The Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls, suffragan bishop of Toronto and area bishop of Trent-Durham, was elected coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Huron at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ont. on Feb. 13. She will automatically become the 13th bishop of Huron when the current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Bennett, retires. She will be the first woman to hold the position.
“I’m feeling exited, very excited. Still a bit overwhelmed,” says Bishop Nicholls. She hopes to begin her new role on May 1. Her first task, she says, will be learning as much as she can about the Diocese of Huron, since all of her previous ministry has taken place in the Diocese of Toronto.
“The first challenge will be getting to know the diocese physically and geographically, getting to know its history, and getting to know its culture, which is very different than this diocese,” she says.
It’s an undertaking with which she has some experience. “When I went to Trent-Durham, I had never ministered there. So in some ways, it’s a similar process of getting out immediately into congregations, going around to areas, visiting, just driving. Figuring out where the roads go,” she says.
The Diocese of Huron, located in southwestern Ontario, has about 200 parishes. It also has a much larger rural population than the Diocese of Toronto, but Bishop Nicholls sees similarities.
“The challenges for ministry are much the same as they are here – congregations with declining numbers,” she says. “How do we do ministry with lots of small units of congregation? I’m looking forward to seeing what the creative opportunities are for ministry.”
Bishop Nicholls says she is also looking forward to building relationships with the people and parishes in her care, something she has enjoyed about her time in Trent-Durham. “I come alongside congregations as a servant of the whole church,” she says. “To encourage and see the good things that are happening, and to have the delight of watching things emerge, exciting projects and creativity.”
In Toronto, Archbishop Colin Johnson says he is both delighted for the Diocese of Huron and sad to lose Bishop Nicholls’ gifts in this diocese. “Linda will be a superb diocesan bishop,” he says. “She has not only the experience but a real sense of discipline and graciousness and wisdom. Linda has served the church in a whole variety of ways, as a parish priest, as a member of the national church staff and as a bishop in this diocese. She’s also served the church nationally and internationally. We are going to miss her here.”
That feeling is one that Bishop Nicholls shares. “It’s been an incredible privilege to work in the Diocese of Toronto. Because of its breadth, because of its size, there is a richness of resources here, not just financial resources but resources of people,” she says. “I look forward not to saying, ‘Oh, we did it like that in Toronto’ but to saying, ‘I’ve got colleagues I can call on to help us think about things together.’”
As she looks ahead to the end of her ministry in this diocese, Bishop Nicholls says she plans to carry on with the work she has been doing for the past eight years. “I hope to try to finish up ministry in a way where I can hand things over to whoever’s going to be responsible,” she says. “You don’t just stop; you carry on right up until the moment you hand it off to someone else.”
She says she also hopes to connect with many people before she leaves. Two drop-ins in Trent-Durham have been planned on April 23:
- St. John, Peterborough, from 10 a.m. to noon.
- St. Thomas, Brooklin, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The people of Trent-Durham are warmly invited to attend and offer their best wishes to Bishop Nicholls.