Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Child bishop takes on church role

Ophelia at St John's Church
Ophelia's new rules include allowing children to ring the church bells

A 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.

In England there was this great tradition that on the feast of St Nicholas... a child, the smallest chorister of the choir, became the bishop
The Reverend Carrie Thompson

"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."



Print Sponsor


RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific