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Bishops’ Letter, 25 July 2022
Dear friends
At the time, we fully expected that the letter we issued last Monday, 18th, would be the last of the summer.  However, for a number of reasons, one of them reasonably urgent, we have decided to write again.  After this, however, we really don’t expect to be writing again until September (!) – when we expect to resume this mailing not fortnightly but only monthly.
Today the church celebrates with particular thanksgiving the life and witness of James the Apostle.  James, together with his brother John, ‘the sons of Zebedee’, were among the first of Jesus’ followers.  Fishermen in Galilee, they were mending their nets when the Lord called them – and immediately they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him’ (Mark 1.19-20).
With Peter, and his own brother John, James was apparently part of the innermost circle of Jesus’ followers, privileged to be present at a series of intimate moments when the rest of the Twelve were not there: at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5.37), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9.2) and in Gethsemane (Mark 14.33).  ]
It was also James, together with his brother John, who asked Jesus for the key places of honour in his kingdom (Mark 10.35), and in the process prompted Jesus to utter those precious words, ‘The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10.35)                
 At Bishopscroft this morning we have remembered with thanksgiving the 10 churches across our Diocese dedicated to St James: in Norton, Woodhouse, Shiregreen, Anston, Braithwell, Clifton, Ravenfield, Doncaster, High Melton and Rawcliffe.       
Ordination of Deacons, Sheffield Cathedral, Sunday 24th July 2022 at 4pm
            In the Greek New Testament, the word translated ‘serve’ in Mark 10.45 is of course ‘diakoneo’, from which we get our word ‘deacon’.  Indeed, just two verses earlier, the Lord tells his disciples, ‘Whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, your deacon’.
            So it is entirely fitting that so close to St James’ day, we were able yesterday afternoon to complete this summer’s round of ordinations, with the Covid-delayed ordination of Christine Herbert to serve in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Sprotborough
Zak Venable to serve at St Thomas at Philadelphia.  Please do hold them in your prayers this week, and the communities they seek to serve.
Appointment of a new Registrar
Rachel Baseley, who has served as our Diocesan Registrar at Wake Smith since 2020 has moved to a new position this week, which has required her to relinquish that responsibility.  We thank her warmly for her work on our behalf over two particularly testing years, and also her clerk, Pamela Greig.  We hope it will be possible for Rachel to attend a meeting of the Bishop’s Council in October so that a fulsome expression of our gratitude can be made!
            After a rich tendering process, at the end of which we were able to interview a good field of candidates, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Kirsty Duxbury as our new Diocesan Registrar.  Kirsty is a solicitor with 10 years’ experience in ecclesiastical law. She was appointment Deputy Registrar of the Diocese of Blackburn in 2021 and Registrar of the Diocese of Worcester in 2022 and will continue in those posts. Kirsty is based at Anthony Collins Solicitors, a firm well known for its vast expertise within the UK’s charities and faith sectors.  Kirsty says, ‘I am delighted to have been appointed registrar and look forward to exploring the parishes of the Diocese. I am grateful to the Bishop and his team for giving me the opportunity to carry out this important role. It is an honour to be able to support the clergy, lay workers and volunteers in carrying out the mission of the church.’
            Please note: you can reach Kirsty at or on 0121 214 3678.  Anthony Collins is now in the process of recruiting a new clerk, who will be dedicated to supporting the work of our Diocesan Registry and who will be based at Church House.  We anticipate that once this person in post, we will enjoy an entirely new level of service – good as that has been until now. 
A National Safeguarding Survivor Survey
A vital national survey to understand how victims and survivors would like to be involved in the development and implementation of a Church of England survivor engagement framework, has been launched this week.  This framework will set out how victims and survivors of abuse will inform the Church’s work to develop and improve safeguarding.  
The anonymous survey will run for two months and is open to any victim or survivor who would like to engage with the Church to inform its work. The questions were formed with survivors who have provided valuable input and feedback in terms of content and promotion of the survey.
The survey is not about asking questions relating to victims and survivors’ past or present experiences of abuse, harm or neglect but to understand better how victims and survivors would like to be involved in developing the framework, in what ways and what formats.  Its purpose is to listen to victims and survivors, including those who have not engaged with the Church previously, about how they would like to be involved in developing and implementing this framework and enable victims and survivors of any form of abuse to engage in different workstreams in the Church, including its response to victims and survivors of abuse.
If you are yourself a survivor, or if you have been supporting survivors, may we ask you please to consider participating this survey and recommending it?
Safeguarding Team Support offer
At a highly encouraging meeting of the Diocesan Synod at St Mary’s Church, Catcliffe on Saturday (23rd), following the presentation of the Safeguarding Report by Archdeacon Malcolm, the request was made that this statement from our Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, issued in our Bishops’ Letter on 4th July, should be repeated here:
As part of our ongoing development of good safeguarding culture and practice across the Diocese, we are keen to ensure that all clergy have a regular opportunity to seek support in their safeguarding role, especially where they have particular concerns.  To this end the Diocese has developed pastoral supervision groups where members of the clergy can meet together to support each other and discuss concerns as well as sharing the good things in their ministry, in areas including safeguarding. In addition, the two Archdeacons, 6 Associate Archdeacons and 12 Area Deans are being encouraged to introduce safeguarding routinely into their regular 1-1 pastoral conversations with ordained colleagues. 
            The duty to have due regard to safeguarding policy and practice guidance can be a cause of worry and anxiety which on occasion might lead clergy to fear that their actions or inactions might lead to discipline. This in turn can have a detrimental impact upon wellbeing and could lead to mistakes being covered up. The Bishops and other senior colleagues are keen to assure you that disciplinary action is highly unlikely where honest mistakes have been made and where clergy acknowledge a need for help and for learning.  
            In particular, the Diocesan Safeguarding team is available to support and advise not to judge.  So, whenever you find yourself in a situation in which you have concerns or are unsure what to do, or when in retrospect you find yourself wondering whether you did the right thing, please contact the safeguarding team sooner rather than later!  It is not necessary for you to muddle through or to lose sleep. 
Weekly livestream of Morning Prayer to cease this week
For well over two years’ now, from early in lockdown 1 in 2020, a team of senior leaders in the Diocese have between them resources a weekly livestream of Morning Prayer at 8am on a Thursday via the Diocesan Facebook page.  We know this provision has been appreciated by many – indeed something of a regular online congregation has developed.  However, since Easter attendances have fallen and last week only 5 joined in with Archdeacon Malcolm.  The Bishop’s Senior Staff team have been pondering for some time when would be the right time to cease this provision and have nearly reached that decision two or three times in the past year.  Finally, we have decided to do so now – so the livestreamed service to be led this Thursday, 28th July, by the Bishop’s Chaplain, the Revd Harry Steele, will be the last.  Thank you to all those who have created this online fellowship over the past 2 years.
Lambeth Conference
And finally, please do pray for Bishop Sophie and I as we travel down to Canterbury on Tuesday (26th) for the Lambeth Conference. 
            The conference will include a couple of days of retreat at the outset, and then a series of consultations and ‘Calls’ based around themes arising from the First Letter of Peter.  Over 650 bishops will be present from around the world – from every continent; and over 500 spouses and 70 ecumenical representatives.  It will be quite a gathering!  Bishop Sophie and I are especially looking forward to re-connecting with the Bishops from our two link Dioceses: Bishop Brian of Argentina, whose first visit to England this will be since his consecration; and Bishops David and Emily from Bondo, whose first visit to England this will be since we formed our link in 2019. 
            Many of you will be aware that at the Conference it is inevitably conversations about human sexuality which have the greatest potential for controversy – indeed in recent days that controversy has already been heated.  Please pray especially – to borrow a phrase from our Diocesan Vision Prayer, for wisdom, courage and compassion, and for the grace of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. 
            Those of you who have been alarmed by the controversy on social media in the past few days might like to read this careful statement by the LLF Next Steps group, here.
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox
Bishop of Sheffield
The Rt Revd Sophie Jelley
Bishop of Doncaster
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