(Photograph: L-R The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam , Bishop of Salisbury, Chorister Bishop Maddie Lyles and The Very Revd June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury)
On Sunday, the feast day of St. Nicholas, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, stepped down during Evensong and 12-year-old Maddie Lyles took his place in a history-making Chorister Bishop’s ceremony.
Maddie is the first ever girl Chorister Bishop – or Boy Bishop as it was known until last year - in the Cathedral’s lifetime. The original ceremony dates back to the Middle Ages and Maddie’s predecessors, the Boy Bishops, were elected annually in English Cathedrals right up until the reign of Henry VIII. Henry put a stop to the practice, declaring it a distraction from proper church business. It was revived in its present form in Salisbury during the 1980s.
In keeping with tradition, during the service Bishop Nicholas sat bareheaded in the sanctuary whilst Maddie, bedecked in her robes and mitre, wearing her ring and carrying her staff, led prayers, received the collection, led prayers, delivered her sermon and gave the final responses. The service is a reminder to the church and clergy that they must always consider the humble and meek, in particular children. Something Maddie’s sermon addressed along with the significance of St Nicholas, who is the Patron Saint of Children.
The selection of a girl this year demonstrates how willing the Cathedral and Cathedral School are to move with the times, without ever losing touch with the Cathedral’s past and its present meaning. Salisbury was the first cathedral to introduce a girls choir in 1991 and makes no distinction between the boys and girls.
If you want to listen to an interview given to BBC Wiltshire's Graham Rogers by Chorister Bishop Maddie Lyles and Ian Wicks, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral School, click on the MP3 link below. The whole programme can be listened to here and also features an interview with the Dean of Salisbury, The Very Revd June Osborne, talking about the past year, in particular Magna Carta 800, and looking forward to Christmas and 2016.