Archbishop of Wales announces historic appointments at Cathedral

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The Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, has announced the appointment of five distinguished individuals to serve as Honorary Canons at Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor. 

These appointments mark significant milestones in the Church in Wales, as they encompass a range of “firsts” .

The appointment of Honorary Canons is also a significant milestone for Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral, says the Diocese of Bangor, “reflecting its commitment to engage with urgent issues of social justice and social responsibility, and with our society’s real spiritual thirst to move beyond the prevailing culture of anxiety by contemplating the beauty, truth and love that is found in God”.

Canon Environmentalist

Underlining the Church’s dedication to environmental stewardship, the Church in Wales welcomes its first Canon Environmentalist, Professor Robin Grove-White, Emeritus Professor in the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change at the University of Lancaster and a former Chair of Greenpeace UK. Professor Grove-White will support the Cathedral and the Diocese of Bangor in their commitment to tackling the world’s accelerating climate crisis, and doing so practically and spiritually.

Canon Preacher

Author Fr Jarel Robinson-Brown becomes the first gay, black Canon to serve in a Church in Wales Cathedral, a pioneering moment that highlights its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Father Jarel, who will become Canon Preacher, holds joint British and Jamaican citizenship and is a much sought after preacher, having spoken recently at St Paul’s Cathedral, Yale Divinity School, and Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities. He is also co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Christian Charity OneBodyOneFaith. 

Canon Librarian

Professor Helen Wilcox, Emeritus Professor in the School of Arts, Culture and Language at Bangor, is appointed the first lay woman Canon Librarian. This significant appointment comes ahead of the millennium and a half anniversary of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in 2025. She will advise on the cultural aspects of the anniversary as the Cathedral celebrates 1,500 years as a site of continuous Christian worship. Professor Wilcox is one of the editors in the Arden Shakespeare series and is a specialist on gender in early modern literature.

Canon Bard

Emphasising Bangor’s renewed commitment to the celebration of the Welsh language and Welsh culture, poet and tutor of Welsh Theology Siôn Aled becomes Wales’s first Welsh-speaking Canon Bard. Siôn Aled is one of the poets-in-residence for the Diocese of Bangor’s Llwybr Cadfan project where he performs original poetry inspired by the landscape of Meirionnydd and Bardsey Island. He has published several volumes of poetry, and is a past winner of the National Eisteddfod Crown.

Canon Composer

Pembrokeshire born composer Alexander Mills is appointed Canon Composer, the first of its kind in the Church in Wales. Alexander’s works have been widely performed, including at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and Melbourne Recital Centre, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Alex is passionate about music and the Welsh language, and in 2023 was commissioned to compose a new setting of Christ’s Seven Last Words in Welsh which was premiered to great acclaim at Saint Deiniol Cathedral on Good Friday 2023.

Each Canon represents an area of the Cathedral’s common life and witness which the Cathedral and the Diocese of Bangor has identified as important for the life of the Church in our days, and in which further resource and energy will be invested over coming years.

Acknowledging his historic appointment, Father Jarel says,  “I am deeply humbled and honoured to be made an Honorary Canon of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral Bangor. Wales has a very special place in my heart and I am greatly inspired by the Archbishop of Wales’s leadership, and the commitment of the wider Church in Wales, to uphold the dignity of every human being. I look forward to being connected to the Diocese of Bangor in this way and to contributing as Canon Preacher to its ministry and witness to Jesus Christ.”

Affirming his commitment to music and the Welsh language, Alex Mills says,  “The extraordinary power music has to inspire, move and unite us makes it an incredibly important part of the life of a Cathedral and the community it serves. I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to help nurture and grow this at Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral over the coming years and to be a part of shaping the identity of the Cathedral as it prepares to mark its 1,500 year anniversary.”

Foundation Canons

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The Archbishop of Wales has also appointed three Foundation Canons who will be members of the Cathedral Chapter, which is the governing body of the Cathedral. They are:

  • BBC Radio Cymru Senior Producer, Gareth Iwan Jones. Gareth is responsible for much of Radio Cymru’s output from Bangor, as well as for the BBC Welsh Nationals Orchestra’s programmes on Radio Cymru. Gareth is a member of the Cymun Bendigaid ar Gân congregation at the Cathedral.
  • Lesley Hall, a community organizer, a core member of the Cathedral’s stewarding and welcoming team, and a regular member of the Choral Holy Eucharistcongregation.
  • Author and Church in Wales priest the Reverend Naomi Starkey, who serves as Ministry Area Leader of Bro Padrig in north-west Anglesey 

Announcing the appointments, the Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, said, “It is a real joy to be able to announce the appointment of eight new Canons to the Cathedral, five Honorary Canons and three Foundation Canons. I am grateful to them all for accepting the invitation to contribute to the life of the Cathedral, the diocese, the public square here in North-West Wales and beyond; and congratulate them all on their appointment.


“Together they bring with them an enormous breadth of skills and experience to their new roles, enabling the Cathedral’s common life and witness to be a place where all can come and experience faith, hope and love. Each of these new Canons has been invited in recognition of the significant contribution they have made, and continue to make, within their field of expertise, and I invite you to join with me in praying for them as they take up their new positions and responsibilities.

Welcoming the new canons, Canon Siôn Rhys Evans, Sub-Dean of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor, said,  “I very much welcome the appointment of our new Cathedral Canons. These appointments mark a historic moment in the history of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor as we begin to look ahead to our millennium and a half anniversary, drawing on our unique history and culture to inspire the next generation.

“Our Canons possess a diverse range of skills and experience that will enrich the mission and ministry of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral. I know they will become excellent ambassadors for the Cathedral, as well as challenging stewards of the Cathedral’s vision and purpose.”

The installation of the new canons takes place Sunday 1 October at 3.30pm at Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor. The new Archdeacons of Bangor and Meirionydd will also be installed in their stalls at the Cathedral during this service, and Canon Jane Coutts, one of the Cathedral’s existing Foundation Canons, will be installed into the stall of Canon Precentor. 

Biographies

Honorary Canons

Professor Robin Grove-White | Canon Environmentalist

Robin Grove-White spent his career at the intersection of research and policy in the environmental field. He is Emeritus Professor in the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change (CSEC) at the University of Lancaster. His research interests focused on the development and implementation of new and original social science-based approaches to environmental research. This entailed intellectual leadership – in synergy with a key collaborator, Professor Brian Wynne – in the creation and rapid development of the CSEC.

Prior to his research at Lancaster, Robin was, from 1981 to 1987, Director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England. He also served as Chair of Greenpeace UK, one of the country’s foremost environmental advocacy charities, from 1997 to 2003.

In 2018 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Bangor University for services to the community, and currently serves as President of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society. He lives on the outskirts of the village of Llanfechell on Anglesey.

The Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown | Canon Preacher

Jarel Robinson-Brown is a British-born Jamaican, and proudly remains a citizen of both the UK and Jamaica. After ministerial formation in Cambridge (2010-2013) he served as a Methodist Minister in South Wales from 2013-2018, then as Associate Chaplain at Kings College London, and, having been ordained as an Anglican, currently serves as Assistant Curate at St Botolph-without-Aldgate and Holy Trinity Minories in the Diocese of London. 

Jarel is Visiting Scholar at Sarum College, Salisbury and Co-Chair of the global Christian LGBTQ+ Charity OneBodyOneFaith, which works for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the Church. In 2011 he published his first book, Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer: The Church and the Famine of Grace, and in October 2022 he delivered the Inaugural Revd Dr Margaret Thrall Memorial Lecture at Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral.

Professor Helen Wilcox | Canon Librarian

Helen Wilcox is Professor Emerita of English Literature at Bangor University, where she worked from 2006 to 2020, and was Head of the School of English, Director of the Research Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Chair of Bangor University’s Cultural Affairs Task Group. Born and brought up in Nottingham, she studied at the universities of Birmingham and Oxford. Prior to moving to Wales, she was a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and professor at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Helen is an expert on English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, including lyric poetry, devotional writing, Shakespeare, early women’s writing, autobiography, and the relationship between words and music. Her publications include Her Own Life: Autobiographical Writings by Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen (1989), Women and Literature in Britain, 1500-1700 (1996), The English Poems of George Herbert (2007), 1611: Authority, Gender and the Word in Early Modern England (2014), The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern English Literature and Religion (2017) and the new Arden edition of All’s Well That Ends Well (2019). She is currently in the editorial team for the Works of Aphra Behn, and co-editing The Cambridge Companion to Devotional Poetrywith Canon Mark Oakley (Dean Elect of Southwark Cathedral).

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Learned Society of Wales. She has been a guest preacher in churches and cathedrals in Wales, England, the USA and the Netherlands. She is Churchwarden of St Peris’s Church, Nant Peris, a member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, and a trustee of Bardsey Island where she chairs the Spirituality Committee.

Alexander Mills | Canon Composer

Alex Mills is a Welsh composer whose work spans opera, orchestral, choral and chamber music, and music for dance, art installations, and film. His work often explores the connection between music and emotions and how music can help facilitate spiritual experiences.

Alex’s music has been performed widely, including at the Barbican, The National Gallery, the V&A, Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, Café OTO and on BBC Radio 3 and 4.

Recent commissions include a new piece for BBC National Orchestra of Wales, premiered at St Davids Cathedral in 2022, and the first ever known setting of Christ’s Seven Last Words from the Cross in the Welsh language for the Choir of Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor, first performed on Good Friday 2023.

The Guardian have described his work as “music of supernatural poignancy, melodic but otherworldly, narratively urgent but poetically impressionistic.”

Originally from Pembrokeshire, Alex studied music at the University of Cambridge and a Master’s in composition at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, for which he obtained a distinction. He lives in London.

Siôn Aled | Canon Bard

Siôn Aled was born in Glanadda, Bangor, with his family roots in Ynys Môn. He has graduated in Welsh and Theology, and has gained doctorates in Theology (for research into communication during the 1904-1906 Revival in Wales) and Bilingual Education. He has been writing poetry almost as far back as he can remember. He won the Urdd Eisteddfod Chair in 1976, and the National Eisteddfod Crown in 1981.

He has published several volumes of poetry, the latest being Rhwng Pla a Phla / Between the Plagues, a bilingual collaboration with the artist Iwan Bala. He publishes much of his work these days on social media, particularly Facebook, and his work is also on display in St David’s Cathedral, among other sites. He has worked for the Church Mission Society and served as Associate Minister of Melbourne Welsh Church, Australia. He was also the General Secretary of the Commission of the Covenanted Churches in Wales.

Today he is the Tutor in Welsh Theology at Saint Padarn’s Institute and is one of the poets-in-residence for the Saint Cadfan’s Way Literary Pilgrimage.

Foundation Canons

Gareth Iwan Jones | Lay Foundation Canon

Working for the BBC for a quarter of a century, Gareth Iwan Jones is Senior Programme Producer for Radio Cymru in Bangor. He is responsible for programmes as diverse as Tudur Owen, Aled Hughes and Y Talwrn; evening music programmes such as Georgia Ruth and Huw Stephen; along with the station’s classical, jazz and folk series. Gareth is also responsible for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s programmes on Radio Cymru, producing concerts of classical and pop music with the Orchestra.

Among his recent various projects, he coordinated BBC broadcasting of the Urdd Eisteddfod, commissioned a new musical, recorded sketch comedy series Clonc, and produced a Chillout concert curated by Radio1 DJ Sian Eleri. He is also a senior producer on the second Welsh-language station, BBC Radio Cymru 2.

Originally from Pwllheli but now living in Llanddaniel, Gareth has been married to his wife Manon for 22 years, and they have two children, Catrin and Gwenno. Gareth is a member of the Cymun Bendigaid ar Gân congregation at the Cathedral, and attends with his parents, Neil and Anona.

Lesley Hall | Lay Foundation Canon

Lesley Hall was born in Essex and has lived in North Wales for 25 years. In 2005, Lesley set up The Boatshed Sailmakers with her stepson Stephen. Lesley now works at Dinas Boat Yard and is passionate about volunteering in the local community.

Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral is a special place for Lesley, having been introduced to it by her parents where the family would visit to light a candle or sit and absorb the stillness. Lesley was recruited as Cathedral Volunteer by the former Dean and she remains grateful to her for this opportunity.

Lesley is member of the Choral Holy Eucharist congregation. She feels both honoured and humbled to be appointed a Lay Canon.

The Revd Naomi Starkey | Canon Quartus

Naomi Starkey is Ministry Area Leader of Bro Padrig in north Anglesey (including the northernmost church in Wales), with a particular brief for pioneering evangelism across the area. She has represented the diocese at the Church in Wales Governing Body and also serves as a vice-chair of the Provincial Discernment Panel. Priested in 2015 after a career in publishing and journalism, she continues to write book reviews for the Church Times and Bible reading notes for BRF’s New Daylight series, as well as contributing occasionally to BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru.

She enjoys running with a local group, playing the violin and spending time with her family