Reminder of Durham roots for New Zealand bishop

Pat and Jim Francis with the Cuthbert Cross(Photo: Keith Blundy)

The Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley will have a powerful reminder of her Durham roots when she is enthroned as the Anglican Bishop of Waikato in New Zealand later this month.

Dr Hartley will be the third woman bishop in New Zealand and the first female Bishop of Waikato when she is enthroned on February 22. She succeeds Archbishop David Moxon, who is now the Anglican Communion's ambassador to Rome.

She will also become the first woman ordained in the Church of England to become a bishop.

Her enthronement takes place on the same day as that of the new Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler.

Sunderland lies within the Diocese of Durham and Dr Hartley served as an acolyte at Durham Cathedral when she was a child.

Durham is still very much a presence in Dr Hartley's life. Her parents, Jim and Pat Francis, live in nearby Bowburn and Mrs Francis is a steward at the cathedral. Prior to his recent retirement, Mr Francis was an honorary non residentiary canon there.

They will be attending the enthronement service in New Zealand and as a gift for their daughter, they will be taking a Cuthbert Durham Pectoral Cross with them. The gift has been specially made by a Durham silversmith.

Mr Francis said: "The Cuthbert Cross is a bishop's badge of office and a sign of her spiritual authority in her diocese. We are taking it as a gift, a sign of our thankfulness at how the people in her new diocese have recognised her talents.

"Growing up in Sunderland and Durham, the Diocese of Durham was Helen-Ann's formation. She is delighted that she will have a Durham Cuthbert cross.

"When she found out that her enthronement was on the same day that the new Bishop of Durham will be enthroned, she was delighted."

Mrs Francis said: "It is all linking in beautifully, transferring memories of her life here, where she got so much joy from serving, to her new life in Waikato.

"It is a beautiful coincidence that she will be enthroned on the same day as Bishop Paul is enthroned as Bishop of Durham. She is delighted."

Dr Hartley was born in Edinburgh and moved with her family to Sunderland in 1975 when her clergyman father became a teacher at Sunderland Polytechnic, now Sunderland University.

Jim and Pat Francis with a picture of their daughter, the Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, who has been elected as the new Bishop of Waikato in New Zealand(Photo: Keith Blundy)

She attended Benedict Biscop Primary School and St Anthony's secondary school in Sunderland, and later studied at St Andrew's University in Scotland.

She is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and became a priest in 2005 in the Diocese of Oxford.

She has been Dean at St John's College in Auckland since February 2011.

The unique leadership structure of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki means that she will share jurisdiction with another bishop, Philip Richardson, who is Bishop of Taranaki and Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses.

When her election as Bishop of Waikato was announced back in September, Dr Hartley spoke fondly of her years in Durham.

"Durham Diocese remains very much my spiritual home," she said.

"I have so much to give thanks for in its people, places, and rich heritage."

She also spoke openly about her desire to see the Church of England follow in the footsteps of the Church in New Zealand.

"I hope my election will be an encouragement for supporters of the ordination of women to the episcopate," she said.

"All people, irrespective of gender, are able to witness to the gospel. Both women and men are entrusted with that sacred task."

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