As part of a triennially scheduled Visitation to Macclesfield Deanery clergy over three days in early November, Bishop Libby Lane (the Bishop of Stockport since January 2015) presided on Wednesday 4 November at an evening Holy Communion Service at St Oswald’s here in Bollington. She offered challenging words in her sermon to the mixed congregation of Deanery Synod members representing the nineteen parishes in the deanery, plus several more Bollington parishioners. She encouraged us to let go of those familiar things we perhaps fearfully cling onto too tightly (even those things or people we think we need primarily to preserve or protect) and instead to leave them in God’s much safer keeping and, by relaxing our grip, to open our hands now freed up to receive graciously whatever good things God has had in store to give us all the time. The service was followed by an opportunity for people to meet the Bishop informally over posh cakes and wine!
The next day, an otherwise dull and drizzly Thursday was transformed by Bishop Libby Lane visiting various groups of young people connected with Bollington Church, firstly meeting parents and their bright sparks, who were busy practising being fireworks at our Praise & Play Toddler Group! The Bishop then had lunch with a group of children from St John’s School, and, duly fortified, she subsequently spent the afternoon sharing faith and life stories with staff and children at each of our Anglican primary schools. The children were delighted and enthralled by meeting with the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England. She particularly enjoyed meeting the Ethos Group of mixed ages in the Federation of Pott Shrigley and St John’s, exploring amongst other things how hard it is to overcome your fears, to fulfill your God-given potential and to be true peace-makers.
Later Bishop Libby answered some equally excellent questions thought up by Key Stage Two children at Bollington Cross School and visited all the classrooms in turn, showing one particular class her cross, ring, crook, cope and mitre, and explaining what was the significance of each item. Another moment I particularly liked was when sharing in the delightful story of “The Little Red Hen” with the Reception class, one pupil animatedly expressed to the Bishop how important it is to help other people – “Otherwise you’ll have NO FRIENDS!” – and, by way of illustration of that lonely place of friendlessness, he held up his two clenched fists (as opposed to opening his fingers out to be ready to count the number of people you could be friends with, if you chose to be helpful!). After a cup of tea with the Headteacher, finally Bishop Libby called in again at St Oswald’s for our pre-teen After School Group, RiCH, where volunteer Alex (of Bollington Balloons fame) presented the Bishop with a rare balloon chess-piece! She then headed home to Dunham Massey for a quick break before fulfilling her evening commitments elsewhere in the diocese.
We greatly appreciated the time, personal interest and attention which Bishop Libby gave to the whole variety of groups and individuals she encountered. She was a shining and genuinely saintly presence, and we felt truly blessed here in Macclesfield Deanery over those three days!