More than 600 people jammed into Hamilton’s Anglican cathedral this afternoon to witness the ordination of the Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley as the 7th Bishop of Waikato.
They sweltered as they celebrated in the high summer Waikato heat – and they were mindful, too, that the day has other lasting significance.
As Helen-Ann’s whanau led the slow procession up Pukerangiora,‘the Hill of the Life-giving Heavens’, on whose summit the Cathedral Church of St Peter stands, the cathedral bells began to toll at exactly 12:51pm.
That bell tolled slowly 185 times, for each of the people who lost their lives when Christchurch was staggered by the earthquake that struck there three years earlier at 12:51.
On their way to the cathedral the whanau paused at the Pacific Court on the side of the hill – to remember the great fleet that had landed at Rarotonga on its way from Hawaiiki to Aotearoa.
And then, a few metres further up the hill, at the marae ateathat stands just a little way from the cathedral entrance, the people of Ngati Haua, who hold mana whenua over Pukerangiora, presented the bishop-elect with a pounamu cross, and Mahi Mihinare(Anglican Action), the social services arm of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, presented her with a crozier carved by Lionel Matenga.
On the very threshold of the cathedral, Helen-Ann, her whanau, and the whole liturgical procession paused, heads bowed, to observe 185 seconds of silence. Silence – underscored by a requiem mass sung by a choir of cicadas.
There came another echo, too, as Tureiti Moxon – Lady Tureiti Moxon, wife of Sir David Moxon, the last Bishop of Waikato – gave the karanga calling them all into the cathedral, where Canon Pine Campbell completed the traditional welcome.
Today was an auspicious day for St Peter’s Cathedral in yet another way. It’s the day when liturgical churches throughout the world celebrate the Confession of St Peter, and this afternoon’s gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-19) recalled his immortal declaration: He said to them: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’
Dr Stephen Pickard, who is Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, and Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn, preached the sermon.
He’d worked alongside Helen-Ann during visits to Ripon College, and has been Helen-Ann’s colleague in theological education for years.
In his homily Bishop Pickard reflected on advice given by Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux to Henry, the Bishop of Sens, in the early 12th century.
A bishop, said Bernard of Clairvaux, is called to do two things: to give glory to God and to care for the salvation of the neighbour.
And they are called to set an example of how this might be done.
Bernard had some advice on that score, too.
First, he said, bishops shouldn’t be too attached to the fine robes and jewels that had bedazzled so many medieval bishops. Instead, they should clothe themselves in the great virtues: chastity, charity and humility.
The question of what constitutes a chaste life these days has to be reconsidered, said Bishop Pickard – “and this requires great grace, forbearance and wisdom from all”.
But without the underpinning of charity – love, in the modern lexicon – and humility, chastity means nothing.
He went further: The truly virtuous life, said Dr Pickard, “is not simply one of personal inner holiness, but a genuine prophetic witness. It may be extremely costly for a bishop to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: chaste, charitable and humble.
“But with God, all things are possible. The virtuous life of a bishop should flow through a diocese like the Waikato River flows through Hamilton: clear, strong, attractive and refreshing.
“And just like that river a bishop is set in the midst of the people to lead by example, not at a distance, but woven into the life of the diocese.
“Moreover, the virtues spoken of by Bernard are for the whole church, not just bishops and particular individuals.
“The church is called to be chaste, charitable and humble so that the body of Christ flows through the world like that same river: clear and strong, attractive and fresh in its confession of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Of course, there is international significance about Helen-Ann Hartley’s ordination to the episcopacy.
She has today become not just the third woman to exercise a bishop’s ministry in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
She also becomes the first woman ordained priest in the Church of England to be ordained a bishop. So in one sense, the eyes of the Anglican Communion were on Hamilton today.
Those eyes would have seen another unique innovation in the cathedral, too – the commitment by Bishop Hartley and Archbishop Philip Richardson to equal leadership of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.
As both held a common crozier, Bishop Victoria Matthews explained that in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki's “dual episcopacy” model, the two bishops “share the responsibilities as Diocesan Bishop; two bishops in a co-equal partnership.”
She explained that this model was born out of the “distinctive history and geography of the diocese” but also the conviction that “the mission of the Gospel is best served here through a partnership in leadership…The model is built on trust and demands a commitment to listening, collaboration and respect.”
Helen-Ann’s proud mum and dad, Jim and Pat – who are both CofE priests, from the north of England – were on hand to witness their daughter’s ordination and installation, as were her mum’s sister, her husband Myles and his mum.
Then, there were the new bishop's long-lost Kiwi rellies.
Helen-Ann’s full name is Helen-Ann Macleod Hartley.
Back in 1926, a family of her Macleod tupuna had immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland. The mum and dad had died young, and the ties back to Scotland had been broken.
But in 2010 the immigrant couple's grandson, Don Macleod, went back to Scotland to try to re-establish connections with his clan.
While he was there, he learned that his second cousin, Helen-Ann Macleod Hartley, had just left the UK on her first extended visit to New Zealand.
Long story short, the bonds were reforged, and the Kiwi Macleods turned out at the cathedral this afternoon, proud as punch.
Mused Don:“Something extraordinary has happened in our family today.”
Indeed, as it has in Helen-Ann’s new diocesan family.