New Bishop’s vision for our local churches

Creation of the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. Bishop of Huddersfield Jonathan Gibbs, left, with reverend canon Hilary Barber at Halifax Minster.
Creation of the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. Bishop of Huddersfield Jonathan Gibbs, left, with reverend canon Hilary Barber at Halifax Minster.

The new Bishop of Huddersfield has said he wants churches to be the centre of their communities.

The Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs is in charge of the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, which includes Halifax and Calderdale.

And one of his first priorities is to change the way churches interact with others in their towns and villages.

“We want to put the church at the heart of the community in each area,” he said.

“We don’t want it just to be a club for its own members – I think it is an opportunity to build bridges and make relationships with people from other backgrounds.”

Bishop Jonathan spoke of the challenges facing him in his new role and the new diocese, which includes 120 churches in West and North Yorkshire.

“There is a lot of social deprivation in some of these areas,” he said.

“I will be working with councils, as well as other charitable organisations and people of other faiths – the church can be a catalyst for bringing people together.

“I do think the new diocese size will help the areas. They will be small enough for the bishops to know their clergies and for clergies to know their bishops.”

It has been an interesting journey for Cheshire native Bishop Jonathan who, at 18, entered Oxford University to study politics, philosophy and economics and had dreams of moving into Westminster.

“I really had no interest in the church at all,” he added. “But I became gradually involved in the church during my second year, and left university knowing that I wanted to work with them in some way.”

He then took a job working with students in Paris, before becoming ordained as a vicar in 1989.

After spells at churches in Germany and Switzerland, he became rector at a church in Heswall, the Wirral.

He believes churches in England can learn a lot from their European counterparts.

Bishop Jonathan, 53, said: “I found there were a lot of differences between the Anglican churches here and those in Europe.

“The churches in Europe had to be completely self-financing, and we are now seeing churches over here beginning to go the same way.”