It was with all due pomp and ceremony that our chorister bishop – Benjamin – was enthroned and a medieval custom – abolished by Henry Vlll – revived!
In the Middle Ages a boy bishop was selected on the Feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. He gave dowries to three poor young women to enable them to marry.
Our ‘bishop’ was chosen by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, following a selection process involving the choristers writing a few sentences about why it is right for Christians to be generous to others at Christmas. Benjamin read out what he had written during the dean’s sermon. He said: “Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Jesus taught us to love one another so the best present we can give Jesus at Christmas is love for one another. We can show this by giving to people who are in need.”
In the spirit of St Nicholas Christmas gifts were received to be distributed by the Salvation Army. During Christmas week they will prepare close to 150 food parcels to go out in the Ripon/Harrogate area, along with toys and Christmas gifts.
The idea to select a chorister bishop for a day was put forward by one of the cathedral’s canons, Ailsa Newby, who, in her previous role as a team rector of a parish in Putney, was aware of the custom having been revived there.
The ‘bishop’ was robed by members of the cathedral’s Children’s Church and was given a small scale crozier and mitre. He was supported by two chorister canons who were runners-up and was paid two pence – the traditional stipend of his office – to cover the cost of candles used.