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Bishops’ Letter, Monday 9 May
The appointed New Testament reading at Evening Prayer today is a familiar passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1 to 16.  The opening 6 verses are a call to unity and to values which are characteristic of those who gather around Christ Jesus: humility, gentleness, patience and love.  The next 4 verses are a reminder that each of us, baptised into Christ Jesus, are given particular graces in him.  And the final 6 verses spell out some ways in which such gifts are expressed, beginning as follows:
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets,
some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for
the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us
come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ  (verses 11-13).
A phrase in verse 11 has caught my attention in recent years: ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry’.  The implication is clear: particular ministries in the church (apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and educative) are charged with responsibility for enabling the wider ministry of the body of Christ, so that the whole people of God are mobilised for the whole mission of God and every baptised person is able to grow up into the fulness of their baptismal vocation, to shine as a light for Christ in the world to the glory of God the Father.  
            In a very few short weeks’ time, it will be the season of ordinations.  We look forward, God willing, to ordaining an extraordinary 18 deacons (10 [yes 10!] stipendiary and 8 [yes 8!] self-supporting), as well as 9 priests (7 stipendiary and 2 self-supporting).  The services at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday 25th June at 4pm (the ordination of priests) and then on Sunday 26th June at 10.30am (the ordination of deacons), at 4pm (the ordination of a deacon) and at 6.30pm (the ordination of another deacon) promise to be occasions of great rejoicing.  Please do secure these dates in your diaries, at least for prayer.
In the liturgy of ordination of deacons, these words are used:
In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.  Deacons are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known.
Deacons are ordained ‘so that the people of God are better equipped to make Christ known’.  That’s it. 
            And in the ordination of priests, we hear these words:
Priests share with the Bishop in the oversight of the Church, delighting in its beauty and rejoicing in its well-being.  With the Bishop and their fellow presbyters, they are to sustain the community of the faithful by the ministry of word and sacrament, that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God.
Priests share with the Bishop in Oversight Ministry, enabling all the baptised ‘to grown into the fullness of Christ’.
            So, what about we bishops?  When we were ordained, the following words were said:
Bishops are called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. They are to discern and foster the gifts of the Spirit in all who follow Christ, commissioning them to minister in his name. 
Our primary task is to ‘discern and foster the gifts of the Spirit in all who follow Christ, commissioning them to minister in his name’.
            Our hope and prayer is that this culture of enabling, nurturing and developing not our own ministries but the ministries of others will be more and more a distinctive feature of life in the Diocese of Sheffield in the coming years. 
            The first three items in this week’s communication are all conceived as vehicles to further this culture.
1.  Foundations for Ministry and Mission
            On Saturday (7 May) Bishop Sophie and I had the enormous privilege of sharing together in a service of Celebration of Lay Ministries at Doncaster Minster and our thanks go to all who were involved in the preparation and delivery of that service, which was wonderfully uplifting.  Bishop Sophie authorised 12 new worship leaders and welcomed 11 of our first Focal Ministers, as well as presenting certificates to 8 individuals who have just completed the Foundations for Ministry and Mission course.
            Applications are now open for the next iteration of that very popular and effective introduction to ministry and mission.  If you know of someone who is wondering if God might be calling them into some form of authorised, commissioned or licensed lay ministry – in the church or wherever they find themselves Monday to Sunday, they may benefit from the ever popular Foundations course. Through this one year course there is the opportunity to explore what it means to be called to serve God and others through recognised ministries in the church and in the local community.  In addition, there is the opportunity to learn more about the foundations of the Christian faith and dig more deeply into what it means to be a follower of Christ in an accessible and enjoyable way. Subjects covered include: The Bible, Mission and Christian Belief. The next course begins with an induction in July 2022 - sessions will take place either face to face or online (using Zoom) on a weekday evening and a Sunday afternoon.  The closing date for applications is 31 May.  Application forms and more information are available on the St Peter’s College website here.
2.  Unconscious Bias Training
Have you ever felt shut out from a particular group or conversation?  How did that happen?  Do you think you yourself have ever excluded others from your own group's activities and conversation - perhaps without even noticing that you were doing it? 
Sometimes we are handicapped by our ignorance, prejudices and blind-spots; these tendencies can prevent us treating people fairly and showing God's love equally to everyone.  Our Unconscious Bias Training is a brief introduction to this important area of our lives.  It helps us to become more aware of how our thinking and feeling sometimes lets us down in these ways.  As we become more alert and honest about this, we can learn strategies which help us make wiser choices about how we see and respond to other people.
The next two offerings of Unconscious Bias training are scheduled for 11 May in the daytime at Campsall, and on 15 June in the evening in Rotherham. Book here.
3.  Leading Well
Leading Well is our bespoke ‘in-service training’ for Oversight Ministers, though all clergy are always welcome to attend.  The next session, on Thursday 26 May, from 9.30am to 2pm, will be held at the Newton Chambers Memorial Hall on Cowley Lane, Chapeltown.  It will be led by the Revd Linda Maslen from Fountains Church, Bradford.  Linda will offer reflections on her experience of ‘The church as an agent of transformation’.  Further details will follow soon, but for a taste of the extraordinary work of Fountains Church, please visit its website here.
4.  Homes for Ukraine
Sheffield Cathedral is hosting an event, led by the Bishop’s Adviser in Interfaith Affairs, the Revd Dr Casey Strine, this Wednesday, 11 May at 7pm.  The event will provide an update about what is happening around Sheffield (and South Yorkshire) in response to the Homes for Ukraine scheme the government launched in late March and will include speakers from Sheffield City Council, City of Sanctuary, the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, and our own Diocese.  The Cathedral will open to attendees at 7:00 PM, with the programme beginning at 7:30pm.  There will be time for Q&A at the end, and the programme will conclude by 8:45pm.  You are invited to register attendance using the Eventbrite link here.
5.  God Loves You Tour 2022
Many of you will be aware that Franklin Graham, son of Billy, will soon be touring the UK.  You can find details of the tour here.
            The tour was originally due to take place in June 2020, but the event was cancelled by the local authority after a backlash from community groups.  At that time, I (Bishop Pete) put out a statement to this effect: “I'm afraid I cannot support the Graham Tour mission event at the FlyDSA Arena on 6 June next year, at which Franklin Graham is due to speak, and so will not be encouraging parishes in the Diocese of Sheffield to support it either.  Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.  I gladly took part in Billy Graham’s Mission England in 1984 as a candidate for ordained ministry, and in his LiveLink Mission in 1989 as a curate.  But to my sadness I detect a tailing off of humility and generosity in the Graham organisation since those days.”
            Two years later, I stand by this statement and am now joined in support for it by Bishop Sophie.  Parishes are of course free to take part in this mission if they so choose – but we urge all clergy and lay leaders to research Franklin Graham’s political links, not least to Putin in Russia and to Trump in the USA, before they commit. 
6.  The Archbishops’ Commission on Households and Families
It has been Bishop Sophie’s privilege in the past 18 months to be a member of this significant commission, exploring what support families and households need to flourish in today’s society. The publication of its report is planned for the end of this year.
The commission has recently launched a ‘Call for Reflections’, a resource specifically designed for children and young people to share their views with us about family and household life. The Commission is passionate about putting children and young people at the heart of its work and recommendations, so this is a crucial piece of work in the life of the Commission.  You can find all the information about the resources at the following link:
Children and Young People – Call for Reflections | The Church of England
            The resources, which should take around 30 minutes to complete, are split into three age categories: 7-11, 12-15 and 16+.  The resources are designed for teachers and youth workers to oversee with children and young people already known to them, should always be delivered with groups rather than individuals, and all information about the participating children and young people will be unattributed. Responses are being accepted until Friday 10 June. Please do pass the link on to any youth workers or teachers whom you think would be interested in facilitating this with young people.
With every blessing as ever,
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox
Bishop of Sheffield
The Rt Revd Sophie Jelley
Bishop of Doncaster
Copyright © 2022 Diocese of Sheffield, All rights reserved.

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