Bishop's five weeks living in Bradford deaneries starts on a farm

Bishop Toby HowarthThe new Bishop of Bradford is spending five weeks living in different parts of the region as part of an innovative programme of visits to get to know his area better. Bishop Toby Howarth, who became the new Area Bishop of Bradford last November, will spend five weeks between now and the summer living in each of the five deaneries or administrative areas which make up the Bradford ‘Episcopal Area’, one of the five areas of the recently created Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.

(Click on picture to watch Bishop Toby's video diary of Day One

Bishop Toby says the aim of the initiative is to get an in-depth understanding of the needs of the area, holding meetings with clergy and people of the churches of the areas, staying in local homes, meeting community and faith leaders, visiting local businesses and meeting councillors and civic leaders.

“As a new bishop in my first few months in post,” said Bishop Toby, “my priority is to make my way around parishes in Bradford and District, getting to know people and seeing for myself what Jesus is doing in the different communities. I will be staying in people's homes, visiting clergy, churches, schools and community projects, meeting civic leaders and business people.”

The in-depth visits began this  Sunday, February 8th, in Ilkley Deanery, and between now and Thursday 12 February, Bishop Toby will be staying with families on two local farms. For the first two nights of his stay he will be guest of the James family in Menston.

Meeting hostsHosts, Mike and Val James (pictured left) said, “We are looking forward to welcoming Bishop Toby to a more rural part of the area. Staying with parishioners will allow more time for the Bishop's engagement with the local community - and should also increase the chance for some quiet reflection in undemanding surroundings.”

Commenting on his stay on two farms during the week, Bishop Toby said, “The perception outside of Yorkshire can be that the Bradford Episcopal Area is predominantly urban, forgetting its many rural communities, villages and smaller towns,” says Bishop Toby. “Having lived most of my life in cities, this week in the Ilkley Deanery will be a great introduction for me to God's church in some of the most beautiful countryside that England has to offer.”

During his week in Ilkley, Bishop Toby will also visit three schools, spend time meeting clergy in their homes and churches, take part in seven church services, visit projects for young people and those with Learning Disabilities as well as meeting leaders of other Christian churches in the area, and even visit a local gardening club.  The week concludes on the evening of Thursday 12 February with a service of celebration and an open meeting for the whole deanery at St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley.

Vicar of St Margaret’s and Area Dean of Ilkley, the Revd Canon Philip Gray, said, "We are delighted that Bishop Toby is going to spend this concentrated time living and meeting so many of us in the Ilkley Deanery, and we are looking forward with great anticipation to welcoming him. The visit shows Bishop Toby's real desire to be a true shepherd to us all."

Other dates announced for the deanery visits are: Keighley Deanery: 19-23 April; Bradford North Deanery: 3-7 May; Airedale Deanery: 21-25 June; Bowling and Horton Deanery: 5-10 July.

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