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Tributes to the Speaker’s Chaplain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:42 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 2:42 pm, 31st October 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
congratulates the Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin on her twenty-eight years of ordained ministry in the Church of England, nine years of which have been in the service of Mr Speaker and this House as Chaplain to the Speaker, the first woman and the first BAME holder of that post;
expresses its appreciation for the generous, ecumenical and compassionate spirit of her work among hon. Members and staff of the House;
and wishes her every success in her forthcoming ministry as Bishop of Dover and Bishop in Canterbury.

You are absolutely right, Mr Speaker, to say we are moving on to a really happy discussion. It is a great honour to move the motion and give the House the opportunity to pay tribute to the Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the 79th Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. I would like to thank her on behalf of the whole House for her service.

“Let the people praise thee, O God;
let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase;
and God, even our own God, shall bless us.”

These are the beautiful uplifting words that the reverend prebendary reads to us in her strong, resonant, resounding voice every morning when we meet in private to send up our petitions to God. It is when your chaplain, Mr Speaker, creates an atmosphere of prayerfulness that allows right hon. and hon. Members to set their souls at ease with God as they prepare for the business ahead of them. She does so in a way that would move the heart of the most stony-hearted atheist to feel there is a true and a divine presence. To achieve this through the power of speech and the use of language is a great achievement, and one that has daily been the triumph of your chaplain, to the benefit of Members of Parliament.

It is not only liturgically that your chaplain, who is now retiring to go on to greater things, has been a major asset to this place, Mr Speaker; it is also in her pastoral work, for the chaplain has been a help to many Members, in counselling, guiding and supporting them through difficulties in their lives and giving them succour as a true shepherd to her flock. She has worked closely in a spirit of ecumenism with Father Pat Browne and has not been in any sense narrowly sectarian. Anybody who has had dealings with your chaplain or who has met her has found it a help and benefit. What more can possibly be asked from someone in clerical orders?

It has been 359 years since the first Speaker’s Chaplain, Edward Voyce, was appointed in 1660, and while it is of great significance that the reverend prebendary is the first in the intervening three and a half centuries to be a woman and the first to be from an ethnic minority, I look forward to the day when we no longer have to remark on the race or sex of the Speaker’s Chaplain. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but Lord looks at the heart. She is a person of God—the highest calling of all. Dare I say it, but the calling to God is a higher calling than the calling to political life, and all that matters is that calling?

For the chaplain, it has always been very simple. God’s calling has made her who she is, and she has followed her calling with the calm confidence we all admire so much. Her key responsibilities, in addition to pastoral care and daily prayers, have included running a weekly eucharistic service in the chapel and performing weddings, marriage blessings and baptisms for Members and their children. She has also led many services to celebrate the lives of those who have died during their service to Parliament. I think many of us would particularly like to thank her for her part in the commemorative ceremonies and her support following the loss of a dear colleagues, Jo Cox and PC Keith Palmer. We will never forget the bravery and passion of all those who have worked in this place, and we will never forget the chaplain’s dutiful care to her flock.

The chaplain has always shown her devotion to those who need her, whether in Montego Bay or on these shores, and I know so many people in the parliamentary estate feel that her remarkably self-possessed view of life has sustained them through difficult times. We will never forget the chaplain’s trust in God’s grace, which has, I think, helped give her the courage of her convictions to speak out during her ministry. We should all seek to live by her words on the importance of improving the culture in Westminster and making this a place where everyone is treated as they should be.

It only seems suitable to end with words from the 1662 Prayer Book—that great book of liturgical beauty, that ornament of the Church of England and, speaking as a Catholic, that bit of the Anglican Church of which I am possibly the most jealous; some of our translations are nothing like so beautiful. Leaving that to one side, it seems suitable to end with words from the Prayer Book:

“Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels: Send down upon our Bishops and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace;
and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing.”

I hope, Mr Speaker, that as your chaplain moves to Dover, the continual dew God’s blessing will rain down upon her.