Bishop's Advent Letter (Ad Clerum) to clergy
I am aware that you are in the thick of the run-up to Christmas, and perhaps a little exasperated by the need to keep an Advent flavour somewhere. I’ll come back to that later. Meanwhile, I have just finished the third of four courses of chemotherapy: these last two are shorter than one and two. Now I await blood counts to fall – and rise again! – hoping not to catch too bad an infection at the middle point. I continue to rejoice in all your prayers and good wishes.
A few domestic matters. First of all, the appointment of Trevor Reader as Archdeacon of Portsdown, will I am sure be widely welcomed. To have a six-cylinder KAIROS man in Portsmouth is going to be important in the coming years. I only hope that the Isle of Wight, where he has had an outstanding ministry in such a short time, will forgive me. A consultation letter about his successor will soon be on its way round the Island, and elsewhere in the Diocese.
Secondly, Women Bishops. We all know about the General Synod vote in July. But putting it into some form of acceptable practice is something else. Many are rejoicing at this development, but I know that some are anxious and unhappy. I had hoped to meet the Forward in Faith clergy, but that was one of the casualties of my illness. My advice is not to take any precipitate action, but to wait and see what kind of arrangements are hammered out. And that won’t become apparent, even in outline, until after the Spring, when I hope to be back.
Thirdly, The Dilloway Report. I am glad Diocesan Synod took it seriously, and that there are going to be Archdeaconry consultation evenings. I understand the fear about ‘centralisation’. That is part of modern parlance in any organisation. But this isn’t the main thrust of the Report. It is about simplifying structures, which at the moment are far too labour-intensive. There will be real benefits for the parishes, for example, in the closer working together of my Advisers in the new Mission and Discipleship, Mission and Society and Mission and Education Teams.
In my last Ad Clerum, I mentioned some readjustments in my responsibilities outside the Diocese - of which all Bishops have at least several. It has been a bit of a KAIROS time for me! So what about me being ‘leaner, fitter, and deeper’? Well, I’ve certainly lost weight. And the experience of having been so ill will certainly leave its mark on me for the rest of my life, though how remains to be seen – that’s the ‘deeper’ bit. As for becoming ‘fitter’, that will be about regaining my physical strength – and I have been told that there is no reason why this shouldn’t happen.
Underneath, however, the three KAIROS comparative adjectives can be applied further. The fact is that ten years into this job, the diary has become insufficiently flexible. So perhaps I need to focus more, and do some pruning, KAIROS-style. One area that I will be looking at is Confirmations. That will mean for next year remaining with the Saturday Cathedral dates, but re-arranging the Deanery dates in Eastertide, combining some together. Once the overall picture is clearer, we’ll be in touch with the Rural Deans.
Finally, an Advent thought, which I came across on Sunday in Robert Atwell’s excellent collection of daily non-scriptural readings – ‘Celebrating the Seasons’ (Canterbury Press, 1999). It’s from the (early Christian) Letter to Diognetus:
‘With goodness and kindness, like a King who sends his son, who is also King, God sent God, the Word, among us. He sent him to save us through persuasion rather through violence, for there is no violence in God. He sent him to call us rather than to accuse us. He sent him to love rather than to judge us.’
My prayers and love to you all. And I hope this letter is some kind of substitute for the 850 official Christmas cards that I am not clearly in a position to sign this year!
With every blessing