Today the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales (Leeds) is one year old. The three historic dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield were dissolved on 20 April 2014 – Easter Day – and life has been interesting since then.
We could celebrate a pile of appointments and a load of work that has gone on to devise new structures. Or we could describe the challenges of creating a single diocese (culture and identity) out of three, but now in five episcopal areas and still having to work in some respects along the lines of the original three. Or we could complain that we didn’t start from where we should have started from.
However, I think we should simply celebrate the remarkable maturity, commitment, vision, patience and generosity of so many people – clergy and lay – who have got on with the job and kept our ministry, witness and outreach going in the 656 churches and 249 schools for which we are responsible. We have some remarkable people here – not least those who have worked the administration, sometimes against the odds.
One of the first appointments I made on becoming the first Bishop of Leeds in June 2014 was of an Adviser for Church Growth. Rooted in the north of England, this person, Robin Gamble, began very quickly to devise ways of helping parishes face reality and rise to the challenge. And what does this mean? With all its faults and limitations, we want to be a vibrant diocese with confident clergy and confident lay people living and telling the good news of Jesus Christ in West Yorkshire and the Dales. Authentic worship rooted in the realities of the diverse communities in which we are set; a recovery of confidence in the Bible and the story it tells; developing a rootedness in prayer; enabling effective evangelism; resourcing intentional nurture of new Christians; allowing disciples of Jesus Christ to exercise ministry in a million different ways.
The north of England is a different country. And we love bringing Christ to people and people to Christ. Right here in West Yorkshire, the Dales, parts of North Yorkshire, Barnsley (South Yorkshire) and a few other bits. It isn’t always easy – but it is never boring. There is a long way to go – but we are up for the journey.