Tomorrow Monday is going to see a truly historic event for the Church of England as it sees a woman made Bishop for the first time within the Provinces of York and Canterbury since its foundation as the Anglican Church in these Isles under the jurisdiction of Henry VIII.
The event has seen a range of interesting comments on twitter, including requests for live streaming of the event from the Minster, to mark a historic moment which would seem to warrant such attention and input of IT resources to render it possible. I simply don’t know what the outcome of such late stage requests will be, but they do indicate a range of interest and requests to open up the processes of these paradigm shifting moments, which the Church’s establishment needs to attend to. For a Church whose star is presently in public decline, this installation, and the laying on of many Bishops hands on the head of the Revd Libby Lane represents at least some recovery of direction, if somewhat late in the day.
Many of the collects in the Book of Common Prayer were written by Cranmer the launching Archbishop of the new Church of England as it clambered its way out of Papal injunctions, and into the freedom of permitting a divorce for Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon, and creating the way for marriage to Anne Boleyn and the subsequent births of Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. They have been much loved, prayed over and considered by church men and women across the centuries.
College Chaplain and fellow of Trinity College Oxford Revd Dr Emma Percy, has written a collect for churches which has been used by some on this Sunday before the consecration of Revd Libby in York Minster and subsequent installation as 8th Bishop of Stockton in the Diocese of Chester. In thinking about some of the ongoing challenges which the Church of England faces in the light of realising truly inclusive processes and diversity in its leadership I have penned another in the tradition of Orthodox Christian piety, which I also offer to those who would like to find a way forward in celebrating this historic breakthrough.
Twenty years ago I was amongst the hundreds of other women, including a younger Emma Percy (author of the collect which follows), who went through a ‘mass distributed ordination’ into the priesthood undertaken across the dioceses of England and started the momentum for change which tomorrow shall publicly move another step forwards.
I hope that these prayers may assist your reflection and serve to inspire you to assist in whatever way you feel moved, to encourage the next steps of the Church of England’s long walk to equality and making an authentic contribution into the wider life of our multicultural and multi faith civil society.
in whose image we are made, male and female.
We thank you for the consecration of Bishop Libby.
May her ministry and that of the whole church,
bear witness to the reconciling love of your kingdom,
through which divisions are healed,
and in which women and men are one in Christ,
in whose name we pray. Amen
(Emma Percy 2015)
Holy Christ, our servant Leader
in whom there is no-one tainted,
male or female, straight or gay
in whose company race and ethnicity are riches to enjoy,
in whose hospitality all are seated, all are fed.
Old and young are inspired,
those whose faith has grown weary, refreshed
for all are included, all are welcomed, all are free
to eat and drink at the table set by Divine Love.
Infuse us with this festal heart
and liberate us from depleted vision
on this special day
through the power of resurrection hope
( Ford 2015)