By Margaret: When the Rev Libby Lane was ordained as the first female bishop in the Church of England, the news was welcomed by all members of the Womens’ Institute.  But Glossopdale WI had a particular interest because one of our members, Eileen Lythgoe, had taught Libby when she was a pupil at St. Luke’s  Primary School.  She contacted the Bishop and invited her to come and speak to Glossopdale WI.  But we knew her visit would be of much wider interest to local people as well as our members and decided to throw the meeting open to all the local Institutes, plus any friends who would like to join us on the day.  A bigger room was needed, so we hired the first floor of the Cricket Club on North Road on Wednesday 20th January.

The Bishop clearly remembered and valued her time in Glossop, the support and encouragement given to her by her parents, her school (especially the awe inspiring Mrs Lythgoe), and St John’s Church in Charlesworth where her faith was nurtured over many years.  She showed us her silver episcopal Cross which symbolises God’s love and support wherever life takes her and her episcopal ring which symbolises her covenant with God.  The cross is a gift from her husband, made by a Stockport silversmith and the ring, containing Blue John stone, was commissioned by her parents.

Libby outlined her history, beginning with reading theology at university where  she began to think about ordination, then an impossibility in the Church of England.  But it did become possible for her to train as a deacon and later she was able to become ordained as a priest in 1992 when that door too was opened to women.  She and her husband, also a vicar, spent years raising their young family in a variety of jobs, moving wherever they felt God wanted them to be.  So when in 2014 the Church finally agreed to allow women to enter the bishopric, she was sufficiently well known, with a variety of experience behind her, to be invited to become Bishop of Stockport.  She stressed that becoming a bishop is a matter of invitation; it is not a job for which one can apply!

Obviously as the first female bishop she has attracted an enormous amount of media attention during this last year.  She has valued that for the opportunities it has given her to talk to a wide variety of people about the message of the Gospel and to find ways to work across different faiths.  She has spoken to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England and other national leaders and at York Minster; she has also spoken to women in Styal Prison, been out to the Congo Republic, attended many public meetings and after our meeting was going back to join today’s pupils at St  Luke’s School.  It is these chances to contact and react with so enormous a range of people and communities, stressing always her own faith and commitment to God and his Church, that she has particularly valued.

One organisation with which she is involved is the Lin-Tim-Oi Foundation, a small charity which gives support to women stepping into new roles within their own communities, to become doctors, engineers, educators, priests, all roles within which they are acting as pioneers and where a small grant from the Foundation can make the difference between success in completing their training and failure.  Instead of a fee for her talk in Glossop, she asked for a donation for that particular cause, which was augmented by a large share of the admission fee for the meeting.

After her talk, the Bishop was happy to answer a whole range of questions from the floor, with her usual humanity, charity and faith.