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.