As I’m sure most of us have heard by now, we have a new bishop on the way: the Ven. Cherry Vann, currently Archdeacon of Rochdale in the Diocese of Manchester. To me, this is good news. First, because Bishop-elect Cherry’s appointment draws to an end the recent, very odd chapter in the life of our Diocese. Having been, in effect, without a bishop’s active ministry for rather more than a year has been a troubling experience for many — clergy and laity alike — and, although many of our questions about the circumstances may never be fully answered, yet the election of a new Bishop finally gives us a focal point for looking forward.
Second, I believe it’s good news because my understanding is that Bishop-elect Cherry is a very good thing. To be perfectly honest, I had not heard of her before the appointment was announced; but of course I instantly went on a Google hunt for information, and in the weeks since, I’ve kept my ear to the ground and listened out for the word of people who know her and have worked with her. She is indeed well-spoken-of.
Her CV suggests that we are getting an experienced leader: ordained a priest at the very first opportunity that the Church of England gave women in general (1994, to be precise), our Bishop elect has a wealth of background in ministry. Since that time, Bishop-elect Cherry has served not only as a parish priest, an educational chaplain, area dean, cathedral canon, chaplain to the deaf (for which she learned British Sign Language), area dean, and archdeacon. I’m given to understand that she also has considerable experience in Church governance, having played a significant role on the Manchester Diocesan Board of Finance, served as the prolocutor (chair) of the Convocation of York, and sat for several years on the Archbishop’s Council (the national strategic body of the Church of England).
Of course, new leadership always involves a bedding-in period both for the organisation and for the leader. Additionally, it’s been my observation that English clergy appointed to Welsh episcopates often have quite a learning curve, as the Church in Wales has a strong and distinct national identity and its own idiosyncrasies in the way it gets its business done. In fact, I suspect that in some ways, the transition may even be a bigger ask for English clergy than for someone like me, from Texas, because of the particular Anglo-Welsh cultural history. But in this, I plan to meet Bishop-elect Cherry with a spirit of generosity and encouragement, as indeed I hope we all will. Wales was generous enough to welcome me many years ago as one of its own, and the least I can do is pay the favour forward.
Actually, I am heartened that our Bishop elect represents a fresh pair of eyes on our diocese and on the provincial Church. One of the great strengths of the Welsh Church is its relatively small size: as an institution we know one another well — in a way that is far less the case in England — and, most of the time, I have been grateful for that in the course of my ministry. Yet, in its way, operating at a size in which chatter is easy can also be a burden, as indeed it has in the course of the last year or so. In this respect, I believe that it can only benefit us to have a new bishop, and an experienced pastor, who has been neither part of, nor indeed privy to, the episode through which we have just walked. We need someone from outside to come in with both a firm hand and a pastoral heart, to help us pick up the pieces.
So in these words, I offer on behalf of us all a hearty welcome to our new Bishop elect. Let us choose to be firmly on her side in the trust that God will do good things through her pastoring. I invite you to join me in this welcome, and to pray with me in the hope and expectation of divine blessings.
Every blessing to you, and to yours,