It was such an honour to be able to engage Margo in conversation last Sunday evening. I thought her testimony was so inspiring, it’s hard enough to commit your thoughts, spiritual and psychological, to paper, to share them publicly is a brave thing indeed. I’m sure many of us will remember last Sunday evening for a very long time.
Some weeks ago Fr Alan, Mother Eileen and myself were discussing the most appropriate time for us to gather together and pray, we came to the conclusion that the only really effective time would be on Sunday evenings, and so from Sunday 12 March we will be reviving an act of evening worship at 6pm. Throughout Lent we will offer the Stations of the Cross, a popular devotion, joining in heart and mind Our Lord Jesus on his final journey to the cross. From Easter onward we will be saying BCP evensong in the choir stalls. We do hope some of you will be available to join us in prayer and worship each Sunday at 6pm.
The Development Project continues and we hope that next week our cleaners will be able to start cleaning those really high and hard to reach places, which frankly haven’t seen a duster or vacuum cleaner for many, many years. Once complete we can begin to rebuild our organ – something I am particularly excited about. In every parish I have worked in we have undertaken some significant building project, but I have never been involved in a major re-building of a church organ – exciting times!
On 31st January it was announced that the Rt Revd Philip North, currently area Bishop of Burnley, has accepted the nomination as diocesan Bishop of Sheffield. Bishop North is highly regarded and is a particularly strong advocate for the Church in areas of great poverty. He is, however, also a member of both Forward in Faith and The Society, two organisations that do not recognise the ordained ministry of women. His nomination has caused a significant degree of controversy. The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Martyn Percy, has proposed that Bishop North should voluntarily withdraw his nomination as ‘an act of integrity, consistent with his beliefs, and with his wider concerns for the catholicity of the Church, and for the flourishing of pastoral relationships’. Martyn Percy has challenged the view that Bishop North’s ministry can flourish in a diocese where about a third of the priests are women. In response, 32 women priests in his present diocese have written in his support to the Church Times saying that initially they had been concerned about his current appointment but ‘he has worked incredibly hard to make sure that all people feel more than included in the life of the diocese’. Many women clergy in other dioceses have also been supportive of his appointment. Bishop North is due to be formally elected on 25th April. In 2012 he withdrew his nomination as area Bishop of Whitby after protests at his position on women’s ordination. We pray for him and for the Diocese of Sheffield at this difficult time.
I am reminded of events back in May 2003 when Jeffrey John was nominated as area Bishop of Reading. He subsequently withdrew his acceptance following a great outcry due to his sexuality, despite the fact that he was living in a celibate relationship in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Since then attitudes have changed somewhat and an openly gay priest, also in a celibate relationship, was appointed Bishop of Grantham in 2015. Jeffrey John was subsequently appointed Dean of St Albans, but I think the Church has lost the potential ministry of a very fine bishop.
With every blessing