The Dean’s Reflection with the Very Rev John Dobson

Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, will be at the first Wilfrid Conversation.
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, will be at the first Wilfrid Conversation.

Why bother with Yorkshire? I would have thought the answer is obvious. Where would the country be without God’s own county?

But, “Why bother with Yorkshire?” is the question being considered at Ripon Cathedral’s first Wilfrid Conversation this Saturday morning.

Bishop Nick Baines and Sir Gary Verity will begin the conversation and then entice those who join them – everyone is welcome – to share our insights and questions. Bishop Nick is Bishop of Leeds and thereby the senior bishop for the region covered by Ripon Cathedral.

He is known to many through BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4, and as the bishop in the House of Lords who has spoken on Brexit.

Sir Gary Verity is a regional personality who, by leading Welcome to Yorkshire, has done much to promote the region’s tourism, not least in promoting cycling and bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

We haven’t been the same since!

In pondering the issues and opportunities facing this great region, we could consider political questions about devolution and the extent to which the different parts of Yorkshire need to unite as one Yorkshire. With a combined population greater than Scotland’s and an economy greater than that of Wales, Yorkshire has good reasons to be taken seriously.

Transport links with London and with our neighbours in the North West could well be part of the conversation. And up here in the north of the region, questions about the government’s vision for rural communities, not least the implications for the viability of many village schools, affordable housing, public transport, and rural employment opportunities could all be seen as urgent. No doubt, Sir Gary will want to talk about the region’s interest in tourism and celebrate the fantastic opportunities that this part of the world offers to tourists; and the bishop will want to consider the Christian perspective in relation to each issue.

Ripon Cathedral is hosting and facilitating this conversation because we are bothered about Yorkshire.

We certainly believe that God wishes to bother with Yorkshire, wanting the people, communities and businesses of this region to flourish. And we believe that it is in people coming together with open minds in constructive conversation that vision can be formed and influence harnessed.

So, please, do join us at the cathedral on Saturday from 10.30am for what promises to be a stimulating morning.

Yorkshire is a theme resonating with many at the moment. Last week I had the good fortune of spending two days at the Great Yorkshire Show. It was tremendous and a credit to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and organisers.

The show celebrates so many important aspects of our region’s life. Many are working hard in agriculture and countryside industries to further the region’s prosperity and safeguard its character. We all benefit from this.

It was sobering, however, to hear farmers talk about the challenges of being isolated in remote areas; a reminder that God’s own county is not yet heaven on earth for everyone. Some changes and improvements are needed. The right response is surely to become more aware of one another’s needs and to seek ways of supporting each other. As the Bible points out, Jesus encourages us to love our neighbours as ourselves.

We have a great opportunity to celebrate the delights of Yorkshire with our Yorkshire neighbours when Ripon hosts Yorkshire Day 2018 on Wednesday 1 August.

The City Council and Ripon Together have worked hard with all the different sectors of the city to offer activities and attractions for everyone. The main event is the creative and imaginative civic service in the Cathedral on Wednesday 1st at 11am – everyone is welcome to join us for that.

Later in the day we are hosting Picnic in T’ Park – a community event to which all are invited.

For full details of attractions over the four days, see the Visit Harrogate website.

We hope that many will visit – even from neighbouring towns!

What they will make of the Wilfra tarts and the Wilfred procession on Saturday 4 August is yet to be seen!

Hopefully, one thing will be obvious, Ripon’s ancient cathedral and its patron saint, St Wilfrid, have been bothered with Yorkshire since before it was created, and are determined to remain so for as long as it exists.