Thinking allowed

ordination of bishops

Today I went to West­min­ster Abbey for the ordin­a­tion or con­sec­ra­tion of two bish­ops. This would also have been the ser­vice at which Jef­frey John would have been ordained bish­op had he not stood down.

The ser­vice was led by Arch­bish­op Row­an Wil­li­ams, and around forty oth­er bish­ops also took part. A pic­ture of the moment when they all laid hands on Can­on John Inge can be seen here — Alan Wilson is the fig­ure clad in black chi­mere in the fore­ground. More pic­tures can be seen on the Ely dio­ces­an website

Appar­ently there was a small demon­stra­tion by mem­bers of Out­rage! (details here) but I can hon­estly say that I neither saw nor heard this, nor heard any rumour of it — there was no sign that I could see of any protest at the treat­ment of Can­on Jef­frey John. I did think there might be some protest, and I had my cam­era ready to cap­ture any thing that happened.

The Abbey was packed — I under­stand that about a thou­sand people went from the dio­cese of Ely to sup­port Can­on John Inge, a can­on of Ely Cathed­ral being ordained Bish­op Suf­frag­an of Hunt­ing­don, and there were plenty there too to sup­port Alan Wilson as he was ordained Bish­op Suf­frag­an of Buck­ing­ham, in the dio­cese of Oxford.

I’d not been at an epis­copal con­sec­ra­tion before, and my view after­wards was that the Abbey is not a ter­ribly good place to hold them. Most of the laity, includ­ing me, were in the nave, with all the ‘action’ tak­ing place in the cross­ing and sanc­tu­ary, entirely out of sight of every­one in the nave. Clergy had a des­ig­nated place in the tran­septs, so could at least see some­thing — dis­tinctly elit­ist and anti-lay in this day and age. Some­where lke St Paul’s Cathed­ral would have been much more con­greg­a­tion-friendly in that at least every­one would have been able to see.

In addi­tion, the Abbey author­it­ies seem to have ser­i­ously under­es­tim­ated the num­ber of people who would want to receive com­mu­nion. When the time for the dis­tri­bu­tion arrived, just two priests came down to the nave to dis­trib­ute the sac­ra­ment to the vast con­greg­a­tion. Even­tu­ally they were joined by two more pairs, but the dis­tri­bu­tion still took an inor­din­ate length of time, prob­ably 20–30 minutes. They really needed about ten or twelve sta­tions in the nave, and giv­en that the event was tick­eted they surely should have known how many people were going to be there.

Still des­pite these annoy­ances, it was good to be present, and to cel­eb­rate the start of the epis­copal min­istry of these two new bishops.