New Bishop’s vision for the future

NEW BEGINNINGS Bishop Jonathan wants to change the way the churches work with their communities.
NEW BEGINNINGS Bishop Jonathan wants to change the way the churches work with their communities.

The new Bishop of Huddersfield has said he wants churches to be the centre of their communities after making a visit to Dewsbury.

The Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs is in charge of the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, which includes North Kirklees.

And one of his first priorities is to change the way churches interact with others in their towns and villages.

“We want to put the church at the heart of the community in each area,” he said.

“We don’t want it just to be a club for its own members – I think it is an opportunity to build bridges and make relationships with people from other backgrounds.”

Bishop Jonathan visited Dewsbury Town Hall for a civic reception on Saturday when he also visited its historic minster and planted a tree to remember Britain’s war dead.

He spoke of the challenges facing him in his new role and the new diocese, which includes 120 churches in West and North Yorkshire.

“There is a lot of social deprivation in some of these areas,” he said.

“I will be working with councils, as well as other charitable organisations and people of other faiths – the church can be a catalyst for bringing people together.

“I do think the new diocese size will help the areas. They will be small enough for the bishops to know their clergies and for clergies to know their bishops.”

It has been an interesting journey for Cheshire native Bishop Jonathan who, at 18, entered Oxford University to study politics, philosophy and economics and had dreams of moving into Westminster.

“I really had no interest in the church at all,” he added. “But I became gradually involved in the church during my second year, and left university knowing that I wanted to work with them in some way.”

He then took a job working with students in Paris, before becoming ordained as a vicar in 1989.

After spells at churches in Germany and Switzerland, he became rector at a church in Heswall, the Wirral.

He believes churches in England can learn a lot from their European counterparts.

Bishop Jonathan, 53, said: “I found there were a lot of differences between the Anglican churches here and those in Europe.

“The churches in Europe had to be completely self-financing, and we are now seeing churches over here beginning to go the same way.”