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Gargoyle Competition Winners

Prize Giving for Gargoyle Competition Winners

The talented North Yorkshire school children who came up with the top sketches in the competition to design new gargoyles for Ripon Cathedral received their prizes during Sunday morning’s service.

Ten finalists were chosen from over 1,000 entrants – with the designs of two of the children about to be turned in to stone.

Rachel Ogier, from Moorside Junior School in Ripon and Hayden Horsfall, from Pickering Community Junior School – who are both ten – have already started working with stone carvers Martin Coward and Alan Micklethwaite to create further sketches and a clay model.

Rachael said: “My art teacher said that we could base it on whatever we wanted and I thought I would base it on a human and make it look scary.

“I got my ideas from making clay model gargoyles last year at school and wanted – rather than a monster – to make a creepy human. I think it will be exciting to do this – and interesting.”

Hayden added: “I’m surprised and excited that my design won and I can’t believe that it is really going to be carved!”

The vital work to replace the figures and other historic stonework is being funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.


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Ailsa Women in the Pulpit

Women in the Pulpit

This year sees  the 25th anniversary of the momentous vote in favour of women’s ordination to the priesthood and Ripon Cathedral is marking the occasion from the pulpit with a sermon delivered by one of its newest members of the team, Canon Ailsa Newby.

It will be the first sermon at Ripon Cathedral by the former lawyer, who sought ordination following her work with prisoners for the charity Justice and was recently installed at the cathedral with responsibility for leading in the area of the cathedral’s pastoral care.

The tide of change began 50 years ago with the appointment of the first female lay readers and we are grateful for the ministry given by Loretta Williams, Dorothy Taylor, Nina Harrison, Michelle Dearlove and Yvonne Jefferies.

Then two decades after that came the ordination of women deacons. We welcome our own female deacon this month when Caitlin Carmichael Davis begins her curacy with us.

Canon Wendy, who has been serving as an interim Canon Residentiary in Ripon, was amongst the first women priests to be ordained in 1994 – (it took two years for the legislation to work its way through parliament and the church!)

Canon Wendy is also the Chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women’s Ministry. She said: “Up and down the country we are hoping that as many women as possible will be preaching in our churches on July 16. We have been privileged to witness a seismic ministerial event of enormous proportions in our generation. We must give thanks to God for all that women are formally bringing to the church.

“We at Ripon Cathedral are rejoicing in the gifts and skills that have been offered by women in ministry over many years. This last 50 years has seen a major transformation within the Church of England. It now provides a wholeness of ministry that represents both the women and men of our congregations and communities.”

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Ripon Cathedral Bellringers Annual Tower Outing

Theo, aged ten, writes,

“We arrived at the first tower, which was Grinton, for a 9:45am start! It was a lovely sunny day. There was a tall ladder to climb up get into the ringing chamber. Ellie had to be careful because she was wearing her Heelies! There are 8 bells there and they were really quite nice. Lots of people arrived, some from Ripon Cathedral, John from Richmond and other from towers in the area.  Everyone got to ring. There were enough boxes for the children who needed them and some of the adults too 😉

We rang there for about 40 minutes then headed off in the sunshine to Reeth. We weren’t ringing there but Robert and Anne (the trip organisers) had planned lots of refreshment stops in between towers, which was a good idea as it was a very hot day! We all had a drink and lots of people had cake or even an ice-cream! Dean John took photos of us all before we headed back to the cars and set off for our next destination, Barnard Castle.

It was a fantastic drive over the top of the hills. There were hundreds of sheep wandering around, some on the road, which slowed us down. We also stopped to look at some vintage Massey Ferguson Tractors that were parked up in a lay-by. Ethan had a look at them with Charlie and the men driving them said they were taking them out for a day trip to Yarm.

Barnard Castle was another 8-bell tower up a spiral staircase, which was through a door from outside the church instead of inside.  This ringing chamber had a lovely new wooden balcony along one side that meant the children; Lottie, Eleanor, Ethan, Rachael and I got to sit up out of the way and play while the others were ringing. The tower even had it’s own supply of Lego and toys too!! I think they were a nice ring and everyone else thought so too.

Next stop on the journey was The Black Bull Pub in Frosterley, which not only was our lunch stop but also a ring.  There is a Mini-ring of 12 bells there, which my brother Ethan & I had rung before, as had a few of the other ringers. My Grandma came and joined us too at this point and it was a grab for her. She told me that ‘Ethan and I are like Mini-ring experts,’ because we’d rung the Durham & Newcastle Mini-ring lots of times with our Uncle Kris (it’s a family thing!) We all had great fun ringing on the bells. We rang lots of rounds on all 12, Andrew & John even rang 2 bells at once (double handling) but I stuck with just one. There was lots of concentration when they rang Grandsire Triples – it sounded lovely while I stood outside with Grandpa listening to it in the sunshine.

After a lovely lunch and ring we headed over to Bishop Auckland. Some people didn’t make it to this nice 8-bell tower, as it’s not really in Bishop Auckland it’s in South Church! This was a nice tower with a lovely thick red carpet; the bells were quite nice too! After a ring here it was definitely time to find an ice cream. We couldn’t find the café we were supposed to go to so we called into a lovely Garden Centre on the way and got one there! Gainford was our last tower of the day. They are a heavy ring of 6 bells and are extremely loud inside the tower so it’s quite hard to hear the conductor. Everyone had a ring but a few of the younger ones found them a little tricky and there weren’t many boxes for us to use.

It was a great day out and a brilliant opportunity to fill up the tower grabs in my Dove’s Guide. Thank you Robert for organising it. Can’t wait for my next Ringing Trip!”

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Canon Ailsa

Canon Ailsa returns to Northern Roots

A former lawyer, who specialised in miscarriages of justice, will be returning to her Northern roots as she takes up the post of canon at Ripon Cathedral on Sunday.

Canon Ailsa Newby is currently a team rector in Putney in London. It was her work with prisoners for the charity Justice that led to her becoming ordained. Canon Newby had perviously worked at a large law firm in the City.

The priest, who originally hails from Scotland, said of her move: “One of the peculiarities of clergy life is that when you move job, you move house and church as well at the same time. If moving house is supposed to be one of the stressful things in life, the combination of moving job and place of worship too intensifies the problem.

“I am very excited though, about our move to Ripon. We – my husband Dick and our sons Mark and Roger – have had some great times in North Yorkshire and the Dales over the years both on holidays and visiting family as my husband comes from Rothwell, near Leeds. For him it feels like returning to his roots!”

The historic installation, which dates back to mediaeval times, will take place during Evensong at the cathedral at 3.30pm on Sunday and will be followed by refreshments. The new canon will literally be placed in an ancient stall by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Reverend John Dobson.

He said: “ We are very much looking forward to welcoming Canon Ailsa and her husband Dick to Ripon. Ailsa will be the fortunate person responsible for leading in the area of the cathedral’s pastoral care. She will find Ripon a wonderful community in which to minister.”

There have been canons at Ripon Cathedral since before the Norman Conquest. They are the successor community to the monastery founded by St Wilfrid in 672.

Canon Newby will preach her first sermon at Ripon Cathedral on July 16, which marks half a century since the first female lay readers were appointed and the 30th anniversary of the ordination of the first women deacons  On that day the organisation supporting womens’ ministry is inviting women to celebrate by preaching in as many churches as possible.

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Golden Wedding for Golden Couples

Eighty two couples from Yorkshire and beyond renewed their marriage vows on Sunday in a unique and joyful service at Ripon Cathedral for those celebrating their Golden Wedding or an even longer time together!

Lynne and John SlaterHer Majesty The Queen sent congratulations and good wishes to all concerned for a most happy occasion. The Queen was represented by the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr Barry Dodd, CBE, and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Squadron Leader David Dinmore, MBE.

Fifty years ago – in 1967 – Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the Beatles were on the wireless and the first coloured TV programmes had just aired. For some it was the happiest year of their life as they embarked on married life.

Lynne and John Slater from Asenby in North Yorkshire were amongst those who tied the knot in ‘67 – actually celebrating their Golden Wedding the day before the special service.

The couple, who were married at Ripon Cathedral, joined those renewing their vows on Sunday. The service brought back happy memories of their special day: “A week before the service Canon Emmerson, who went on to become Bishop Emmerson, stepped in to marry us,” said Lynne, “I still have his silk handkerchief. He gave it to me because I was so overcome by the emotion of the day.”

Barry and Eleanor Kay, a former Mayor and Mayoress of Ripon, celebrated 51 years of marriage, having been married in 1966.

“Wimbledon was on and one guest was hiding behind a gravestone listening to it on his transistor radio. It was very hot – a roasting day,” said Eleanor, “I think I cried my way through the original service.”

“I think she was thinking – what had she let herself in for!” Laughed Barry, he added: “We feel very privileged to have been here today and to have been invited to read a lesson. It’s wonderful to see all these couples celebrating together – to see so many happy people together in one place.”

The first such service was held at Ripon Cathedral 20 years ago. This year, 50 years on from what became known as the Summer of Love, over 400 people come together to give thanks to God for his blessings upon them.

In his sermon the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “God is good – and we celebrate that you good people have remained united with each other through a period in our history when marriage has seemed to be under attack.

“1967 was the year many of you were married – along with people such as Raquel Welch (for the second time), Vidal Sassoon, Rupert Murdoch, Elvis Presley and Maggie Smith.  It was quite a year!

“There is much to be thankful for. There is much to celebrate – and your success, your steadfastness over five decades and more can be a source of encouragement and inspiration to younger generations.”

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Dean John’s Sermon on Ascension Sunday, in the wake of the Manchester Arena Attacks

The names of the victims of the Manchester Arena attack begin to be disclosed, photographs of their faces are shared. We know the name of the suicide killer, and of others who are suspected of some involvement, including the killer’s father and brother. We are told that there is likely to be a terrorist cell connected with them, and that troops will be on duty outside public buildings that might be vulnerable, including York Minster. The voices of the shocked and affected are heard from prayer vigils and public gatherings. Flags fly at half-mast and the nation keeps a minute’s silence.

And what do we do? We meet in this ancient Cathedral, where prayer has been valid for centuries, through history’s ups and downs, through times of political and social turbulence and relative calm, and we celebrate the Ascension of the risen Christ.

We have sung,

“O Christ our hope, our heart’s desire,
Redemption’s only spring,
Creator of the world art tough,
Its saviour and its king.”
What are we to make of all this?

I wonder, how do we think of Christ’s ascension? After forty days of resurrection appearances, he goes off to heaven to be seated at the right-hand of God. Is this a well-earned retirement with enhanced benefits after an intense and costly ministry? One wonders how much of a rest heaven is for the ascended Christ. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (1:15ff) tells us that Christ rules there above all heavenly rulers, authorities, powers and lords – having a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next.

Has Christ retired from the world? Has he given up on the world and decided to reign in heaven because doing so on earth seems like an impossibility? And so he promises the Spirit, to be a comforter?

When evil raises its ugly head, as it did in Manchester earlier this week – as it has in London and Nice and Paris and many other places in similar terrorist attacks, as it has consistently throughout the history of humanity – since Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, as it were – then it is tempting for those who feel they know God to conclude that he has retired from the job of ruling over earth as well as heaven, or at least taken a retreat.

Isn’t this what Jesus himself was tempted to think on the cross? “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me.” Thus he employed the words of the psalmist that would have been recited in heart-felt fashion by hundreds – thousands – over the centuries. And won’t the families of the Manchester Arena victims be thinking exactly the same – even if not in those precise words – right now. And yet we say, “let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The stained-glass window in the south transept of this Cathedral is one image that suggests that Christ has fled. Feet are seen disappearing into the sky. But the Ascension surely isn’t about Christ’s retreat from a failed ministry and the impossible demands of an ever-rebellious world. Don’t we come and celebrate this evening (on this, one of the great four feast days of the year – the others being Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) because we believe that the resurrection and the ascension together speak about Christ’s determination to reign in the world as he does in heaven? The Ascension expresses the truth that Christ – the Sprit of Christ – is to be everywhere – on earth as well as in heaven. And that ever-present Spirt will come at Pentecost.

Can you imagine what it does to you to feel that God has forsaken you, or that he is totally absent? Perhaps you couldn’t imagine. Or perhaps you can imagine it all too well. From time to time I have had to sit with people who feel utterly let down by God, who feel that he has abandoned them to their sufferings while he is living it up somewhere else in glorious, exalted splendour.

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

The darkness and the fear resulting from a sense of God’s absence can be utterly paralysing.

Presumably, it must be something like this that the disciples feared when Jesus, according to St. John 17, assured them that they would not be left comfortless. It must have been something like this that they felt on Holy Saturday when their friend had been so cruelly put to death.

To be distant from God must surely be the definition of hell. St. John of the Cross (a 16th century Spanish Carmelite, a mystic and teacher of the faith) wrote of the dark night of the soul. The nearer the mystic gets to the trophy of the living God, the more possible it is for him to feel utterly distant and frighteningly isolated. Again, think of Christ on the cross; he had never been nearer to God, it just didn’t feel like that. And so it can sometimes be for us who are mere mortals on the path of Christian pilgrimage. So it can be for those who find themselves in an intense tragic darkness into which evil forces have dragged them. It feels as though God has fled, abandoned them to a wicked world. And yet the truth is that Almighty God, the one who knows what it is like to have a child cruelly snatched from life, this God is nearer to them than they could ever imagine.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our risen Lord. We affirm our faith, from an imperfect and sometimes-cruel world, that in the End Christ will be triumphant. He will reign on earth as he does in heaven. The forces of evil will not prevail against him.

And knowing the end of the world’s story, we begin to recognise his heavenly reign even when evil attempts its worse. The outpouring of love and sympathy since Monday evening gives us an insight. The dedication of the emergency services; the determination of bereaved parents not to allow the terrorists to conquer their spirits; the countless prayers said and candles lit. In these acts and responses, the eyes of faith recognise the light of heaven shining in the darkness. On this feast day, we assert that it always will. And in the End, Christ will be victorious.

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