David Wilbourne

David Wilbourne's Consecration as Assistant Bishop of Llandaff

See the BBC website for "In pictures: Bishops consecrated" and "New bishops in joint consecration". A video of the Consecration can be seen here.

David's consecration as Assistant Bishop of Llandaff took place in Llandaff Cathedral (in Cardiff) on Saturday 4 April. The new Bishop of St Asaph was also consecrated, and Archbishop Rowan Williams preached.

To quote David: "It was a great day, although it all had a bit of a dreamlike quality!"

David Wilbourne's consecration as Assistant Bishop of Llandaff

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Consecration at Llandaff Cathedral
Consecration at Llandaff CathedralHelmsley churchwarden Martin Vander Weyer and Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne

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"Considering the Consecration" - by David Wilbourne

There's a saying that as a man is drowning, his life flashes before his eyes. Being consecrated bishop has a similar effect, in that so much of my life gathered before me in Llandaff Cathedral on Saturday. There was my dear father, celebrating his 80th birthday that very week-end; my uncle, though frail, was there too - both had been a massive inspiration for my own ministry. There was my head teacher from my primary school days - never a day goes by when I don't give thanks for him and his contagious energy and enthusiasm. The person who had been such an inspiring tutor at college was also there, preaching the sermon - we always said he'd become Archbishop of Canterbury! Rachel and Ruth, Hannah and Clare were there too, the love and joy of my life; I felt so proud as Ruth read the lesson. There were friends from across the years, a churchwarden from every parish in which I have served, a teacher from Ryedale School where I had chaired the governors, dear smiling friends from Helmsley. 'We trust that he is worthy, we will support him in his ministry,' they proclaimed. I felt so very humbled, so very moved.


It was a beautiful service, in a magnificent ancient cathedral, moving naturally between English and Welsh. 'Yr wyf yn credu I Dduw fyngalw' I proclaimed, 'I believe that God has called me.' Or at least I hope that that was what I said!

Snapshots? The crowd of bishops, all laying hands on me, the weight so great that I felt as if my neck would break! The Archbishop of Wales, so friendly, so naturally holy - we first encountered him when he had been a vicar at Criccieth in the 1990s, but high office hasn't diminished the very human and tender qualities which impressed us so much way back then. The emblems of office which were solemnly presented to me, including the crosier (complete with Welsh collie!) given me by the parish, and the ancient Ethiopian pectoral cross, set in oak by Geoff Clark. The hymns that I had chosen, And now O Father, mindful of the love; And can it be; Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire - I knew them all by heart, which was just as well, since for one of them I was standing at the front, facing the 600 strong congregation, without the service booklet!

What with a ring being placed on my finger, it was very much like a wedding day. I felt immensely grateful for all those who had brought me to this day, but also immensely aware that my consecration day, like a wedding day, was very, very much about the future. Little Tabitha Willshaw was the youngest member of the congregation; Ruth's Welsh goddaughter, Hannah, the next youngest girl there. Of all the folk I was glad to see, I was most glad to see them, because children are so full of energy, so unashamed of life, have their future ahead of them. This baby bishop has always had a soft spot for children.

Thank you, Helmsley and all my supporters for bringing me to birth. Please pray for me in the days, weeks, months, years ahead as I take my first faltering episcopal steps and try to get my tongue around my first very-hard-to-pronounce words. I can't even say the place where I am to take my first confirmation - I'll just have to remember not to say 'I am so pleased to be here in *****!' But I can say that I was very, very, pleased to have been in Helmsley, and pray that God may bless you as new, exciting possibilities come to birth for you.

David Wilbourne's Appointment as Bishop

It has been announced that Canon David Wilbourne, Vicar of Helmsley, is to be the next Assistant Bishop of Llandaff. David officially announced the news to stunned congregations after eleven and a half years' ministry here.

He quoted from St. Paul, how it had been a privilege "to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." He also quoted that other great Father of the Church, Captain James Kirk in his final Star Trek film, whose dying words were, "It was fun." He thanked parishioners for a fun-filled dozen years.

Rev'd David Wilbourne

He will be consecrated bishop by the Most Rev'd Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, in Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff on 4 April at 2.30 pm along with Canon Gregory Cameron, the new bishop of St Asaph. The Most Rev'd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, will be the preacher.

For the Church in Wales' press release click here.

Statement by David Wilbourne on his Appointment

When the Archbishop of Wales rang me on Sunday 1 Feb to ask me to consider being Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, it seemed the job of which my dreams were made. For over 25 years we have frequently visited Wales and I have been very taken with its Church, from big events in its homely cathedrals to more modest events in the tiniest well-kept village church. All seemed to have the same quality: friendliness combined with holiness, intimacy bound up with the sacred. Whenever I compared the Church in Wales I encountered with the Church of England, the former struck me as a freed-up, unfussy, uncluttered, something I sought in my own ministry, a space in which holiness can dawn.

I read around the whole subject of Welsh spirituality, from Patrick Thomas' magisterial A candle in the darkness to Gerald of Wales ancient journals, and was excited by them all. I am indebted to the 20th Century Welsh poets, chiefly R S Thomas and D Gwenallt Jones, who had the canny knack of giving me words for the heights and depths of my faith. Good poets like them seem to have four essential qualities. They champion myths, which are age-old markers for our journey in the inner and outer world; they celebrate the extra-ordinary in ordinary events and lives; they use satire to save us from being bewitched by what looks obvious and likes us to think it's obvious; and finally they employ lament to give us ways of looking at our losses and failures in order to save us from apathy and despair. A bishop who majored in those four qualities wouldn't be far from the kingdom of heaven!

Ultimately a bishop is called to be as Christ to his diocese, by precedent and good practice encouraging his clergy and people to be as Christ too. The New Testament scholar, Marcus Borg, strikingly sets out four essential Christ-like qualities which could fire an episcopal ministry. These are: Christ was a spirit-filled mystic who talked not so much about God but to God, God-direct, as it were; he was prophetic, championing the marginalised; he was subversely wise (not worldly-wise, but the upside-down wisdom of the Beatitudes and the Cross); and finally he was a movement founder. Archbishop Barry strikes me as embracing these qualities, combining them with a gracious yet distinct courage, enabling the Church in Wales to be a leading example of what Anglicanism can be at its best, giving the rest of the Anglican Communion a much needed lead.

When I led the Three Hours Good Friday devotion at Llandaff in 2002, I came away feeling that this was a tremendously good place to be (sadly not an experience replicated by many English cathedrals!). So I am very excited about moving to Cardiff, a capital city with a positive buzz about it, and to minister in the ancient diocese and cathedral of Llandaff.. I have never seen myself as an expert on faith, but rather a seeker of faith, with a call to record and feed back the marvellous and chiefly unsung examples of faith I encounter. Initially my chief role will be to come deliberately empty-handed, and to give the sacrifice of my attention to clergy and laity, and let's simply see where we go from there. I stake my life on my belief that God is not a might be but is an is, and that gives me a thrill which is positively contagious. With God behind it, the Church has got so very much going for it. 'I have come that you may have joy, joy in all its fullness,' Jesus says in John's Gospel. I believe all we have to do is to take him up on that, and make Joy in all its fullness our slogan. God forgive the Church when its trademark is Misery in all its fullness!

'There is so much more I want to say to you, but you cannot bear it now!' to crib other words of Jesus in John's Gospel. At the end of the day God in Jesus didn't just give us his word, but gave us his life, setting an excellent precedent for us all.

Brief Biography

David Wilbourne was born in 1955 in Derbyshire, schooled in Yorkshire, studied Natural Sciences and Theology at Jesus College and trained for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge. Prior to ordination, David worked for Barclays Bank in darkest Hull for six years and taught Greek and New Testament Studies as a University Supervisor. He returned to Yorkshire as a priest, ministering first in urban Middlesbrough, then in a shadow-urban parish north of Pontefract, home of cooling towers and liquorice fields. He then moved on to be the Archbishop of York's chaplain, (a cross between Sir Humphrey and Bernard of Yes Prime Minister fame) working with John Habgood for four years prior to his retirement and then continuing to work with his successor, David Hope. He was also Director of Ordinands, selecting women and men for the ordained ministry and taking them through training to their first post. In September 1997 he moved from Bishopthorpe to be Vicar of Helmsley, a moorland market town in North Yorkshire, which has now become a minister church serving eight other churches. Archbishop John Sentamu collated him as a non-residentiary canon of York Minister in 2008. He has been taker of (the most bizarre) assemblies, teacher and chair of Governors of both the local primary school and comprehensive, doubling the roll at the latter and enabling it to be one of the nation's leading rural schools.

A leading desire is to communicate the humour, depth, sorrows, joys and sheer quirkiness of the Christian faith as expressed by the Anglican Church, through several media. This has included two 'James Herriot with a dog-collar' novels set in the 1960s, one diary of his travels with Archbishop John Habgood and one quasi-philosophical work, exploring the development of personality through use of five personal pronouns, originally a series of Lent lectures at York Minister. His fifth and most notorious book was A Virgin's Diary, which was really the Gospel according to a Palestinian teenager-with-attitude and eternal perspective called Mary; since St Paul claimed that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, why should the teenage mindset be excluded? Twelve years of writing a regular dairy column in The Church Times has enabled him to chart in over 100,000 words a latter day Kilvert's Diary of the highs and lows of ministry - see these examples in The Church Times. Last year he had an article on the Lambeth Conference published in The Tablet, and on Christ and Capitalism published in the Christmas edition of The Spectator.

A son of a priest, David is married to Rachel, a history and RE teacher, and a Traidcraft Rep. They have three daughters: Ruth (23) researching Quantum Physics at Durham University, Hannah (21) completing the final year of her Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge; Clare (19) about to go up to university to read English Literature. David's interests include cycling, hill walking, New Testament research and writing, particularly trying to strike a balance between the humorous and the poignant. He is a frequent after-dinner/lunch/coffee speaker, guest preacher and retreat and conference leader.

"Canons to the left of us... Canons to the right of us"

"The Reverend Canon David Wilbourne"York Minster

David Wilbourne was seriously thinking of taking a tent with him and staying in the Minster overnight, since on the next day, Monday 30 June, the Archbishop of York collated him (and the Dean admitted and installed him) as a Canon of York Minster and Prebend of Bugthorpe at the St Peter's Day meeting of the Greater Chapter.

The letter from the Archbishop inviting David to be a Canon arrived on Ascension Day (as if we didn't have enough on!) and David replied 'What made a brilliant Ascension Day even more brilliant was your letter offering me your nomination to a non-residentiary canonry and prebendary of Bugthorpe. I have always held York Minster, and York's Diocese and Province in the highest affection, so count your nomination as the greatest honour, which I gratefully accept. Thank you for asking me.'


Enjoy James Herriot
with a dog collar in:

A Vicar's Diary by David Wilbourne and
A Summer's Diary by David Wilbourne

Click here
for more information
Audio Book Cassette Tape of
David Wilbourne's first book,

An Archbishop's Diary:
A Year with John Habgood

A humorous year in the life of an archbishop's chaplain as he tours the north with his boss

Price: £5 including p&p

Send a cheque for £5
made out to "D J Wilbourne" to
Llys Esgob, The Cathedral Green,
Llandaff, Cardiff CF5 2YE

A Virgin's Diary by David Wilbourne

"…combines wit and wisdom to provide a sharply observed account of Mary's labour of love in giving birth to Jesus"

(Rt Rev'd James Jones,
Bishop of Liverpool)

Price: £5 including p&p

Send a cheque for £5
made out to "D J Wilbourne" to
Llys Esgob, The Cathedral Green,
Llandaff, Cardiff CF5 2YE