Letter from the Bishop
A printable PDF file of this letter is available by clicking here.
Ash Wednesday, 6 March 2019
This comes with thankfulness to God for you all as we begin the journey through Lent,
praying that you will be spiritually refreshed by the opportunities this season brings for
personal growth in our faith and ministries.
I have recollections from my childhood of attending some Quaker meetings with my
mother. Sitting in silence is not an easy discipline for any young person to learn,
especially this teenager. As a young Christian I loved being part of the action, seeking
to make a difference. I realise now that I associated silence with feelings of loneliness
and isolation, being rejected by a friend or punished by a parent. Yet I distinctly
remember that some of the faces of the people scattered around the Quaker meeting
house were not lonely or disengaged, they were waiting attentively, expecting to meet
with God. From time to time one would offer a bible reading, another a prayer or
simply a word of encouragement. The silence had become for them a familiar spiritual
pathway through which they had learned to encounter God’s living presence.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the spiritual writer and social reformer, once said “True
silence is a key to the immense and flaming heart of God.” I am a slow learner when it
comes to exploring this discipline, but still determined to find ways for it to become a
more integrated part of my pattern of prayer and ministry, perhaps especially through
As we seek to nurture others in the journey through Lent, growing disciples with deep
roots of faith in God, on a personal level I would encourage you to explore a new
spiritual discipline, or rediscover one that you valued in the past but may need to
recover. Read a little around it, but not too much, far better to practice it and help
clear a new pathway of the soul that will help us walk more closely with the Lord.
Dallas Willard wrote extensively on the spiritual disciplines, inspired by a conviction
that they needed to be removed from the category of historical curiosities and placed
at the centre of the new life in Christ. These disciplines include solitude, fasting,
service, meditation on Scripture, and confession. Over the past few months I have
been travelling with a group exploring new possibilities and patterns for spiritual
formation that might enhance our work through the Younger Leadership College,
including our popular intern programme. This will help shape ‘chapter two’ in the
vision for growing many more younger disciples, learning to live and lead like Jesus
wherever they find themselves.
Dallas Willard put it very starkly,
“The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders.
They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes – a
time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and
power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its
message too low.”
To follow Christ in every sphere of life is the highest of all callings. We need this to be
reflected not only in our evangelism but also in our formation of disciples, as we draw
on the practices that can help someone seeking to walk in the way of Jesus. It is not
simply about making more effort but learning those spiritual rhythms and patterns
that help people grow in grace with deep roots in Christ. Every part of the church has
something to contribute in this.
In due course I look forward to sharing more of how we are shaping the Younger
Leadership College as we move into a new chapter.
YoungLIFE with Pentecost Celebrations – Friday 7th and Saturday 8th June
I am very thankful for the levels of energy, vision and commitment among the 26
parishes or benefices that are part of the YoungLIFE learning community. The goal is
towards each making a step-change in ministry to and with children.
You may also know there has been a review to consider how the Discipleship and
Ministry team can be structured in a way that enables new models for supporting
youth and children’s work, drawing further on the best practices on the ground in the
diocese as well as wider national resources. You will have heard from Nigel Spraggins
that the restructuring has already resulted in some changes and a redundancy. I want
to pay particular tribute to the tremendous contribution that Nick Harding has made
to the life of the diocese over 17 years. He has been a source of immense
encouragement and inspiration to those leading among children in our churches and
schools. I am grateful that he will continue to be involved in safeguarding training, as
well as some particular aspects of children’s ministry training in which he remains a
As part of the YoungLIFE initiative I am looking forward to hosting special Pentecost
Celebrations at Bishop’s Manor on Friday 7th June for schools and Saturday 8th of June
for children and families from across all our churches. More information will follow,
with an excellent team preparing to lead these events, which are also linked with ‘Thy
Chrism Eucharist in Southwell Minister – Wednesday 17th April, 7.30pm
As we prepare to remember and celebrate the momentous events of Holy Week and
Easter, I look forward once again to the Chrism Eucharist in Southwell Minister. In the
light of Holy Week we renew our vows as those entrusted with lay and ordained
ministries in the diocese. I know it is another evening in an already busy week but your
presence on this occasion is a gift to your sisters and brothers in Christ, as the only
occasion in the year when we all gather in our Cathedral.
Bishop’s Study Day – Tuesday 12th March
Finally, I look forward to seeing many of the licensed clergy and licensed lay ministers
next Tuesday at the Lent Study Day led by the Revd Will Van Der Hart on “Flourishing:
In Life, In Ministry, In Mission”. I am certain this will be an encouraging and supportive
day together, very appropriately meeting in a place where people come from around
the country longing for rest in a frantic world where there is ‘no time to stand and
stare’. It is easy to say we know the ultimate source of rest for the soul, but too often
we are living lives every bit as hurried and disorientated, so I pray the day will be a
blessing to us personally and in the whole-hearted gospel ministry we share in the
With every blessing,