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Yorkshire dioceses will celebrate Paschal rebirth

17 April 2014

Wakefield Cathedral

Farewell: the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten (left, in chasuble), is embraced by Archbishop Malkhaz of the Georgian Baptist Church, at a service of thanksgiving for the diocese of Wakefield at Wakefield Cathedral, on Palm Sunday

Farewell: the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten (left, in chasuble), is embraced by Archbishop Malkhaz of the Georgian Baptist Church...

ON EASTER DAY, millions of people in Yorkshire will awake to a new reality. At 11.59 p.m. the previous day, three dioceses will have ceased to be. In their place will be the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, a new creation born after much debate.

On Monday, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, appointed to head the new diocese as the first Bishop of Leeds, said that the transition had shown that "as a Church, we have the courage to sacrifice, in order to create something new."

The scheme to combine the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield was first published in 2012, and approved by the General Synod in July last year (News, 12 July). It was originally opposed by the diocese of Wakefield ( News, 8 March 2013).

"We are demonstrating that we are prepared to change, however complex and difficult it is, and that attitude needs to be taken up elsewhere, where other dioceses may need to have similar courage to ask: 'Are we meeting the needs of this and the next generation?'", said Bishop Baines, who until Holy Saturday night is the Bishop of Bradford.

After describing his frustration at the media's tendency to assume that the reorganisation was driven by financial motives, he said that having five area bishops would mean that they could "get closer to the ground and offer better support pastorally to clergy and people". The scale of the diocese - 2425 square miles - would ensure that "we get to see the rural through the lens of the urban and the varities of urban through the lens of the rural. It's a constant check on our theology and understanding of what we are about."

On Saturday, he addressed a congregation in Bradford Cathedral for a service held to celebrate the diocese's 95 years.

The farewell to the diocese of Wakefield took place on Sunday. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, gave every church a handmade pottery chalice inscribed with the Wakefield Cross.

Clergy and civic leaders marched through the streets to a service in the cathedral, where each parish brought a memento to be buried in a time capsule.

On Easter Day, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, will read a poem she has written for the occasion.

The reorganisation process is being led by John Tuckett, andthe Diocesan Secretaries of Wakefield and Bradford. They had, Bishop Baines said, the "considerable task of ensuring that on Easter Day we will be legal, viable, and operational. . . . People are being incredibly mature about handling the uncertainties and the flexibility that we need at the moment."

Bishop Baines will not be enthroned as Bishop of Leeds until 8 June. In the interim, he will be an Assistant Bishop of York, enabling him to serve as Acting Bishop of Leeds. It would be "weird", he said, to lay down his pastoral staff on the altar on Easter Day. "That will symbolically mark the end of my mission as Bishop of Bradford and the end of the diocese."

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