In December 2015, Revd Anne Hollinghurst was officially installed as Suffragan Bishop of Aston - one of the UK's first female bishops. Here, we catch up with Bishop Anne to find out how the first six months have been and her vision for the future.
How have the first six months of your time as Bishop of Aston been?
The first six months have gone very fast indeed! I’ve been absorbing much information, as well as meeting and listening to many people. Deepening my understanding of Diocese, city and region has been important as I continue to discern more of God’s particular call for me, as well as discern with others where our priorities need to lie as the Church of England, Birmingham. I am even more convinced that this is a good place to be and an exciting time to be here.
What sort of things have you been involved with since being in post? Any particular highlights or challenges?
Learning the bread and butter stuff of bishoping has taken up a fair bit of time. I have enjoyed the sheer diversity of engagements and opportunities to meet with those from the wider community through some of the excellent schools, partnership and interfaith work that we are blessed with. It has been a particular joy to visit parishes and conduct baptisms and confirmations, as well as join congregations for both ordinary Sunday worship and special services. As sponsoring bishop for the Diocese, another highlight has been to meet with ordinands and curates at different stages of their vocation journey, and to learn from experienced colleagues involved in our vocations work, clergy and lay training.
I also hold a particular brief in relation to supporting mission and growth, and have been impressed by the commitment, energy, and expertise of all those leading in different areas of our Transforming Church vision and the Growing Younger initiative which forms a part of this. Here I have encountered much Spirit-inspired creativity, as well as some of the biggest challenges that lie ahead for us all as we seek to capture the hearts and imaginations of a new generation with a vision of the beauty of God and His purposes for our world.
I have arrived at a time when one of the major challenges is funding and resourcing the big vision that we have, and I have found myself needing to get up to speed rather more quickly than I imagined with the nuts and bolts of the new funding arrangements in the Church of England nationally, as well as reviewing strategy within the Church of England Birmingham. Six months on, I do know that I am amongst first class staff and colleagues, and that together, with much prayer, I feel confident we can meet those challenges.
As the first ever female Bishop of Aston, do you feel like you have a particular remit?
As I go about the parishes and meet people within the wider community, I am conscious that I am one of the first female bishops; something that many have waited for and prayed a long time to see - so that does continue to feel something of both a privilege and responsibility. In terms of my own sense of call, however, the remit that I have received is above all else to serve as best as I can as a bishop in God’s church, and in that I see my call as no different from my brother bishops.
What are your hopes for the next six months - and onwards?
My own passion in ministry has been shaped by my desire to share the good news of God’s love in Christ in a way that connects with our contemporary culture – growing both the church and the kingdom, and blessing the whole creation. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s question has long rung in my ears: who is Christ for today? My hope for the next six months and beyond is that together we might be willing to look deeply into that question, to take seriously what it means to be the Body of Christ active in the world, and in new and courageous ways be ready - not only to allow the Spirit to transform our churches, but to make us agents of transformation within the communities in which we’re placed. In this we do indeed need to focus on ‘growing younger’ if we are not to fail in passing on the faith to the next generation. In our sociologically and ethnically diverse, as well as religiously plural context, we also need to focus on growing broader and wider. Undergirding all of this, we need to commit ourselves to growing deeper in discipleship and prayer – the source of all lasting transformation.
I am looking forward to sharing the journey.
Find out more about Bishop Anne in her Spotlight On...