THERE MAY have been a suitably grand sense of occasion but the man at the centre of it all made sure his big day also had plenty of community spirit.
Yesterday saw the start of a series of three ceremonies that will officially enthrone the Right Reverend Nick Baines in his role as the Church of England’s first Bishop of Leeds.
Held at Wakefield Cathedral, the ceremony was preceded by a brass band-led procession of civic figures, local dignitaries, clergy and lay people through the city’s streets.
Events at the cathedral got under way in traditional fashion at 6pm, with the Rt Rev Baines knocking on its West Door before being granted entry for the formal element of his enthronement. The evening then took on a more informal tone as he moved back outside into the cathedral precinct to give his first sermon as head of the recently-created ‘super diocese’ of West Yorkshire and the Dales – one of the largest in the country.
School choirs sang on the cathedral steps while bells rang and a fanfare sounded at a gathering that marked an important new chapter in the religious life of the county.
The Rt Rev Baines, however, was keen to emphasise that the huge size of the diocese would not weaken his connection with worshippers. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post before the ceremony, he said: “It’s a big diocese, there’s no doubt about that.
“I am going to try to get out and about as much as possible and these days you can connect with people in different ways – by social media, by Twitter.
“I am conscious there is plenty of hard work ahead but the mission of our churches remains unchanged. Let’s pray for and encourage one another to make the most of the opportunities we have been given over the coming years.”
In an historic first for the Church of England, further enthronement ceremonies will follow over the next few days at the other two Anglican cathedrals in the new diocese.
One will happen tomorrow evening at Bradford Cathedral while the second is being held on Sunday afternoon at Ripon Cathedral.
At the latter ceremony, the bishop will take oaths on the Ripon Bible, which dates back to 1260.
He will also be meeting and praying with people at Halifax Minster this evening and Leeds Minster on Friday evening.
“All this means that there is no going back,” joked Bishop Baines.
He went on: “The enthronements represent a significant stage in the birth of the diocese and I’m very grateful to everyone who’s worked inordinately hard to get us this far.”
The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales came into being on Easter Sunday this year.
Stretching from Barnsley through West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire, it replaced the former dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield. Church leaders hope the new diocese will have a “more coherent influence” on regional and national debates thanks to its leadership by a single bishop.
They also say it should provide fresh opportunities for “collaborative working” between clergy and lay people.
Each of the diocese’s five areas – Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield – will have its own bishop, headed by the Rt Rev Baines.