By Rt. Rev. Bishop Terry Dance
First, I would want to offer my congratulations and the best wishes to Linda Nicholls who I consider to be a very good friend. She has been an outstanding bishop in Toronto, her impact on the church world-wide has been remarkable and she will bring a serious and significant skill set to the work of bishop in the Diocese of Huron. From that standpoint I think the election is very exciting.
It is also very exciting that for the first time in living memory the Diocese of Huron actually looked beyond its borders for the person that they would entrust with the job of being the chief shepherd. It is not a statement against the leadership that exists in the Diocese but the recognition that we are in a pivotal place in terms of the history of the Diocese and a pivotal place in the history of the Church. It was not a time to be insular but a time to look for the best possible person and the best possible set of gifts. The Diocese and the Holy Spirit have said that Linda is that person.
As she comes here I suspect that the learning curve is going to be significant. Not the learning curve in terms of what it means to be a bishop – that, she knows in spades – but for Linda the learning curve is going to be about coming to terms with just what it is what makes the Diocese of Huron – the Diocese of Huron. We are unique in our own way in the Canadian church; we are not Toronto, we are not Niagara, in spite of our proximity to both of them. We have our own way of going about things and our own way of being Church
The other challenge that she is going to face is that unlike Toronto and unlike Niagara, which are strongly urban dioceses, we are a predominantly rural diocese. We are facing significant challenges in terms of how do we go about the business of providing ordained ministry in areas that cannot afford it. There are no easy answers but somehow the task of the Church over the next little while is going to be to find a way to rationalize what ministry needs to look like with our diminishing financial and physical abilities to meet that need.
There are no immediate answers but we do have a wealth of leaders in this church and if Linda is able to draw on the experience and the insights and the wisdom of the archdeacons and of the lay leaders and of the experienced clergy, I believe together they can begin to make the right decisions.
I really think that it is important as the new bishop comes in for the people of the Diocese to understand that they did not elect a miracle worker. The expectations of bishops can be huge, but the reality is that power of a bishop to affect change is not nearly what most folk think it is. I think that power that Linda will have working in the Diocese will be based on her ability to work hand in hand with the clergy and lay leaders and to establish a trusting relationship.
I have always believed that the authority that we have is the authority that people give us. And that grows out of them knowing that we love them and then they in turn learn to love us. When that happens then there is potential for the future. And I really think for Linda that is where it is going to be: beginning to enter into a loving relationship with the people she does not know but the people that would put their trust in her.
Rt. Rev. Terry Dance served as the suffragan bishop in Huron (Bishop of Norfolk) till the end of 2015.