Nine-Year-Old Girl Takes on Role of Bishop in British Church

December 10, 2008 at 3:30 am Leave a comment

ophelia-wells.jpgA nine-year-old girl from Hampshire has taken on the role of a bishop for the month of December. Ophelia Wells is looking after St John’s Church in Forton, Gosport, in a revival of a medieval custom. She is taking sermons throughout the month at the church, which is part of the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth.

Ophelia’s new rules include allowing children to ring church bells, and a free glass of wine for those who go to church for two weeks in a row.
She said: “It’s going to be fun. Because I get to boss people around.”
The vicar of St John’s, the Reverend Carrie Thompson, said it showed going to church could be fun.
“Church isn’t dead boring. We come to church also to have a laugh and have fun, and enjoy ourselves and enjoy one another’s company,” she said.
She said it is a “really old tradition” associated with St Nicholas Day, which takes place on 6 December.
“St Nicholas is the patron of all sorts of things, sailors and the city of Portsmouth, but most importantly, children,” Ms Thompson said.
“In the Middle Ages in England there was this great tradition that on the feast of St Nicholas, in all cathedrals and lots of the parish churches, a child, the smallest chorister of the choir, became the bishop.
“They threw out the bishop and all the canons and the kids took over.”
Abolished in Reformation
She said the children were then in charge over Christmas, until 28 December.
Although the tradition was common across England, it was lost with the reformation.
Ms Thompson said it was the first time it was being revived at St John’s Church at Forton.
“It’s been brought back in a few places, in the cathedrals in Hereford and Winchester, but we thought it was about time that Forton followed the mould,” she said.
“So here we are – here’s bishop Ophelia.”

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