In a unique coincidence, two bishops who were consecrated and assumed their roles simultaneously within the Diocese of York are now preparing to retire together.
The Rt Rev Dr John Thomson, known affectionately as the “Biking Bishop of Selby,” and the Rt Rev Paul Ferguson, the first fellow of the Royal College of Organists to be consecrated as a bishop, have served the diocese for a decade after being consecrated in a memorable ceremony at York Minster in 2014, led by the former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu.
Bishop John Thomson, who earned his moniker for his passion for cycling, has been a dedicated servant of the York diocese, having spent a considerable length of his ministry there. With a diverse background that includes attending York University and ministering in Sheffield and Doncaster, Bishop John has also devoted time to work in Uganda and South Africa.
Reflecting on his tenure, Bishop John expressed gratitude for the remarkable journey of the past ten years, emphasizing the wrench he and his wife, Sue, will feel leaving such a special place. He fondly recalled the warmth of the people in Selby, a town hosting an internationally recognized iconic Abbey, surrounded by picturesque countryside that offered him enjoyable cycling adventures.
Meanwhile, Bishop Paul Ferguson, the Bishop of Whitby, took a unique path to his role, having studied at both Oxford and Cambridge before serving as a chaplain at Westminster Abbey. Later, he became a Canon Residentiary at York Minster and then assumed the role of Archdeacon of Cleveland. His consecration as a bishop was a notable milestone as he became the first fellow of the Royal College of Organists to achieve this distinction. Tragically, in 2022, his wife, Penny, passed away, and he expressed gratitude to the parishioners for their kindness and support during that difficult time.
In a heartfelt statement announcing his retirement, Bishop Paul conveyed his daily excitement about his work and the privilege he felt in serving the diocese and its parishes. He highlighted the pleasure of working with wonderful colleagues and his specific responsibilities, particularly in education. However, he acknowledged that the time had come to move into the next phase of life and discipleship, and thus he would be leaving his post as Bishop of Whitby in July the following year when he turned 69.
The retirement of both bishops marks the end of an era for the Diocese of York, as they have been pillars of the local religious community for a decade. Their simultaneous decision to retire further deepens the bond they formed during their time of service together. Their unique connection and synchronized tenure have left an indelible mark on the diocese, and their departure will be keenly felt by parishioners and colleagues alike.
As they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives, the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of York look back on the profound impact these two bishops have made during their joint tenure. Their dedication, compassion, and leadership have been instrumental in guiding and nurturing the spiritual journey of the diocese. They leave behind a legacy of unity and shared experience, and their contributions will be remembered and cherished for years to come.
As the retirement date approaches in mid-2024, the diocese will undoubtedly take the opportunity to honor and celebrate the remarkable service of the Rt Rev Dr John Thomson and the Rt Rev Paul Ferguson. Their decision to retire together will forever link their names in the annals of the Diocese of York’s history, underscoring the unique bond that has developed over the past ten years.