From the other side of the world, new bishop returns to her northern roots
Bishop Helen-Ann, who is 44, is at present Bishop of Waikato in New Zealand, an office she has held since 2014. At the time she was the first woman priest ordained in the Church of England to become a bishop. She succeeds Bishop James Bell who retired earlier this year.
Announcing the appointment and welcoming Bishop Helen-Ann at Church House in Leeds on November 9, Bishop Nick Baines said, “I am delighted to welcome Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley as the new Bishop of Ripon. She brings expertise as a theologian, and episcopal experience from the wider Anglican Communion. She will add great strengths to the leadership and ministry of this diocese.”
The bishop designate will officially begin her ministry on February 4, 2018 when she will be welcomed and installed at a service in Ripon Cathedral.
Helen-Ann Hartley was born in Edinburgh in 1973 and grew up in north-east England. She is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and was priested in 2006 in the Diocese of Oxford.
She worked as one of a team ministering to 12 rural parishes in Oxfordshire before being appointed as the Director of Biblical Studies and a lecturer in the New Testament at Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford.
Helen-Ann, with her husband Myles who is a musician and church organist, went to New Zealand in 2010 to undertake research at St John’s College – and returned there in February 2011 to take up the position as Dean. In 2014 she became joint diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, unique in the Anglican Communion with two equal bishops sharing jurisdiction across the whole of the diocese. The New Zealand diocese, like the Diocese of Leeds, is also unusual in having more than one cathedral.
Her interests include the night sky, contemporary fiction and visual arts, going to the gym, and watching netball.
Bishop Helen-Ann says she was surprised but excited to be invited to be the next Area Bishop of Ripon:
I am excited, delighted, surprised and deeply humbled by the call to take up the role of the Bishop of Ripon,” she said. “I look forward to getting my feet on the ground, listening and learning, and helping to root and grow the vision that Bishop Nick has for the Diocese of Leeds in the Ripon Episcopal Area. I rejoice in joining a dynamic episcopal team, and look forward immensely to working alongside my brother bishops.
Both my husband Myles and I have firm roots in the north: Myles in Cumbria, and myself in the north-east. Returning to the north, and to the beautiful North Yorkshire Dales brings with it a deep sense of coming home, and I thank God for this call.
Bishop Hartley also brings with her from New Zealand considerable experience of rural ministry in a Diocese that she says bears many similarities to the Ripon Episcopal Area. The Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki is large (18,000 square miles), and is sustained by the economies of farming, tertiary education, and tourism.
On the day of the announcement, 9 November 2017, Bishop Helen-Ann’s itinerary also included a visit to Manor House Farm, Rylstone, a farm of 1300 acres, with sheep and cattle. She is pictured feeding a Belgian Blue calf at the farm of Jim and Mary Caygill whose family have farmed there since the 1600s. St Peter’s church is on their land beside farmhouses and Jim was churchwarden for 25 years.
Bishop Helen-Ann said:
I have witnessed the immense value of the role of churches in rural communities, and their often creative and innovative ways of responding to community needs, often in tough times when the dairy payout is poor or when drought or even too much rain cause great difficulties for farmers. With my feet on the ground, I have relished the opportunities to engage in God’s mission with all its joys and sorrows, amidst the praise and lament of life so eloquently expressed in the Psalms.
With her background in theological education a particular focus for Bishop Helen-Ann has been the encouragement of lay ministry and training. Recently she developed a course of her own, Living Faith Today (known as LiFT). She served as a member of the Theological Education in the Anglican Communion group from 2010-2012. She has published with SPCK, and is a regular contributor to the Daily Reflections series for Church House Publishing. She has also contributed to the Pilgrim course.
During her introduction to the Diocese of Leeds and the Ripon Episcopal Area on 9 November 2017 she also visited Richard Taylor Church of England Primary School in Harrogate meeting teachers and pupils.
Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley said:
I have enjoyed supporting our Anglican schools, encouraging them in their work, and getting alongside the pupils and sharing in their lives (which has included activities like mountain biking and surfing [which I was not very good at!]). Sometimes all it takes is a mustard seed for the Kingdom of God to take hold.
I hope that I have planted some seeds which in due course God will help flourish! It is wonderful that there will be a major Lay Conference in Harrogate in 2018, and I look forward to that important gathering.
As I reflected on the call to this incredibly exciting role, some words of GK Chesterton came to mind: ‘There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.’ I can’t wait to get to know the people and communities of the Ripon Area. I hope that you will pray for me in this time of transition, as I will continue to hold the Diocese and particularly the Ripon area in my prayers as we begin this new season together.