Ad Clerum, 17 September 2021
17th Sep 2021
Bishop Guli has written to church leaders across the Diocese of Chelmsford in her latest Ad Clerum, which reads as follows:
17 September 2021
I hope that many of you will have enjoyed a break since I last wrote in July and that despite ongoing stresses and pressures you will feel at least a little rested and refreshed.
You will be aware that on Saturday 4th September I was formally welcomed into the Diocese and seated as the Bishop of Chelmsford. It was a service full of hope and joy and I appreciated being surrounded by the good wishes of so many. I continue to be grateful for the warmth of welcome I and my family have received, and I’m delighted now to have fully begun my ministry among you. My first act of public ministry was to ordain 25 deacons in three services at the Cathedral on 11th September. This coming weekend we will celebrate and give thanks for our lay ministers, including licensing new LLMs - a reminder of our collaboration in the Gospel and of the call to work ever more closely together as the whole people of God. These new deacons and lay ministers are a gift to us, and I hope you will join me in praying for them in the coming weeks and months.
Now that I’ve begun my public ministry and am fully engaged in the life of the Diocese, I wanted to write again to bring a few matters to your attention and once more to offer you my encouragement and remind you of my prayers. In the week leading up to my welcome and seating, together with my Chaplain, Rosie, we embarked on a pilgrimage around the diocese, visiting (albeit briefly) each of the seven archdeaconries. My thanks to all who made the pilgrimage possible. It was wonderful to be out and about, to walk the ground of Chelmsford Diocese, to talk and listen and to see some of what is going on across the extraordinary diversity of the three Episcopal Areas. It provided just a glimpse of what God is doing among us but, notwithstanding the challenges that many of you face, my heart was gladdened by what I heard and witnessed. I am of course sorry not have met all of you during that week but look forward to doing so in the future.
In my last Ad Clerum I mentioned, among other things, my hope that we could gather as a diocese in the autumn, to pause collectively, mark some of the changes we have experienced and then set our faces towards the future, leaning into what God is drawing us towards. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it wasn’t possible to find a date that didn’t clash with other events or activities at the Cathedral or across the diocese. This is disappointing and I can only apologise but we have now revised our plans. We will still work towards a Holy Sabbatical during Lent 2022 and will aim to have a diocesan gathering to take us into that period of prayer and refreshment, and another as we emerge out of it after Easter and as we seek to discern God’s will for the future. More details will follow in due course. Meanwhile, a reminder of the invitation to live according to a different rhythm this lent, less frenetically and more spaciously, and to cease from unnecessary busyness, avoiding as many ‘business’ meetings as possible between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day.
A few “notices”
- A reminder that where parishes are inviting visiting clergy from other Dioceses to preach or take part in services (including bishops and those who are retired), you must get permission from Bishopscourt, so that we can do the necessary checks on their status with their home diocese. In such circumstances, please contact Rosie on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Regarding clergy and LLM/Readers who are over 70 and seeking a license or looking to renew their license, there has been some disparity in practice over whether or not a medical check-up is needed or not. In future,this will not be a requirement, however, as part of our duty of care towards you I urge you to arrange for a check-up voluntarily. As much as possible we want to be sure that you are fit for ministry and that the inevitable strains and stresses will not unknowingly have an adverse effect on your health.
- In the next few days you will receive an invitation to participate in our consultation webinars on parish share. These will provide an opportunity to come together as a diocesan family and discern how best to share the resources God has provided for our mission and ministry. It is important that every parish is part of this discussion and I encourage you to ensure that there is at least one representative from your parish in attendance.
Update on Living in Love and Faith and on Racial Justice
- You will most probably be aware that in recent weeks several diocesan LLF Advocates have been appointed. They are Revd Beverley Vincent (for the Colchester Area); Revd Susan Iskander (for the Bradwell Area); and Mr Piers Northam and Revd Chris Wragg (for the Barking Area). I am grateful to each of them and encourage you to be in touch with them if you need any advice or support. The LLF process for parishes and groups has been given a time extension until April 2022 due to the inevitable delay and disruption caused by the pandemic. Some of you will have already engaged with the LLF material but I want to invite churches and other groups that haven’t already done so to find ways of participating in the Course and explore deeply the Pastoral Principles. You can find more information on the LLF website.
- The Racial Justice Task and Finish Group, chaired by +Roger, have now presented their Report to Bishop’s Council which was supportive and endorsed the direction of travel. We expect the Report, which includes several recommendations, to go to Diocesan Synod on 20th November. Meanwhile, I continue to give thought and have conversations about how we ensure a swift and effective culture change in which our life together properly reflects and celebrates the full and rich diversity of all God’s people. I also commend for use in churches and other places, the Pastoral Principles that have emerged from the LLF process. These are equally helpful in guiding our thinking and practice in the area of Racial Justice. One of our clergy, Revd Sharon Quilter, has adapted the LLF Pastoral Principles Course so that it addresses issues of Racial Justice and this is currently being trialled in parishes before being made available more widely.
As we emerge out of the relative quiet and rest of the summer months and head into the autumn, I want to remind you of our call to find rest and peace amidst the busyness. Since my welcome service, I’ve already had one retreat day in which I reflected especially on the stories of Samuel (1 Samuel 3) and Bartimaeus (Mark 10) and what it means for us truly to want to hear God’s voice and see how God is at work – in short, I was left feeling that we must be intentional and that it can be costly. Day retreats are something I intend to make time for quarterly and I encourage you to prioritise them too, making prayer, rest and refreshment a central part of your ministry. In doing so, I believe we will have a much better chance of preventing our individual and collective anxieties from overwhelming us, and that as a Diocese our direction of travel will be away from fear and towards hope; the hope we have in Jesus Christ which is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6. 19).
And finally … I was reminded by Bishop Graham Kings, who recently led the ordination retreat and preached at the three ordination services, of that wonderful phrase by Bishop John V. Taylor: “Cherish the weakness of limited means”. There is richness to mine in these words which are entirely counter-cultural. I wonder if the phrase might just have something to say to us during this next phase of our life together. God has blessings in store, I’m sure, if only we are able to see, believe, and join in.
This comes as always with my blessing and with my gratitude for our shared ministry and for all that each of you contributes.
The Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani
Bishop of Chelmsford