Bishop Peter’s Letter – September 2014

bishop2When I was young I faced the start of a school year with a mixture of excitement and dread. I recall doing obligatory shopping to get new shoes, blazer and PE kit, and even the school cap. There was also the compass, pencils, ruler, protractor and ink pen to buy as they got lost or broken every year. However, buying these things and getting everything ready was part of what led to the excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead in the academic year and beyond.

Many of the children in our churches and communities face similar emotions as they start a new academic year, change schools or starting school for the first time. As children share similar anticipations, I encourage you to uphold them and the staff in your prayers and to get actively involved as schools are an important part of our incarnational mission.

As a Diocese we are also looking to the future in anticipation of what is to come. Over the summer we have had a short break from the Centenary Celebrations, but like the start of a new term we are preparing again for the second phase of our gatherings and events. Everything is ready and in place and the organising committee are full of excitement and perhaps some dread, hoping that the weather will stay fine and people will turn out and have a good time in fellowship with others from across the diocese.

So far the Centenary has been marked by excellent weather, a good turnout from the parishes, a looking back with thanksgiving at what has made the Diocese what it is today and a real sense of fun, fellowship and worship together as the family of God.

The next phase of our celebration looks forward in anticipation of how we pass on our faith so that we grow new disciples who know Jesus as their personal saviour. The Archbishop of York says, “The Diocese of Sheffield has become a place of imaginative and thriving ministry, developing and nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ, and engaging with the challenges of a changing society”. Through God’s grace we will continue to be that sort of diocese, and we will see the mighty works of God.

So let’s not look to the future with a sense of dread and emotion, regretting the passing of 100 years, but start afresh in hopeful anticipation and excitement of what the next 100 will bring.

Bishop Steven’s Letter, August 2014

bishopDear Friends,

In July the General Synod approved the Measure to enable women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England. At the same time the Synod approved some key principles to enable those who hold different views on these matters to live together within one Church and to work together in God’s mission.

The debate in July brings to an end a generation of debate on the ordination of women in the Church of England. The outcome will be a cause of great joy and celebration to many. To others it may bring some sadness. However I hope and trust that we will be able to move forward together in respect and trust and to be able to give greater attention now to other areas of God’s mission.

The provision for parishes unable to accept the ministry or leadership of ordained women is stronger than previous provision and intended to be for the long term. It is based on five key principles, outlined in the House of Bishops declaration on the ministry of Bishops and Priests:

  • The Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender;
  • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has now reached a clear decision;
  • The Church of England acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;
  • The Church of England remains committed to enabling to flourish within its life and structures those who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests and
  • Pastoral and sacramental provision for this minority will continue to be made in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion across the whole Church of England.

In the words of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against one another, forgive each other; just as the LORD has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

The Bishop’s Letter – July 2014

 

Image2A few weeks ago Bishop Steven and I, along with all the Bishops from the North, met on Holy Island, Lindisfarne for a twenty four hour retreat with the Archbishop of York to reflect on and pray about the evangelisation of the North. Holy Island has a wonderfully rich history with the monastery of Lindisfarne being founded by Saint Aidan. The priory was founded before the end of 634 and Aidan remained there until his death in 651. Lindisfarne became the base for Christian evangelising in the North of England.

The challenge of evangelising in the North is something we have taken to heart in our own diocese. Our Centenary Year gives us an opportunity to celebrate the Christian heritage which has made an enormous contribution to the material and spiritual welfare of the communities we serve. However, it challenges us to consider how we might pass on our faith to others so that they come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour and experience transformed lives and transformed communities. This calling is as critical today as it was for St Aidan and it arises from the missionary mandate to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. In these few verses we see how the risen Christ sent his follower to make Christ known in every time and place so that faith might spread to every corner of the world. It was the missionary task of St Aidan – and it’s our missionary task today – in our time and place. We are called to do this together in mutual support, encouragement and nurture working across parish and deanery boundaries, traditions and practices. We are called to work together as a whole diocesan team, to be more Christ-like in our calling and responding in which there will be great joy. So my challenge in this Centenary Year is ‘What opportunities and challenges are you being offered to make Christ known to those in your community who have not yet experienced the transforming love of the risen Christ or the support of belonging to a community of faith? How can you personally, and in your parish, lead in the task of evangelisation? “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” Evangelii Gaudium – Pope Frances).

A Christ-like Church

bishopJune 2014

Five years ago, when I first came to Sheffield, I travelled round the Diocese meeting people at a series of Deanery events.  People asked me lots of questions.  The most frequent one was this: “What’s your vision for the Church in this diocese?”

The answer I gave was always the same.  At the heart of my vision for the Church is that we should become more like Jesus: we are called to be Jesus’ People and to become a more Christ like church.  That phrase is at the heart of our Diocesan vision.

But what does that mean?  Five years ago, I explored the theme of being a Christ-like church through the lens of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.1-10).  If we are to be a Christ-like church we must learn to be poor in spirit, mourning for the needs of the world, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

In the second half of our Centenary year, I want us to return to the core of our vision to be a Christ-like church.  This time, I want to invite you to explore this theme through a different lens: the great “I am” sayings of St. John’s Gospel.

There are seven great sayings and we will explore them at the different centenary events, beginning with the Cathedral service on 8th June.  According to John, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the door for the sheep”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, “I am the way the truth and the life”, and “I am the vine”.

These are enormous claims made in bold, striking images, rich in allusions to the Old Testament scriptures.  No-one else has made such claims in the entire history of the world.

As the Church in this Diocese we are called to bear witness to this Christ in the 21st Century, just as those who went before us were called to bear witness in the 20th Century in these same communities but in very different times.  At the heart of our witness, as theirs, is the call to proclaim Jesus Christ and to be like him together.

Please do come and join us at the different centenary events.  I am excited at what we will learn together about Jesus and what it means to be a Christ-like Church as we look back and as we look forward.  I’m hoping to produce a short study guide for Churches to use in the autumn to explore the same themes together.

As one old translation of Psalm 95 puts it:

“Come let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout aloud to Jesus our Rock”.

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