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Bishops’ Letter, St Thomas’ Day, 4 July 2022
Dear friends,
Either yesterday (Sunday 3 July), or today (Monday 4), many of our churches will have marked, with thanksgiving, the life and witness of St Thomas the Apostle.  Indeed, four of our churches are dedicated to St Thomas: in Crookes, Kilnhurst, Kimberworth and Worsbrough Common (with St James). 
            This is a saint for whom I have a soft spot – so much so, we called our younger son by his name.  But history has given him a bad press.  The names of only two of the 12 apostles have passed into common speech as noun.  To call someone 'A Judas' is a pretty savage insult; and to call someone 'A doubting Thomas' is hardly a compliment.  But Thomas had enough about him to mean that the gospels contain several stories in which he plays a leading role, which is more than you can say for Bartholemew or Thaddaeus.  And the story which is most responsible for that epiphet ‘Doubting’ is this one, from John 20.19-29.  It falls into two parts. 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  
After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 
 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

But ‘doubt’ is not the most obvious characteristic in Thomas, even in these verses.  I see more passion here than doubt. 
            Even by his absence on the first Easter Sunday (ie, in verses 19-25), Thomas has something to teach us – which is that being a Christian is not just a private matter: following Jesus is not something we can do on our own: Christians have a job to do, a commissioning from the Risen Jesus, which was received in community by the apostles and which we are called to do together.  But more positively, by his declaration of faith in the Risen Jesus just a week later (in verses 26-29) Thomas reminds us that being a Christian is a personal matter: following Jesus is something we must make our own.  Every Christian is entitled to look for a first hand experience of the Risen Lord; no-one has to rely on a second-hand report.
Ordinations 2022
What a joy it was on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June, to celebrate the ordination of 16 new deacons and 8 new priests, to serve in parishes and mission areas across the geographical and theological breadth of our Diocese.  Please do continue to pray for them in the early days of their new ministries. 
            It was a joy to see the Cathedral so full on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and to hear a rousing sermon from the Revd Andrew Mumby, the retreat conductor.  He invited everyone in the congregation to remember that we are first loved by God in Christ and then, called to love God in Christ.  It was also a great privilege to welcome the Bishop of Maidstone and the Bishop of Wakefield to ordained deacons on Sunday afternoon and evening. 
            Please pray particularly for the Revd Christine Moorey, who was due to be ordained priest, and for Christine Herbert and Zac Venable, who were due to be ordained deacon.  For health-related reasons it has been necessary to defer their ordinations, hopefully not for long.  Indeed, it looks likely, if not yet certain, that the two deacons will be ordained in the Cathedral at 4pm on Sunday 24th July:  you would be most welcome to attend if you are able. 
Diocesan Conference
This morning, many of us will gather at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick for our first Diocesan Conference since 2018.  Given all that we have learned about digital access in the past two and a bit years, we have sought to make this a truly ‘hybrid’ event, capable of being attended equally richly onsite and online.  To this end we have developed a conference ‘app’, which delegates are strongly encouraged to download and explore as soon as possible.
            Meanwhile, do please pray for the conference organisers and contributors.  As you may be aware, Covid-cases are again on the rise and this is causing inevitable dis-ruption.  Having tested positive, some who hope to attend onsite have now had to send apologies and will attend online if symptoms allow.  And the same is true of some of those involved in the planning and backroom support of the Conference, requiring last minute adjustments.
            Nevertheless, we look forward to gathering as lay and clergy leaders, to hear and study the Scriptures together, to learn from one another, to worship and eat together and to seek to discern what the Spirit of Jesus Christ might be saying to us as the Diocese of Sheffield. 
New Director of Mission and Ministry
I am delighted that, after a nationwide search and a rigorous interview process, the Revd Toby Hole has accepted my invitation to take up the senior role as Director of Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Sheffield. 
This is a new role which integrates the range of support for clergy and lay leaders as we seek to implement the present Diocesan Strategy and develop a strategy for mission beyond 2025. As a member of the Bishop’s Senior Staff Team, Toby will operate strategically across the Diocese. The role has been created following two retirements from the Bishop’s Senior Staff Team in 2022: the Revd Canon Mark Cockayne, Director of the Parish Support Team, retired in April; and Canon Dr Christine Gore, Director of Formation for Ministry and Principal of St Peter's College, will retire later this summer.
Toby has been Vicar of St Chad’s, Woodseats for the past twelve years, and Priest in Charge of St James’, Norton since 2020. He previously served his curacy in Islington, London and before ordination worked as a solicitor in the City of London. He is married to Amy who was ordained priest this year and who is a curate in Sheffield. They have three children and two tortoises. Toby has been involved in the training of lay ministers for a number of years through Sheffield School of Ministry and will be familiar to many in the Diocese.  He is at present the Acting Warden of Readers.  
You can find the full press release here
Partners’ Together
It was a delight and a joy to welcome over 60 adults and children to Bishopscroft on Saturday afternoon, 2 July, for a Partners’ Together family event.  Bishop Pete and Cathy are grateful to the Bishopscroft Staff Team and to members of the Partners Together executive for all their hard work in delivering an afternoon of great fun and fellowship.
            Partners Together is, as the name implies, a support organisation for partners of serving clergy in our Diocese.  If you would like to know more about its work, please contact its secretary, Dr Cathy Rhodes, at
Diocesan Mutual Flourishing Group
Ordination season is an appropriate time to remind colleagues of the work of the Diocesan Mutual Flourishing Group.
            The group meets to support and advise the Bishops in promoting the mutual flourishing of clergy and congregations across the Diocese of Sheffield, and across the diversity of theological convictions in the Diocese over the ordination of women as priests and bishops.  It meets termly.  The full terms of reference for the group can be found here.
            The present membership of the group is as follows: Bishop Pete, Bishop Sophie, The Revd Canon Phil Batchford, the Revd Canon Amanda Barraclough, the Revd Stephen Edmonds, the Revd Matthew Lawes, the Revd Jacqui Jones and the Revd Eleanor Robertshaw.  Each of us would be glad to hear from the wider Diocesan family about any concerns or examples of good practice that you would like to register with us. 
            Bishop Pete is presently seeking to identify the right lay person to join the group and to enrich its work.  Members of the group are expected to be familiar with and broadly in support of the Five Guiding Principles for Mutual Flourishing as set out in the House of Bishops’ Declaration in 2014.  You can find these here
Safeguarding Sunday and Safeguarding Supervision Support
The National Safeguarding Team has notified us to the effect that this year November 20th, the Feast of Christ the King, will additionally be observed as Safeguarding Sunday.  It is not hard to make a link between the salvation won for us by the Servant King and the responsibility we all have to ensure that Christian communities are places of safety for all, and especially for the most vulnerable in our midst. 
            Free resources to mark this occasion are available to churches, chaplaincies and schools which register, which you can do here.  For more information please contact
            In addition, Siân Checkley, our Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, writes as follows:
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 well being 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 though or to lose sleep.
Cost of Living Crisis
We are very aware that many clergy households, among others, are struggling to make ends meet at present, given the rate of inflation and the rising costs of food and fuel.  If you are struggling, please don’t suffer in silence.  The Archdeacons would love to hear from you.  They will be able to signpost you to grant-making bodies both locally and nationally, and also have access to some limited discretionary budgets of their own.  You can contact them at (for Sheffield and Rotherham) and (for Doncaster).
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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