cathedral and the people of the city and diocese with passion and commitment as Dean of Newcastle, and before that the wider Diocese since 1999, including his role as Archdeacon of Northumberland from 2005.
“Through the ‘Common Ground in Sacred Space’ project, which secured multi-million-pound Heritage Lottery funding, Geoff has overseen the incredible transformation of our Cathedral into an inspirational place to visit and worship in the heart of Newcastle and a building that is fit for future generations. His consistent compassion for the most vulnerable in our society and his desire to work closely with other churches and faiths, and city institutions and businesses, has ensured the Cathedral plays a key role in city life.
“Geoff leaves a legacy that is inspiring. He retires with our deep gratitude for his friendship, wisdom and for all that he has given this Diocese. We keep him and his wife Elaine in our prayers and love as they prepare to enter this new stage of life.”
Canon Clare Mclaren offered one of many tributes during the service. Recalling a memory of finding Geoff scrubbing chalk off the Cathedral floor following a children’s event, she said: “Thank you Geoff. You have rolled your sleeves up. You’ve never been afraid to get your hands dirty.
“Thank you for your wisdom and your insight, for your collegial leadership here in this cathedral.
“There’s never been any question about the strength of the heart that he has for the city of Newcastle, for the people of the North East, for this cathedral, its staff and congregation.”
During 2020/2021, the Dean oversaw a major refurbishment of Newcastle Cathedral, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Cathedral reopened with a new interpretation scheme, improved disabled access, and a landscaped outdoor terrace.
Reflecting on his time, Geoff said: “It has been a joy to play a part in the continuing story of the Cathedral, helping to make this sacred place common ground.
“The vision we have created together has driven us to offer a radical welcome, inspiring worship and encounters that empower worth in each other. Even more important than the fabric of the building are the people; that is the incredible staff and volunteers, my talented clergy colleagues, and a vibrant congregation.
“I hope you will have a little smile when you remember the old Archdeacon and sometime Dean. I know that there will be plenty of smiles among my memories of the last years. But now I head into my next (hopefully calmer) adventure, G&T in hand. God has been good to me, and I pray that you, my friends and colleagues, will continue to be blessed by his wide and bountiful grace.”
During Sunday’s service, Bishop Mark gave this final tribute: “Geoff we are deeply grateful for all you have given for the life of our Diocese, to the church in the North East, to the communities of our region. We are grateful for your friendship, your wisdom and your love. Thank you.”
The Order of Service can be downloaded here.
Geoff’s service will remain available on Newcastle Cathedral’s YouTube until Sunday 27 November 2022 .
More photos can be found on our Flickr.