General Synod gave us a gift on Monday, in deciding to go ahead with the creation of a new Diocese of Leeds, to be known as West Yorkshire and the Dales, and to be formed out of (most of) the existing Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield. There will be a new Diocesan of Leeds, and 4 area bishops, slightly confusingly to be known as Ripon, Bradford, Wakefield and Huddersfield, (henceforth to be known as Huddersfield Without (a cathedral). It is a gift that will be welcomed in two of the existing Dioceses, but a gift that is, at best, uncomfortable for us in Wakefield, because we had stated quite clearly there were more helpful ways to move us all forward.
It wasn't a great debate - a worrying number of Synod members were not even there. The genuine concerns that Wakefield had raised concerning our history, local knowledge and relationships, ways of doing mission and the place of the cathedrals were politely acknowledged, but sadly patronised by some. We are still no nearer to knowing why or how this structure will help us to be more mission focussed.
So be it. Time to receive the gift, and to contribute to making it work, for the Church and the people of West Yorkshire are too important for this to fail. Time to be prepared to hold this structure to account, and make sure it delivers all it promises. Our neighbouring Dioceses will have much that is of worth to offer, and we trust that they are ready to receive from Wakefield as well. But in order to make some sense of all this, and with many in this Diocese feeling surprisingly emotional this week, I looked again at the Reredos in All Saints Church, and I am reminded that we have been here already.
The High Altar Reredos in All Saints, Elland
Along the top of the Reredos in the above picture, (sorry they are so dark!), are 4 Angels, each bearing a symbol; from left to right, the Arms of the Savile Family, the Yorkshire Rose, the Cross-keys of the Province of York, and the Arms of the Diocese of Wakefield.
The Savile Arms
The then Lord Savile having given the land for All Saints Church in 1897, the Family Arms were included in the Reredos which is a 1927 memorial to Canon Ernest Winter, founder of All Saints.
Since their arrival from France and their original association with 12th Century Elland, or Ealand, the Saviles have many associations with the West Riding, but it is here in Elland that the family fortunes originated, before their family symbol of Eagle Owls as seen above, subsequently transformed into the Owls on the Arms of the City of Leeds.
I have a great affection for the City of Leeds, having serving there for 7 years after being ordained 25 years ago in Ripon Cathedral. I'm proud to be a sporting Loiner, or a Rhino as we have to be known these days, and have been known to turn up at Elland Road as well as at Headingly. Although I am not a born and bred Yorkshire man, I am quite happy to be the father of one, and the grandfather of another genuine Yorkshire tyke. For me, the Northern Province is a good place to be.
Centre right and right, the Arms of York (St Peter's Keys) and Wakefield.
I am sure that my tale of casual connections could be repeated by many, and it is on those relationships that, allowing for a fair treatment of, and willingness to listen to, all sections of the new Diocese, that it will have a chance to work. After all, this remains a great place to be, and I have taken a moment to remind myself this week just how fortunate and grateful I am to be here.
Perhaps for most folk, the wheel will only hit the road when we have to pay for it all, and we test the optimistic assertion of the Dioceses Commission that this will be cost neutral. Or, in other words, who will pay for my new Notice Boards?
May the Lord continue to bless the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield, their Bishops, Clergy and people, as we work for our new Diocese.
May the Holy Spirit inspire those who will choose our new Bishops, and inspire us to show proper care for those who face great uncertainties for their jobs, livelihoods and ministries.
May Blessed Mary Queen of All Saints, St Peter, St Wilfrid, St Paulinus, St Blaise and the whole company of heaven pray to God for us!