A RYEDALE vicar and author is learning the Welsh language – after being appointed as assistant bishop of Llandaff.
After 12 years serving at All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, and its daughter churches at Rievaulx, Sproxton, East Moors and Carlton, the Rev David Wilbourne will be conscrated in his new role at a ceremony attended by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams – his tutor during his training – on April 4 at Llandaff Cathedral.
Rev Wilbourne’s vast parish had recently been expanded to take in Old Byland, Cold Kirby, Hawnby and Bilsdale Midcable, and he was appointed priest-in-charge of Upper Ryedale Parish.
But he learned his new responsibilities would be short-lived when the phone rang after a hectic morning of Sunday services.
He expected it to be a call from a local undertaker to arrange a funeral, but instead, Rev Wilbourne found himself talking to the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, inviting him to take on the bishopric.
“I was in shock for three hours,” he said.
“I shall certainly miss Helmsley and its lovely people. It’s been fun being the town’s vicar.”
Looking back on his Ryedale ministry, he cites his work with residents and visitors as being among the highlights.
“We have done all kinds of things in the past 12 years, and stretched boundaries.”
The development of a website for All Saints’ Church has been particularly successful, says the Rev Wilbourne, attracting about 100 hits a day. Outside the church, he puts his chairmanship of Ryedale School governors for five years as one of his most successful achievements, helping the school to achieve its Performing Arts College status.
While he has no Welsh ancestry – he was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire – he has had a keen interest in Welsh life and its spirituality for 20 years and says he will be at home in the Welsh valleys with his love of singing.
“I don’t speak any Welsh yet, but I have spent a lot of time in Wales and am intrigued by the Church of Wales, which is more liberated than the Church of England because it is not established,” said David.
Llandaff Cathedral, which dates back to the sixth century, is in the Diocese of Cardiff, and the area includes the mining village of Aberfan where, in 1966, nearly 150 children died when a shale tip slipped onto a school.
“I remember it had a great impression on me as a boy,” he said.
So much so, in fact, that one of the hymns he recalls being sung at the mass funeral which followed, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, will be included in his consecration service.
In his new post, Rev Wilbourne, who was chaplain to two Archbishops of York, Dr John Habgood and Dr David Hope, will work closely with the Archbishop of Wales.
His interest in the Church began as a youngster as his father was a Church Army Captain and later a priest.
David was ordained a deacon at York Minster in 1981 and a year later, priest, by Dr Blanch, on whom he modeled his style of ministry.
After his first ministry in Teesside, he became rector of Monk Fryston and South Milford, where he spent six years. It was while he was in the parish that he and his wife, Rachel, had their three daughters, Ruth, Hannah and Clare.
The Rev Wilbourne is working with his artist daughter Hannah to design his new cope (the long, silk mantle worn by ecclesiastics over the surplice in processions) which he says will include a cockerill and crown, the symbols of his old college.
As well as being a minister at Helmsley, the Rev Wilbourne is also an author, having penned five books, one of the best known being A Vicar’s Diary, which he describes as “James Herriot with a dog collar!”