History is to be made today when people from Lancaster and Lancashire journey over the Pennines to York where the new Anglican Bishop of Lancaster will be ordained in the Minster.
The service at York Minster will be a very grand event. The magnificent building will be filling with family and friends of the new bishop. There will be about 40 bishops taking part in the service itself and led by the charismatic figure of the Archbishop of York.
For the first time for Lancashire a woman will become an Anglican Bishop. Dr Jill Duff is an energetic, highly intelligent and gifted individual, hailing from Lancashire who will, through her engaging personality and abilities, bring much to our communities as Bishop of Lancaster.
Jill is one of those people who has achieved much in many areas of life. She was a research scientist and worked for Esso. She was responsible for a new way of training clergy in the North West of England, enabling them to link the local church, places of employment and the academic world in their training. Her experience of ministry has been rooted in often forgotten communities, large city estates as well as knowing small village life.
Her consecration as a bishop, while full of pomp and ceremony, will have within it Jill being given three things.The first is a Bible. A Bishop is one who teaches from scripture and seeks to understand the whole of life through faith both personal and that of history and community.
The second is a ring. In the past this ring would be used to seal documents, to show they were from the bishop and had the bishop’s authority. It also, like a wedding ring, shows a commitment and linkage between the person and those who have been entrusted to them.
The third is a pastoral staff. This is a stylised shepherd’s crook and shows that the bishop is to be like a shepherd. Someone who cares deeply for their flock, who looks for fresh pastures, as well ensuring that the sheep are safe, cared for, feed and tended. These teaching, authority and caring roles are bound up in the bishop.
As Pope Francis reminded his bishops in Rome, a good shepherd smells of their sheep, because they are bound up with them.
To do this will need prayer, hence the service in York. Fundamentally will also need Jill to seek to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd - one totally committed both to their flock and their calling.
This is not pomp and ceremony, but prayer and service in pastoral care. We welcome Jill to her new calling and rejoice in all that she will be.