He’s Here! Huddersfield welcomes Jonathan Gibbs and his wife, Toni
No amount of drizzly grey November weather could have dampened the spirits of all those who gathered at Dewsbury Minster to give the first Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs and his wife, Toni, a big warm Yorkshire welcome.
The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines led the service and greeted Bishop Jonathan and his wife and welcomed them both to the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales and to the Huddersfield Episcopal Area before he was greeted warmly by civic leaders and faith representatives from across the region, including the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe and the Mayor of Kirklees, and the Deputy Mayor of Calderdale.
The Minster Singers and the Gospel Whispers raised the roof with their mix of traditional and contemporary songs and hymns as over 350 people gathered to welcome their new bishop. There was a special trumpet fanfare played by Colin Lowther, and there were messages of hope from young people and representatives from across the Episcopal Area including the vicar of Huddersfield, a local solicitor and an Islamic scholar from Dewsbury .
Bishop Jonathan was officially welcomed to the start of his ministry as the First Bishop of Huddersfield and stepped forward to give his first sermon as the First Bishop of Huddersfield on the theme of hope.
He said: “As I take up this wonderful new role as Bishop of Huddersfield in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, I pledge myself to working with you, here in Kirklees and Calderdale and across the Diocese, to build up the life of the Church and to serve the cause of the coming of God’s reign of justice and wholeness and peace; so that God’s way of doing things, where people flourish and are enabled to become all that they can be, is seen just a little bit more amongst us and around us.
“We cannot build the kingdom of God here on earth – that is a dangerous deceit, whether in a religious or a secular form – but we can plant seeds of hope and in due time see trees blossom and grow, whose leaves are for the healing of both people and nations. We can work together across our communities to nurture the vision of people reconciled and living together, sharing in the purpose of human flourishing and of the renewal of creation itself.
“Our job, as members of the Christian Church, is not to play down what God has done in Jesus Christ, but to live and to tell the hope that we have in him.
“The signs are there; things are happening; a new world is coming. We need to see those signs and to join in with what God is doing – full of hope for all that is to come. Will you join me in working to turn that vision into a reality? Amen."
You can read Bishop Jonathan’s sermon in full below.
Prayers were led by Linda Maslen, a church member at All Saints Church, Halifax with members of the Saturday Gathering, a Fresh Expressions of church born out of the town’s ecumenical Food Bank and Drop in Centre based out of Ebenezer Methodist church.
Children from Windmill School, Batley, then came forward and presented Bishop Jonathan with the symbols of the new bishop’s ministry – a Bible, the bishop’s mitre, the bishop’s pastoral staff and a small hand held cross.
Bishop Jonathan's sermon:
Living in Hope Dewsbury Minster - 29th November 2014
Well, good morning! Thank you very much for coming to take part in this celebration this morning, from all over Kirklees and Calderdale and from the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. It is wonderful for us to be here and Toni and I would like to thank you for the great Yorkshire welcome that we have received already.
We are on the verge of something amazing – something completely new. That is what our two Bible readings both say to us this morning. God is in the business of transformation – of making things new – and we are invited to be part of what he is doing. That was the fundamental message of Jesus from the very start of his ministry – “Watch out, get ready, because God is breaking into our world in a wonderful new way – and you need to be ready to join in with what he is doing.”
In terms of the Church’s year, we are on the eve of the season of Advent, when we celebrate the hope of Jesus’ return and the ultimate renewal and fulfilment of all creation. It is a season of hope and anticipation – and not just in terms of endless shopping and preparing for the festivities of Christmas and New Year. No, the season of Advent is – or should be – an annual reminder of the hope we have in and through Jesus Christ – the hope that God is involved with our world and is in the business of transforming and renewing it from the inside out.
When we look at the world around us, whether in terms of violence or disease or famine on the global scene or the desperation of grinding poverty on our doorsteps, things can look pretty bleak – especially on a cold and damp winter’s morning! But for us as Christians, as people of faith in the living God, then this is never the whole of the story – because we live as people of hope, people who know that God is at work and that the darkness can never and must never have the final word.
We can see that hope breaking into people’s lives when someone extends a hand of friendship across the divides of creed and class and culture. We can see that hope dawning in someone’s heart when they hear and receive the good news that they are infinitely loved in Jesus Christ and that they have a place to sit and a part to play in the new world of his kingdom. We can see that hope at work when someone who has been hurt and rejected finds acceptance and healing through the unconditional grace of a God who stands before them as a fellow human being; a God who embraces them and weeps with them until at last they can smile and laugh together as citizens of the new world that God is making.
And none of this is just for us – just for those of us who gather in a church building on a Sunday morning or even here in Dewsbury Minster today. It is for all of creation and for everyone without exception, here in this country and around the world. But how on earth is it going to happen – or do we have to wait until Jesus returns and just keep our heads above water until then?
Well, certainly we need to be wary of dreams of earthly utopias; there have been far too many of those in the last century, and they have all ended in a bloody mess of one kind or another. Earlier this morning we dedicated two trees remembering the sacrifices made in two World Wars – and even today there are those who are trying to use violence to establish new kingdoms based on twisted ideologies of fear and hate.
But the existence of such misguided evil does not mean that we should retreat into the security of our homes and do nothing. What it does mean is that we are called to live as followers of Jesus Christ and as citizens of his kingdom – a kingdom which is “not of this world” – but instead is one where things aren’t done the way the world does things. Jesus calls his people to follow in his steps, to be instruments of healing and reconciliation, to be concerned for the poor and outcast, to be servants of others and not lording it over them – and above all to proclaim the good news of God’s favour and blessing and to invite people to become part of what he is doing.
We are to live differently, because of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim boldly the good news of what God has done in Christ and to share the story of what he is doing in and for the whole of creation. We are to call people to lift their eyes from the pavements and the shopping malls and from their TVs and their digital screens – in order to see that God is calling us to share in the great adventure of renewing creation and of reconciling all people to God and to one another in and through Jesus Christ.
And the heart of all this – extraordinary though it may seem – is the life of the local church. We are God’s upside down plan for turning the world inside out. We, as Saint Paul says, are the weak and insignificant and even the refuse of the world, but God in his mercy (and probably also his sense of humour!) takes us and uses us to bless and change the lives of others. It starts small like a mustard seed, but it can grow, nurtured with hope and watered by God’s Spirit.
But it can only do that when, in the paradox of the gospel, we forget ourselves and our worries about how we will manage and how we will keep the lights on, and focus instead on living as citizens of the kingdom and subversive agents of the love of God and the hope of Jesus Christ. In the months and years ahead, it will be our job to act as catalysts of the kingdom – not trying to impose our will on an unwelcoming world but planting trees of hope and seeds of new beginnings in the lives of our communities and in the lives of the people among whom we live and work day by day.
As I take up this wonderful new role as Bishop of Huddersfield in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, I pledge myself to working with you, here in Kirklees and Calderdale and across the Diocese, to build up the life of the Church and to serve the cause of the coming of God’s reign of justice and wholeness and peace; so that God’s way of doing things, where people flourish and are enabled to become all that they can be, is seen just a little bit more amongst us and around us.
We cannot build the kingdom of God here on earth – that is a dangerous deceit, whether in a religious or a secular form – but we can plant seeds of hope and in due time see trees blossom and grow, whose leaves are for the healing of both people and nations. We can work together across our communities to nurture the vision of people reconciled and living together, sharing in the purpose of human flourishing and of the renewal of creation itself.
Our job, as members of the Christian Church, is not to play down what God has done in Jesus Christ, but to live and to tell the hope that we have in him.
The signs are there; things are happening; a new world is coming. We need to see those signs and to join in with what God is doing – full of hope for all that is to come. Will you join me in working to turn that vision into a reality? Amen.
The Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs Revelation 22: 1-5
Bishop of Huddersfield Luke 21: 29-36