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Speaker’s chaplain named as next Bishop of Sodor & Man

16 May 2024

UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The Ven. Patricia Hillas

The Ven. Patricia Hillas

THE next Bishop of Sodor & Man has been announced as the Ven. Patricia Hillas, at present Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Archdeacon of Westminster.

She became Chaplain to the Speaker in 2020, while serving also as Priest-in-Charge of St-Mary-at-Hill, in the City of London. Before this, she served as Canon Pastor at St Paul’s Cathedral for six years.

Born in 1966 in Kuala Lumpur to an Indian mother and a British father, she moved to the UK with her family in 1971. She was educated at the University of East London and Birkbeck College, University of London, and trained for ministry by completing the North Thames Ministerial Training Course validated by Middlesex University.

Before ordination in 2002, she worked as a youth and social worker, specialising in supporting those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. She served her title at St Mark’s, Kensal Rise, and moved on to be Vicar of St Barnabas, Northolt Park, from 2005 to 2014.

She was made Canon Steward at Westminster Abbey in 2021 and is a member of the Racial Justice Commission (News, 8 October 2021). She is married to Andrew, head of the youth-offending service for Southwark.

When her appointment was announced on Thursday, she was at the Cathedral at Peel. She is also due to visit Thie dy Vea retreat house, St John’s Mill, Tynwald, and Government House.

In remarks, she drew on descriptions of the Isle of Man: “‘Gem of God’s earth’, ‘Seabound Kingdom’, and much-loved place ‘between the hills and the sea’ — these evocative descriptions only begin to touch on the beauty and heart of the Isle of Man. After many years visiting as a guest I am thrilled to be called to make my home there . . .

“I eagerly look forward to being part of a Church and wider community which have deep roots in faith, going back over 1500 years, and which, at the same time, are moving ahead into God’s future. I hope we shall treasure the traditions of the past whilst looking to the new opportunities ahead.”

She said that she had encountered at first hand “the warmth and faithfulness of Christians on the Island. Now I look forward to joining with them in living and sharing the transforming love of God for all.”

In a tribute, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said that Canon Hillas had been “an amazing colleague who has been at my side during some of the most turbulent and challenging times, but also among the most celebratory . . .

“At every gathering and in all circumstances, Tricia has been a calming presence; exuding her trademark warmth and wise counsel to MPs and staff.”

During her time at St Paul’s, Canon Hillas was part of the team that devised the national memorial service following the Grenfell Tower disaster, working alongside bereaved families and survivors.

The Dean of Westminster, Dr David Hoyle, said that she had been “compassionate in crisis and wise in counsel. She is profoundly committed to the building of a just and equitable society, and we are better thanks to her vision and her diligence.”

Canon Hillas succeeds Bishop Peter Eagles, who served as a military chaplain from his ordination until his appointment (News, 5 May 2017).

In 2020, the diocese published a strategy for its church buildings, which warned that the lockdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic had brought the diocese “to the brink of financial ruin” (News, 28 August 2020). It forecast that, given parish share deficits, the diocese would run out of money within five years, “sooner in reality as PCCs will continue to run out of money and continue to give less of their Shared Ministry Fund Assessment”.

It concluded: “Too many buildings is proving an unsustainable drain on resources.” With a population of 90,000, the diocese could not afford, and did not need, its 41 buildings. Two other denominations on the Isle with similar numbers of worshippers had fewer than ten buildings, it noted. In 2019, a worshipping community of 1700 was recorded and all-age average Sunday attendance of 1300,

“Holding on to buildings regardless of all other considerations will be disastrous,” the report said. A process to categorise the diocese’s buildings and determine their future, which is expected to include the sale of some, is still under way.

The diocese was originally part of the Province of Nidaros (Trondheim, Norway), and has been formally part of the Province of York since 1542. Its territory is entirely outside the United Kingdom. The Isle has its own parliament, the Tynwald — one of the oldest in the world — in which the bishop has a seat ex officio, though this is currently being challenged. The Isle of Man is a Crown dependency and its inhabitants are British citizens.

The Clergy of the Church of England Database records that “Sodor” derives from a Norse colony known as the Southern Isles (Suthr-eyar) and that “and Man” was an addition by a “careless scribe”.

Canon Hillas will be consecrated on 10 October in York Minster and installed in the Cathedral at Peel later in the year. She will become the Church of England’s tenth Bishop from a Minority Ethnic/Global Majority Heritage background and the sixth to have Indian heritage.

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