Viv Faull: a pioneer who will be a bishop for everybody

First published 18th May 2018
On the day of her announcement as the next Bishop of Bristol, we learn more about Viv Faulls ministry and why she was appointed to the Diocese.

Looking out across the tower blocks in Barton Hill to the skyline of Bristol, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull soon to be the first female Bishop of Bristol spoke of the pioneering courage of the Diocese of Bristol.

It was 24 years ago that the Diocese of Bristol ordained the first women to the priesthood. I I want to lead a diocese that continues that pioneering courage. Later in the day, she visited an example of that pioneering enterprise: the Pattern Store which is a former railway works in Swindon which will be born again as the Pattern Church later this year.

A pioneer with a heart for mission and evangelism

Viv is a woman who has pioneered throughout her life in ministry.She was among the first women for the Church of England to fund through theological college at St Johns College, Nottingham, and she went on to become the first woman to lead a Church of England Cathedral, firstly as Provost and then as Dean of Leicester in 2000. It is something which she longs to see continue as she moves to the Diocese of Bristol.

I wanted to be at the heart of this great, multicultural, diverse diocese which is pioneering in so many innovative and creative ways, said Viv.

Viv will be a Bishop who can meet the focus of mission and has the innovative, risk-taking qualities which were called on in the Dioceses Statement of Needs for the next Bishop of Bristol.

It was in this diocese as a student that Viv first began to take risks by stepping out in faith when she took part in a mission weekend at Malmesbury Abbey.

She remembers: The Abbey community encouraged me, recognising that I was a novice evangelist still taking my first steps in talking publicly about how God had transformed my life in the power of the Spirit and in the name of Christ. I am still grateful for that encouragement.

A village lass with hands on urban experience

Viv has acquired hands on experience of working with the issues of parish ministry in challenging urban settings. From her youth work in Everton via her curacy in Mossley Hill, Liverpool to her period serving in Leicester, she has been exposed to the challenges associated with a variety of cities.In Leicester, her role also meant she was incumbent of a city centre parish with all challenges that come at the heart of a diverse city.

Viv explained: The Bishop and I worked to create new parochial structures between the city centre parishes in order to bring new possibility for Christian witness in a city where the number of worshippers was rapidly declining.

However, Viv was brought up not in the city but in a village on the Wirral. There, her father, who had been a country vet was a pioneering SSM incumbent of two deeply rural benefices, in his later years.

As she toured the Diocese of Bristol on the day of her announcement, she spent time visiting the Grade I church of Lacock, hearing from the vicar, Revd Adam Beaumont, as well as the Area Deans of Chippenham and North Wiltshire, explain some of the challenges and opportunities of rural ministry. She went on to share her own ideas about investment in rural ministry and how that would enable churches to engage even better with their communities.

I am committed and have worked on this in Yorkshire to exploring how, with reduced resources, rural and parochial mission and ministry can continue to flourish, said Viv.

A pastor who holds unity in diversity

In Yorkshire, Viv has been able to get alongside parishes, not just in every context but also of every tradition.

The Statement of Needs recognised the range of opinions reflected in our churches and the importance of being a chief pastor to all.

Viv said: The Chapter of York is Patron of significant numbers of parishes. I have a lot of experience of getting alongside them, including appointment processes in a range of parishes of all traditions and convictions.

I have worked hard to establish and maintain good prayerful and mutually respectful relationships in a wide range of parochial contexts, said Viv.

She is deeply committed to the unity of the Church and to upholding its teaching. Speaking to regional television news on the day of her appointment, she acknowledged that not all parishes will rejoice in having a female bishop, but added that those parishes would continue to have an assured place in the Diocese as she sought to work with traditionalist bishops.

A passion to confront injustice and engage younger generations

During her visit to Barton Hill, on the day of her announcement, Viv was keen to engage with a community that faces challenging issues such as homelessness and community cohesion.

Over a bacon butty, she engaged warmly with the many homeless people who come along to find community and support at St Lukes in Barton Hill. Issues of inequality and homelessness speak deeply to my own heart for mission, she said, echoing the Statement of Needs call for a Bishop who would proclaim the Gospel boldly, confront injustice and work for righteousness and peace.

Viv has a deep concern about young people, and on the day of the announcement was able to spend time at St Peters Academy in Chippenham part of the Diocese of Bristol Academies Trust. She is keen to see Church Schools continue in their mission to be authentically Christian, as they nurture excellence and serve their communities.

I look forward to leading a Church that shows the love of God of everybody, whoever they are.

An experienced, strategic leader who builds bridges

When you meet Viv, you are struck by her warmth and interest in you and everyone she encounters. She is someone who is respected by her peers, chosen to convene the Church of Englands Deans, previously being elected as a female representative in the House of Bishops.

She is also someone who is keen to act as a bridge and connecting with other communities, whether as a member of the English Anglican Roman Catholic Committee, a Church Mission Society Mission Partner in North India or with the Somali Community in Leicester. The diocesan link with Uganda is something she is keen to strengthen and looks forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

Viv also has substantial strategic leadership experience. York Minster has over 200 staff and a multi-million pound budget. Major projects have been a large part of her role. She is also a member of the Church of Englands Strategic Investment Board and is therefore well versed in the Diocese of Bristols vision and strategy.

A disciple who asks for our prayers

Ultimately, she is a follower of Christ who feels she is coming home.

My grandparents, lifelong Bristolians, were born in the centre of this great city. My grandfather apprenticed and worked all his life at Rolls Royce and my grandmother was a seamstress.

They were bombed in the Second World War and relocated to Sea Mills and my parents were married at St Edyths. My sister lived in Purton near Swindon and found a welcome at St Marys, Purton where she was married.

Her final request therefore was for prayer, for me and for this great diocese, that we would work to act justly, to seek mercy and to walk humbly with God.

  • Viv Faull will be consecrated at 11am on 3 July at St Pauls Cathedral. Some tickets and transport will be made available before the end of May. She will be installed in Bristol Cathedral in the autumn.

You can read our Statement of Needs by clicking here.

The document is the fruit of prayer, reflection, consultation, and hard work by members of the Vacancy in See Committee and set out the desired profile of our new bishop, informed by our own consultation across the Diocese.

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