Cathedral rewrites history books with ceremony
Held on August 15, 1293, the service was, until now, the last time that Ripon Cathedral had been used for the consecration of a bishop.
Yesterday, however, the cathedral fulfilled that role once more as Paul Slater was consecrated as the Bishop of Richmond.
Fittingly, Bishop Slater’s new position has a historical significance all of its own within a Church of England that is trying to reach out to a wider audience throughout Yorkshire.
He is the first Bishop of Richmond for nearly 100 years, with the See of Richmond having been dormant since 1921.
Despite his title, 57-year-old Bishop Slater’s main responsibility will be for the Leeds episcopal area.
And he is certainly familiar with his geographic “patch”, having spent a period working as an assistant warden at the city’s St George’s Crypt homeless shelter in the early 1980s.
Bishop Slater, formerly the Archdeacon of Richmond and Craven, told The Yorkshire Post: “It made a big impression on me and was quite challenging at times – being on duty with 80 men in the crypt for the night, then having to give them tea in the morning and get them out of the place was fairly daunting for a 22-year-old.
“It really gave me an insight into how hard life can be for people who have slipped through safety nets for a number of reasons and find themselves in very difficult circumstances.
“The role of the crypt was to offer unconditional care and acceptance.”
Asked what he regarded as the particular problems and needs of the area which is now under his care, Bishop Slater said: “Leeds is a city of contrasts. There is a lot of poverty but there is also quite a lot of wealth creation and it is an ambitious place.
“The challenge is to work with groups at all levels within the city and foster wellbeing and welfare but I think it is one that the Church of England is well placed to meet.”
Yesterday’s service was led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
The preacher was Canon Felicity Lawson, the vicar of St Peter’s in Gildersome, Leeds, while singing came from the visiting choir of St Jude’s Anglican Church in the Oakville area of Ontario in Canada.
Speaking before the service, the Dean of Ripon, John Dobson, said: “We are delighted that Archbishop Sentamu has invited us to host the consecration of the Venerable Paul Slater as Bishop of Richmond.
“This is a huge privilege when such services in the Northern Province of the Church of England usually take place at York Minster.”
Bishop Slater is the sixth bishop to join the leadership team of the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, which came into being on Easter Sunday last year. Stretching from Barnsley through West Yorkshire and into North Yorkshire, it replaced the former dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield.
Bishop Nick Baines, who is the head of the so-called “super diocese”, said: “Paul Slater brings unrivalled experience of West Yorkshire at every level of the church, and has walked the journey of the last few years with us with great practical wisdom.
“He will hit the ground running and add great capacity to diocesan leadership, especially in the Leeds episcopal area for which he will largely take responsibility.”