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First and five

02 January 2015

SHE is ahead of the Revd Libby Lane, who is to be the next Bishop of Stockport. Rosie Wilson of Selside, near Horton-in-Ribblesdale in the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, claims to be the first woman bishop in North Yorkshire, even though she is only five. Reviving the old tradition on the Feast of St Nicholas, she volunteered to become the first "Bairn Bishop" during the evening service at St Oswald's, Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

The congregation were reminded by the Priest-in-Charge of the benefice, the Revd Stephen Dawson, that the medieval boy bishops used to be elected on 6 December, dressed in boy-size vestments, and hold office until the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It was Henry VIII who put a stop to the custom, saying it was "a childish observance when little childer be strangely decked to counterfeit the Ordinary".

But that didn't stop Rosie when, during his sermon, Mr Dawson asked for a volunteer. "I talked about the Bairn Bishops, their visits to parishes in their diocese, especially on horseback, and their authority to declare holidays and deliver sermons (written for them). We made a mitre from red card, and I asked if anyone wanted to try on the chasuble.

"Rosie, as the youngest present at Evening Prayer, quickly left her pew near the font and walked right up to the chancel." It was quite a commitment, both to dressing up for the part in church for the carol services and Christingles, and doing it again at the school assembly.

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