History was made in York on Monday (January 26) when Libby Lane became the first woman bishop in the Church of England at a ceremony at the Minster.
The consecration service – colourful, solemn and good humoured by turns – was not without incident. Here’s a few things that struck us…
1. People couldn’t stop smiling
If the Minster choir had launched in to a version of Pharrell’s Happy, it would have fitted the mood. Joyous is the word for it.
We’re talking ear-to-ear grins – from Bishop Lane herself and throughout the congregation. A surprising number of laughs in the service, too.
2. The women ruled
And not just Libby Lane. The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, welcomed the congregation and read a lesson.
The Archdeacon of York Sarah Bullock preached the sermon and Janet Finch read a lesson. And reference was made to other great women in the Church, from Mary Magdalene to Margaret Clitheroe.
The Minster can’t have seen anything like it this last 800 years…
3. But there’s a way to go…
Seeing dozens of male bishops, in their red robes, was a very physical reminder that Bishop Lane is heavily outnumbered.
That’s before you note that the two leaders of the Church of England are men – the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who performed the ordination, and his boss the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, on communion duty here.
And the protester was a chap too. More of him to come.
4. There was a Hi-de-Hi moment
Has Dr Sentamu ever been a Butlins redcoat? He warmed up the congregation at the start by making us shout praise to the good lord above.
When we failed to do it loud enough the Archbishop made us say it louder, working the crowd in a way that would have warmed the heart of Ted from Hi-de-Hi.
We almost expected him to split the congregation down the middle and then have a competition to see which side made the most noise.
5. The Archdeacon of York cracks a good gag
Archdeacon Bullock showed some impressive comic chops from the pulpit. A friend of the new Bishop since student days, she began her sermon by saying: “I feel a bit like the best woman at a wedding” – unsure how many secrets about Libby Lane she should spill…
6. This Bishop likes fancy dress
Well all bishops do, to be fair, and very splendid they looked. But the Archdeacon revealed that Bishop Lane and her husband George made a lasting impression at a fancy dress party as “George and the dragon”.
“Make of that what you will…” she added.
7. Call The Midwife was an inspiration
Archdeacon Bullock went on to surprise the congregation with a sermon inspired by the Christmas episode of Call The Midwife.
She had watched it when ironing, and a storyline about one of the characters being called to God had made her stop ironing and sit down.
8. The C of E do very polite protests
A reminder that not everyone is happy about this historic moment came when a protester interrupted the service.
It came when Dr Sentamu had asked, “Is it now your will that she should be ordained?” and the congregation replied, “It is.”
A man stepped forward and said: “No! Not in the bible. With respect your grace, I ask to speak on this absolute impediment please.”
Although he had shown undoubted bad manners by gatecrashing the ceremony in this way, he did so with impeccable politeness.
He wasn’t allowed to speak further. After the Archbishop had read the Church’s legal right to ordain a woman bishop, he repeated his question: “Is it now your will that she should be ordained?” The reply was loud enough to rattle the flying buttresses: “It is!”
By that time, the protester had stormed out. Quietly.
9. The Archbishop wrote some of the music
In the response to Psalm 119, the congregation were required to sing: “Lord, I have longed for your salvation: your law is my delight.”
The credit given for this: “Words: Psalm 119.165-174; Music: John Sentamu.”
10. The Bishop received a standing ovation
When she entered the Minster, she was the Rev Libby Lane, vicar of St Peter Hale and St Elizabeth Ashley in Chester. The moment she was officially ordained as Bishop Suffragan of Stockport was greeted with a minute-long standing ovation.
Applause rang out again as she walked along the nave with the Archbishop at her side, to go through the West Door and meet cheering well-wishers and a battery of photographers.
11. There were some good names
Libby Lane has a charming Beatles-esque ring to it. But we learned that the first woman bishop’s full name was a rhyming couplet: Elizabeth Jane Holden Lane.
The music throughout the service was wonderful, with both the Minster choir and organist filling the church with beauty. We particularly liked the fact that the organist is one David Pipe.
12. And a famous TV face was there
Outside of the archbishops, the most famous face at York Minster was Adrian Chiles. Reportedly sacked last week as ITV’s main football anchor, the popular broadcaster was reporting on the service for his other main home, Radio 5 Live.
They think it’s all over… and with the recessional hymn, it was. And, as they say in football, at the end of the day, York Minster and Bishop Lane played a blinder.