The new Anglican Dean of Newcastle wants her church to be a welcoming, safe place.
The Very Reverend Katherine Bowyer became the 16th Dean of Newcastle in a ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday night.
Dean Bowyer is the first woman – and first person born in the Newcastle Diocese – to hold the position, which means she is parish priest and rector at the landmark cathedral.
She was named the replacement for the Very Reverend Stephen Williams in June, ahead of his retirement this month.
“Never did I ever imagine that I would be the Dean of the cathedral, which has been so much a part of my life and so much a part of the city,” she said. “It’s such a privilege and an honour to be able to be part of that.”
Dean Bowyer takes the reins after a dark few years for the church, with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing of atrocities committed by members of the Anglican and Catholic clergy in the Hunter over several decades. The final report is yet to be handed down.
“It certainly has been a really challenging few years and the courage of the victims and their families – and their willingness to tell their stories – and their vulnerability is incredible,” she said.
“I have nothing but respect for them. It’s so humbling to hear them and I’m deeply sorry for all that abuse that has happened in the past.
“We’re committed as a diocese to changing the cultures that led to that at a deep level – to being a place of safety, welcome. There’s been lots of work happening here in the cathedral community, lots of great work, and I want to build on that.”
As she was growing up in the Hunter, Dean Bowyer felt that entering the ministry was “something God was calling me to do” in her teenage years. But at that point women couldn’t be ordained in Newcastle.
She became a Student for the Diocese in 2000 and was ordained a member of the clergy in 2002. Since then, Dean Bowyer has served parishes at Morpeth, Singleton, Rutherford and Cardiff.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, it gives me such joy. It’s an enormous privilege being able to sit with people, to hear their stories and to be invited to share in really significant moments in people’s lives,” she said.
“To hear the story of a loved one and to be invited into that space, to be with a couple preparing for marriage and to celebrate the birth of a child and to journey with people in their everyday lives, it’s wonderful.
“I think Newcastle is a great city and we have so much to share. My hope and dream for the cathedral is that it’s part of that vibrancy of community life.”