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Bishop Libby Lane marks "year of surprises" with new portrait

Mon 25 Jan 2016
By Antony Bushfield

The first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England has described her first year in the post as "very busy".

Rt Revd Libby Lane is marking the anniversary of her landmark appointment with two portraits of her.

She made history when she became the Bishop of Stockport in January last year.

The bishop, 49, said: "It's been a very busy year. For the first few weeks my office was full of hundreds of letters. Most were congratulating me, others were people sharing their own personal stories , and then there were dozens of invitations including requests that I sit for portraits."

She added: "Looking back, it's been a year of surprises - surprises at the variety of ways people follow Jesus. It's been a year of being moved - moved at how God changes lives.

"And it's been a year of learning - learning that being a public figure is not about being recognised in the street, or being 'the first', but about being available - to God, to the church, to wider society. It's about crying with people, and it's about celebrating with them."

Speaking of her 'year of contrasts' she mentioned her grand consecration ceremony at York Minster compared to a service she led in a barn, blessing the life and work of the farming community.

She also pointed to her work with Styal women's prison, in Cheshire.

"I have also found myself in unexpected places," she said. "For instance, I could not have imagined standing in a field giving prizes, alongside the Duchess of Wessex, for the Best Cow at the Cheshire Show.

"I've been invited to speak at leadership events, some for women and others for particular groups or organisations. I was there partly to share my story, experience and insights but also to listen to others - and to laugh together and to encourage."

She was consecrated on January 26, last year, as the eighth Bishop of Stockport.

The two-hour service was briefly disrupted by a lone protester against the move to end centuries of all male leadership in the Church.

The announcement of her appointment came a month after the General Synod formally adopted legislation allowing women bishops.

Since her consecration, a number of other women have also taken the same step, including Rachel Treweek, who became the first diocesan bishop, eligible to sit in the House of Lords, when she was made Bishop of Gloucester last year.

One portrait of the bishop, by Jane Allison, will hang in Chester Cathedral over the summer months.

Ms Allison said: "As an artist I also wanted to capture Bishop Libby's strength and femininity, her passion and commitment and also, in my mind at least, the way she is a vital part of leading the church forward into the future. This is why I portrayed her as almost in the act of coming forward out of the painting, holding her crozier and looking out at the viewer."

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