Bishop Olivia talks about her journey from Archdeacon of Berkshire to becoming the Bishop of Reading. Consecrated in December, Bishop Olivia is the first female bishop in the Diocese of Oxford.
As someone who didn’t initially see herself as called to episcopal ministry, she has been on a journey of discernment.
“I thought it was a job I didn’t want, having worked closely alongside bishops for the last 12 years, but I think I was seeing the role from one angle,” says Olivia, who had previously considered being a bishop, but put the idea to one side. “I have been really fortunate to have people around me who have been wise, and prayerful, and who know me well, and who know what the challenges of an episcopal role are, and they have guided me to think about it in ways in which I couldn’t have thought about it myself,” she says.
“For me, being appointed a bishop feels like being liberated into being more who I really am…”
“For me, being appointed a bishop feels like being liberated into being more who I really am, which is a very joyful feeling. It’s to do with taking a really big view of what God is up to, which can be much more difficult as an archdeacon.”
The summer 2019 announcement of Bishop Olivia’s appointment was timed to coincide with a visit to Ranelagh School in Bracknell. There she and Bishop Steven met a group of around 15 students. “I had a really interesting time talking to some of them about their faith and how difficult they found it as young people to express their faith, even in a church,” she says.
Afterwards, one or two of the girls told Bishop Olivia how important it was for them, as young Christians, that there is a female role model as the Bishop of Reading.
The role will see Bishop Olivia’s diary packed with meetings, preaching engagements, confirmations, ordinations and much more. So how will she sustain a healthy spiritual life with such a hectic schedule?
“By making time for it,” says Bishop Olivia. “It’s making sure you get up early enough to say Morning Prayer and spend time with God before the day starts. I make sure I have a quiet day every month at one of the religious communities and, for me, a really key part of the work is meeting with the Berkshire area team and spending time together Dwelling in the Word and noticing where we have seen God at work.”
Dwelling in the Word has become a regular practice at the start of many Diocesan and parish meetings and is a way of listening together to God through scripture and encouraging each person both to listen and to speak.
Bishop Olivia also says she always takes at least one day off per week, sometimes two, diary permitting, and encourages others to do the same.
Words: Jo Duckles Photo: Steven Buckley
Bishop Olivia previously shared her story in the run-up to becoming Archdeacon of Berkshire. Read that here.
18 FEBRUARY 2020