Hundreds of friends, colleagues and parishioners from across the diocese and beyond bid a fond and fittingly joyful farewell to Bishop James Bell at a service in Ripon Cathedral on April 30 to mark his retirement.
Tributes were paid to Bishop James and his twenty year ministry in the area during the Festal Eucharist at which Bishop James preached his final sermon and presided at Holy Communion.
Leading the well-wishers, the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines said “James’s ministry has been one of faithfulness and one of encouragement… the last three years have not always been the easiest and James is one of the people who knows the cost of that … James has been faithful, he has been diligent, and he has reimagined not only his role but his ministry in the light of that reality and so we owe him a huge debt.”
He added that despite Bishop James’s regional and national responsibilities and the many aspects and responsibilities of being a bishop, “when he shows up in your church, it is pretty evident that that’s the only time that matters and you are the only people that matter – and that’s a gift for which many people are very grateful.”
Others paid tribute to Bishop James’s enthusiasm and encouragement to parishes across the Ripon Episcopal Area, as Bishop of Ripon , a position he took up with the creation of the new Diocese of Leeds in 2014.
Archdeacon of Richmond and Craven, Ven Bev Mason spoke of his role as the lead bishop on Rural issues, while Canon Michael Hepper, Area Dean of Wensley, gave a perspective from 1997 when James came to the former Diocese of Ripon as Director of Ministry and Training. “For me and for many of us, Bishop James has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement over the years. He lives out his faith with real enthusiasm, his joy is infectious, his commitment to the Lord, deep and genuine.”
Others who spoke during the service included Revd Canon Stephen Burgess, Chair of the York and Hull Methodist District, and Jenny Caldwell, Lay Chair of Harrogate Deanery.
Bishop James was ordained in 1975 in the Diocese of Oxford before becoming Chaplain and Lecturer at Brasenose College until 1982. He served in the Diocese of London before joining the former Diocese of Ripon in 1997 as Director of Ministry and Training and then Director of Mission. He became Bishop of Knaresborough in in 2004 and there were many retired and former clergy colleagues and former parishioners in the large congregation as well as fellow bishops from across the north of England.
In response to the tributes and gifts, Bishop James said, “I want to say that I have had some amazing colleagues over the years in Ripon and then Ripon and Leeds and then in this great new diocese of Leeds. Friendship, praying for one another, sharing together in the community has been a tremendous thing and there are too many colleagues to name.
“Just as you think retirement is on the horizon, the Church of England decided to reorganise three dioceses into one, the first time it’s ever done this, and I get a great big challenge and a new stimulation. Not least, it has been a huge joy because of the larger, greater team created, and it has been such a pleasure to work with colleagues, many of whom are here in that wider team and have a real sense of impetus and a real sense of vision about the direction we are taking. So I give thanks for colleagues and I give thanks for the excitement of ministry, not least being part of the creation of this great new diocese.”
He also spoke of his sense of being prayed for, loved and welcomed by the people of the diocese. “That has been such an important part of my life and ministry in these years of being a bishop…. I want to thank you so much for your love and your prayers because we are all in this together and please God that he will bring fruit from what we have been at together.”
Bishop James has now retired to live in Appleby in the Diocese of Carlisle.
Click on the picture below to view a video where Bishop James reflects on his ministry, on the diocese, and on rural ministry