In one of the most dramatic services ever seen at Ripon Cathedral, Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley has become the new Area Bishop of Ripon.

It was standing room only in the packed cathedral as a contingent from New Zealand, where Bishop Helen-Ann has been Bishop of Waikato, joined the congregation of more than 900 clergy and lay people from across the Episcopal Area. Civic dignitaries included the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, representing the Queen, and mayors from across the region who joined community representatives, families and children, all there to welcome the new bishop.

Leading the service were the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Dr John Sentamu, and the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson.

Bishop Helen-Ann was ceremonially brought into the service by representatives of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. There was a strong media presence with TV crews and newspaper photographers eager to capture the vibrancy and drama of the service.

Leading the Maori songs and chanting were Maori priests, the Rev Canon Christopher Douglas-Huriwai and the Rev Ngira Simmonds. Speaking in Maori, they introduced Bishop Helen-Ann as their tribal leader and a treasure, issuing a good humoured, but sincere challenge to look after this treasure or they would come back to take her back. The speeches were accompanied by the singing of a traditional ‘waiata’.

Noses and foreheads were pressed together as the visitors firstly exchanged the traditional ‘hongi’ greeting with Bishop Helen-Ann, then with the Archbishop of York, Bishop of Leeds and Dean of Ripon.

The service had the title ‘The Investiture, Installation and Welcome of Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley’. The formal and legal elements of the ‘Investiture’, as Bishop Helen Ann was sworn into office, made her oaths of obedience and was ‘installed’ by the dean, were followed by the less formal ‘welcome’ as young people led music and prayers.

In her sermon, Bishop Helen-Ann said she was ‘moved beyond words’ by those who had travelled half-way around the world to be at the service. She said: “I do however want to join in the acknowledgement not just of a deep gratitude to so many of you who have travelled to be here today, but particularly to those who have come the furthest in a roughly diagonal line from Aotearoa New Zealand: to Bishop Andrew, Chris, Ngira, Jessica, Trevor, Pip nga mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa.

“It is a measure of the depths of connection, and bonds of affection across the Anglican Communion that you are here today, and I am moved beyond words.”

Speaking of the importance of the worldwide Anglican church, Bishop Helen-Ann used her sermon to address the need for the church to bring peace in an increasingly divided society. “In our national life, debates over Brexit, regional devolution, and an alarming drive to polarisation continue to cause division and fear. Within this landscape, our churches, parishes and people, lay and ordained, are uniquely placed to participate in conversations not just about who we are, but whose we are,” she said.

“The worst thing we can do as the people of God is to become introspective; the best thing we can do is to offer a place where identity can be explored, debated, forged and ultimately transformed.”

After the service the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, commented: “We have a bishop who cares, a bishop who is a good teacher, a good communicator and has a very, very warm heart. And her husband, Myles, is a church organist, so they are getting two for the price of one!”