THE first priest to be installed as Lord Mayor of York in the 800-year history of the office is the Revd Christopher Cullwick.
But he has had to wait more than a year to take up his post, because his inauguration in 2020 was postponed owing to the lockdown. After he was officially appointed last month, he pledged to arrange a commemoration of the year of the pandemic to bring the whole city together to remember those who had died.
Cllr Cullwick, who is 68, retired in 2013. He has been a Liberal Democrat member of the city’s council since 2015, representing the ward that includes his former parish of All Saints’, Huntington, where he was a Team Vicar. He said last week that “it has been something of a wait, but it is much better to be starting now, as there is much more of a sense of hope. It will be a year like no other.” He said that he wanted to help York “as it grieves for what has been lost”.
He has permission to officiate, and has conducted several funerals during the pandemic. “I have seen first-hand what that meant for families. I want to work out how, as a city, we might grieve and celebrate the lives of those who have been lost — not just through Covid, but all those families who have been bereaved and have found it difficult not to be able to mark that moment in familiar ways.
“I need to have conversations, not only with other faith communities, but also those who do not identify with any particular faith, to ask what might be helpful or appropriate; what the city would value.
“Alongside that, I want to ask how we thank our front-line staff, our key workers; not just the NHS and carers, but the many others which we absolutely depend upon.
“Every Lord Mayor brings their own background to the role. What I bring is a passion about the Church working together with other partners. I have lived in York since 1984, and, throughout that time, I have tried to work with the city. With shared goals, we can do far more than we can on our own.
“Where the Church is faithful to its mission to love our neighbour, we find again and again that, while there will be many who do not necessarily identify with our faith, they are keen to see good things happen.”
He has been involved in charities, youth work, setting up foodbanks, and Street Angels. “My life has really been with my feet in many camps” he said. “This is only continuing the work I was already doing.”