THE Rt Revd Sarah Mullally was installed as the first woman Bishop of London in St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday.
The 133rd Bishop knocked on the great west door of the cathedral three times with her pastoral staff for admission, and then swore the oaths of allegiance to the Queen, due obedience to God, and to uphold the statutes and constitution of the cathedral, on the Tyndale Bible of 1526.
In her sermon, Bishop Mullally, who became Bishop of Crediton in 2015 (News, 12 June 2015), remarked that, 150 years ago that week, suffragettes had placed a bomb under the seat in which she had just been enthroned as the first woman to be Bishop of London.
“Let me reassure you, I do not come carrying bombs — or perhaps not literal ones, anyway. But I am aware that, as the first woman Bishop of London, I am necessarily subversive, and it’s a necessity I intend to embrace.”
She also spoke of championing Christian relationship over theological debate. The servic, she noted, was being held on International Nurses Day, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who, she said, “had the skill to build human relationships”.
Before her ordination in 2001, Bishop Mullally worked as a nurse in London, then as a senior civil servant in the Department for Health, eventually becoming Chief Nursing Officer in 1999 (News, 22 December 2017).
“If we want to improve public health today,” she said in her sermon, “if we want to improve the life chances of those who are still left behind and failed by our education system, if we want to reduce the horrifyingly high number of young deaths from knife and gun crime occurring in this wonderful city, we have to build relationships; and, if we want to see more people transformed by the love of God, then we have to reach out, to build relationships.”
The diocese of London was “growing in confidence” and diversity, Bishop Mullally said, but there was work to be done. Safeguarding needed to be “underpinned by a culture which challenges deference and the abuse of power, and we need to create environments where victims of abuse are heard”. The diocese needed to “speak up” to challenge violence and crime in the city, she said.
She also spoke of a fostering a “Church which is rooted in scripture and tradition, but not afraid to reimagine the future”.
“I know that over the coming years I will make mistakes, and I know that I will not always fulfil your expectations. At times, I will feel overwhelmed. But, underneath all this, I know I am called, and that God who has called me is faithful.”
At the end of the service, the Bishop went out through the west door to bless the city and the diocese.
You can listen to our Podcast interview with Bishop Mullally after the announcement of her nomination in December.