The first ever Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, has pledged to reach out to the local community and become a familiar figure outside the confines of the church.
Father-of-three Dr Gibbs, 53, who will be known as Bishop Jonathan, has come from Chester to take up the new post.
On his first day he arrived in Huddersfield by train to be met by the Mayor of Kirklees Clr Ken Smith, Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman and community leaders from across Kirklees.
The new post of Bishop of Huddersfield came about after the creation of the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales at Easter.
Bishop Jonathan, who will cover the whole of Kirklees and Calderdale, said he was excited about the challenge and added: “It’s about time Huddersfield had its own bishop!”
Bishop Jonathan, who had been Rector of Heswall on the Wirral, Merseyside, for the last 16 years, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity and I want to work closely with the local community.
“I want to build up the church, both the Church of England and our sister churches, and encourage them to reach out in traditional and new ways.
“The church is not here for itself and I want it to be here for the wider community and I look forward to working with the local authority, the education authority, the voluntary community and the various faith groups.”
Bishop Jonathan, who was brought up in rural Cheshire and was a curate at Stalybridge, admitted he was a “new boy” to Kirklees and Calderdale.
He added: “I have worked in Stalybridge, which isn’t far away, and I know some of the countryside around Holmfirth and I know that our three main towns of Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury have fantastic history and heritage.
“I grew up in a relatively rural area but I have also worked in the urbanised area of Birkenhead so I can appreciate the richness and cultural diversity of Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury.
“I am looking forward to finding out about the heritage and richness other faiths have brought to the area in the last generation or two.”
Bishop Jonathan gained a master of arts degree in philosophy and politics from Jesus College, Oxford, and trained for the ministry at Ridley Hall in Cambridge.
He is married to Toni, one of the founders of the Besom charity on the Wirral, which provides a bridge between those who want to give time, money, things or skills and those who are in need, working with some 40 agencies in the statutory and voluntary sectors.
The couple have three children Harriet, 24, Edward, 21, and Thomas, 18.
Bishop Jonathan, who is fluent in German, Swiss-German and French, has several hobbies including walking the family’s pet cocker spaniel and rummaging in secondhand bookshops.
He is also also a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England and is committed to supporting village and community life.
Among those who welcomed Bishop Jonathan in St George’s Square in Huddersfield was the Rector of Kirkheaton the Rev Richard Steel who hailed the appointment an “historic first.”
Mr Steel added: “I am very excited. It is important the bishop meets the community and comes outside of the church boundaries. I have already invited him to visit the deanery. We are on his to-do list!”
Mrs Trish Makepeace, president of Dewsbury Chamber of Trade and a member of the congregation at Dewsbury Minster, said: “We have a very diverse area and we hope Bishop Jonathan comes to Dewsbury soon.”
The Rev Janet Sargent, associate priest at Huddersfield Parish Church, said: “Bishop Jonathan will bring humanity and warmth.
“He is very down to earth and very much a man of the people.”