'˜It's a privilege to become the next Bishop of Lancaster'

The first female Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff was consecrated at York Minster by the Archbishop of York.

Friday, 29th June 2018, 4:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th July 2018, 6:17 pm
Bishop of Lancaster Dr Jill Duff on the day of her consecration

The Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster is the 13th female Bishop in the Church of England and the first for the Diocese and at the age of 45, one of the youngest.

The consecration and installation took place alongside Lancashire’s annual ordinations of priests and deacons.

People from parishes across the county travelled across the Pennines for the service at York Minster.

New Bishop of Lancaster Dr Jill Duff, centre, with 40 other bishops at her consecration service in York

They were joined by more than 40 Bishops who made the trip to Yorkshire from around the country.

The Bishops attending also included Jill’s future episcopal colleagues from Blackburn Diocese, Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn and Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley.

Also in attendance was the Archbishop of Wales, The Most Rev. John Davies, as well as contingents of people representing various stages of Jill’s life and career so far.

There were a number of very personal touches in the Consecration service, including a reading from the Prophecy of Ezekiel by Jill’s sons, while the sermon was delivered by her friend Rev. Canon Kate Wharton, Vicar of St Bartholomew, Roby, in Liverpool Diocese and Assistant National Leader for New Wine.

Rev. Dr Jill Duff, centre, with members of the Blackburn Cathedral chapter, during a visit to the Countys Cathedral for lunch on the day of her announcement as the next Bishop of Lancaster.

Kate is also Godmother to Bolton-born Jill’s eldest son.

Speaking before her consecration Jill, who was born in Bolton, said: “It’s a privilege to become the next Bishop of Lancaster. It is a huge honour to be part of a consecration service which centres around calling down the Holy Spirit for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God.

“My prayer is that the same Spirit will fire and equip all who come, whether it is for those who are committed members of the Church or for those whom this is a rare venture into a church service. There will be people attending from across my career - from my earliest days working for Esso through to my time as Director of St Mellitus. Also in attendance will be people from St Paul’s, Widnes, where I planted and led a new congregation as part of the South Widnes Team, plus a Welsh contingent from my most recent parish, led by the Archbishop of Wales.

“I am also delighted that so many people from my new Diocese will be making the trip across the Pennines from Lancashire to Yorkshire for the day. Two big services are such an honour – everyone should get the chance to be consecrated in York Minster and installed in Blackburn Cathedral!

Rev. Dr Jill Duff with her soon-to-be episcopal colleagues on the day of her announcement as the next Bishop of Lancaster, which took place at Marsh Community Centre in Lancaster. On the left is Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley and on the right is Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn.

“It’s as if there can be a taster of heaven when God’s family gather with hope in our hearts for His rich blessing on our next chapter together.”

The Bishop is married to Rev Prof Jeremy Duff, who is Principal of the St Padarn’s Institute in the Church in Wales, and they have two sons, Robbie, aged 13 and Harry, who is 10.

Bishop Jill said: “I come from a family not connected with the church and became a Christian aged 11. God is real and alive and made a difference in my heart even at a young age.

“In November I had this strong call to Lancaster and to be a bishop but thought ‘maybe it’s something for the future’. but the call wouldn’t go away. I wrote an email to the Bishop of Blackburn because I still had a strong call but I didn’t want to sound pushy so I left it in my inbox unsent.

“Three hours later he called me and asked if I would be interested in a formal consecration.

“I went through the formal process which includes an eight panel interview. The Queen and the Prime Minister have to sign off on it.

“About six weeks after the interview it was announced from Downing Street.

“I thought ‘I have been surfing on the wings of peoples’ prayers.’ It seems to have happened by accident.”

Bishop Jill said she feels like she has been quite hidden and enjoyed being a mum and working part-time.

When her two sons found out she was going to become a bishop, the youngest Harry said to her: “I’m going to be a baby bishop’ and her oldest son Robbie, 13, said: ‘I’m so pleased you are being consecrated, I get two days off school!’She said: “My husband Jeremy has been the one pushing me all along. I hope in marriage and family we can believe in each other.

“We don’t always see our own potential. I hope people see me as Jill first.” Bishop Jill confesses to a love of shoes and enjoys watching football.

Bishop Jill is moving into Shireshead near Forton to live there throughout her term as bishop, for which there is no set retirement date.

Her duties mean she will cover the whole of Lancaster and particularly the North of the county.

Bishop Jill said: “I think people are really hungry for faith and that there might be something more.

“There is a sense of people believing could there be something more to life.

“It’s really hard being a teenager especially in the social media age, it’s hard to believe people love you.

“But God and Jesus love you just as you are and it’s fantastic.

“We might be made by a God that is missing us and longs for us to know him.If we pray, God does answer. He always exceeds our expectations. That has been my experience over the past 35 years being a Christian.”

Bishop Jill has a doctorate in chemistry and studied at Cambridge and then Oxford to do a PhD.

She worked for Esso, a position which carried many responsibilities and brought lots of travel opportunities.

Between 2000 and 2003 she studied again in Oxford to become a reverend.

She did an apprenticeship in Liverpool and trained to be chaplain. She was given different roles in different areas and worked in the poorest parish in the country.

Bishop Jill said: “I would love to see the UK become a land of hope. It’s the glory of heaven coming to earth and breaking into earth.

“I want to get to know Lancashire’s churches, schools and businesses and help them grow in their faith.

“In 2026 the diocese celebrates its 100th anniversary and we want healthy churches in the community. We want people to be witnesses and gradually become beacons across Lancashire, on fire and fully who God made them to be.

“Be who God calls you to be and you will set the world on fire, as Catherine of Sienna said in the 14th century.”On the day of her announcement as the next Bishop of Lancaster, Rev Dr Jill Duff recorded a video greeting for the whole Diocese.

The greeting is still available to watch on the Diocesan YouTube channel.

Next Tuesday (July 3) the Installation Service will take place in the Bishop’s new diocese at the region’s Anglican Cathedral in Blackburn.

This service will begin at 7.30pm and will again be attended by civic and religious representatives from across the county.

The annual ordinations of Priests and Deacons for The Church of England in Lancashire takes place today at Blackburn Cathedral; with two further services taking place for two other candidates on Sunday and Monday.

Cities, towns and villages in Lancashire where they will serve (Deacons-to-be) or are currently serving (Priests-to-be)are: Blackburn, Preston, Fleetwood, Standish, Ribchester, Hurst Green and Mitton, Ashton-on-Ribble, Blackpool, Lytham, Anchorsholme, Lower Darwen, Over Darwen and Hoddlesden, Lancaster, St Annes-on-Sea, Burnley, Accrington, Hornby with Claughton and Whittington with Arkholme and Gressingham, and Nelson,