When you meet Reverend Saju Muthalaly, he’s not exactly what you’d expect a bishop to be. In the traditional sense anyway. Vibrant, charismatic and just 43-years-old, he’s actually the youngest Bishop to be ordained in the Church of England.
His voice is strong and his passion for life is infectious as he talks about a variety of topics; his faith, diversity and his favourite sport, cricket.
Bishop Saju lives in Rothley with his wife Katy and their four children, after moving to the area recently from Kent, where he served previously as a vicar at St Mark’s Gillingham.
He told Pukaar that he is currently in the process of getting to know the local area, after being appointed as Loughborough’s newest bishop back in January, at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. And he’s enjoying it all so far, taking long walks in Bradgate Park, and getting to know the community.
In his own words, the new Bishop is currently a “stranger in the area.” Although he has moved around the UK, he didn’t actually arrive in the country until he was 21.
“I’ve lived half my life in India and half my life in England. I arrived as a 21-year-old to do a gap year, with a plan to stay here for 11 months. However 21-years-on I’m still here!” he revealed.
“Leicestershire is home now, and since we arrived, we’ve been exploring the area with the children.
“One of the first things we did was go to the Curve, where we thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is a familiar story and one with deep meaning.”
The Bishop grew up within a religious family on the West Coast of India, where his mother worked as a nurse at a Leprosy hospital, a ‘calling’ which had a big impact on the young Saju.
“Leprosy is a dreadful, dreadful condition and what it taught me is the need to attend to pain, wherever it might be,” he revealed.
“I see pain in the contemporary world in so many ways and in contemporary culture, so my heart is drawn to wherever pain might be.”
“My family are part of the Orthodox church in India, so I grew up in a church context. But when I got to the age of 15, I started thinking about how I would like to spend the rest of my life,” he continued.
“So then there was an element of me deciding to take my faith seriously, and since then I’ve pursued that as God’s call upon my life.”
A teenage Saju was also encouraged on his chosen career path by mentors in his life, who told him that he had ‘a gift’, which he might want to use within the church.
Saju’s strong communication skills, coupled with his innate curiosity about people from all walks of life, are things which he says help him in his role, which he succeeded from The Right Reverend Guli Francis- Dehqani – the first-ever Bishop of Loughborough.
“I’m a curious person. I’m always interested in people and especially people from different backgrounds, different nationalities, different ways of life and different journeys,” he said.
“One of the great privileges of being a priest, and now a bishop, is being able to work with people across the board. So that’s a gift as well.”
The new bishop’s warmth and his passion for diversity shines brightly, and he says the thing which he is most looking forward to in his new role, is meeting and connecting with people from all walks of life.
He hopes to build relationships and achieve more work around ‘intercultural worship in communities,’ as well as racial equality, he says.
However, one of his other plans is also to indulge his huge passion for cricket.
“I love cricket. I love watching it, I love playing it. I go to games every opportunity I can,” he enthused.
“It’s more than just a sport, it’s about people and culture and connections. That’s why I’m drawn to the game.
“I’m hoping to go to the local county cricket here in the near future, and maybe get involved in playing for one of the local village cricket teams as well,” he added.
“Also, I was excited to learn that the Diocese of Leicester actually has a cricket team, so part of my job description has to be playing cricket for the Diocese as well. I’m really looking forward to that!”
By Louise Steel