Diocese of Portsmouth

    Bishop's Letter (Ad Clerum) to Clergy

    17 Nov. 2005

    Ad Clerum:  November 2005

    Dear Colleagues,

    Many of you have expressed appreciation for these letters, and what better a time to write another than All Saints-tide.   My own news is that I have completed the second phase of chemotherapy (unlike the first, which was ten days, this time it was eight); and I am waiting for the third and fourth, which last five each.   I am increasingly based at home, but have to return to hospital when I catch an infection.   I have been declared officially in ‘remission’: the last two courses of chemo are to ensure that the illness does not recur.   It feels quite different this time.   My body was so weak during chemo one that I was in hospital for just over four weeks.   With chemo two I was sent home the moment it was over.   

    What of timescale?   I can’t answer that question.  When I was diagnosed on September 8th, I was told it would all take about six months.   That brings me to the beginning of March.   It could be before, it could be after.   All I can say at this stage is that I am being encouraged to think through, in very broad terms, how I ‘re-engage’ – and I promise not to do so in my usual ‘bull and gate’ fashion.    Lent will probably be quiet and slow.   Holy Week and Easter will probably be choosy.    But my aim and hope is to make the Chrism Eucharist the big ‘hello again’ for all of us – so no carefully planned funerals on that day, please!

    This whole experience has enabled me to look widely at how I have been operating, and how I can cut down on certain things.    Archbishop Rowan spent some time with me recently, and in a predictably wide-ranging conversation (the room wasn’t bugged), we spoke about my national Church responsibilities.    I will stay on as Chair of the Board of Education, but give up other things.    On the international front, Ghana has to be off limits for the foreseeable future, because of the risk of infection.    And I have found another Bishop to head up our informal conversations with the two historic Lutheran groups based in St. Petersburg (German and Finnish) whom I visited with colleagues two years ago.

    What of my reading?   Most mornings, after saying Matins, I’ve read a transfiguration homily or an exposition of one of the transfiguration gospels, and I’ve managed to do so even in the thick of chemotherapy.   These varied from St. Augustine, to John of Damascus, to Mark Frank, one of our own great Restoration preachers.   I have kept looking at them all again and again, to see their many different ways of sticking with one of the gospel narratives, or else weaving them together.  We’ll see what emerges!   But I have been reading other things of course, like my beloved Horace Rumpole, and someone gave me Alan Bennett’s latest book ‘Untold Stories’ – he’s always a good read.   Last time I wrote to you, I thanked you all for your messages and prayers – and I want to do that again very firmly.   This time I want to thank you particularly for your prayers and support to Sarah – who has even learnt how to fall asleep in a chair in my hospital room.  As I contemplate the full implications of my life being slowly given back to me, I am made more and more thankful for those who are in any way making this possible.   Thanks be to God!  

    With every blessing.

    Yours sincerely,