Diocese of Chester
The Church of England
The Bishop of Chester
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster
I am writing to you about several matters, in no particular order of importance.
New Parish Development Officer
As you may already have seen on the diocesan website, the Revd Ian Rumsey, Vicar of Hurdsfield, has been appointed to succeed Steve Wilcockson as PDO with special responsibility for the Archdeaconry of Macclesfield. He will take up his duties in the autumn. Many folk will recall Ian as the Chair of the Planning group for the last Clergy Conference at Swanwick.
Diamond Jubilee Celebrations
As you will be aware, the main focus of the celebrations over the weekend of 1-4 June will be on local events, and I know that parishes are much involved in the planning for these.
On the previous Sunday, 27 May, we are holding a special service for the Diocese, at 3pm in the Cathedral. I have invited representatives from the various civil jurisdictions and authorities in the Diocese, but it will not be a civic service as such. It will be an opportunity for the Diocese as a whole to give thanks for the remarkable reign of our Queen. Could you please publicise the service in your parish, and try to ensure that you are represented? There are no tickets, and the service is open to everyone.
I would also draw your attention to the Jubilee Concert which the Cathedral Choirs are giving at 7.30pm on the evening of Saturday 26 May. All proceeds will be to choir funds. Tickets are £15, and can be booked via the Cathedral Office or website. It will be a splendid occasion.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (This has now been cancelled)
We have decided to organise a further diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but this time as a joint pilgrimage with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury, which overlaps with the Diocese of Chester. The new Bishop of Shrewsbury and I will jointly lead it, together with other senior clergy from our dioceses.
The dates are 1-10 April 2014, and we shall arrive back on the Thursday before Holy Week. Given the present slow pace of ecumenical discussion between our denominations, Bishop Mark and I believe that a joint pilgrimage, returning to our common roots in the lands of the Bible, will have a particular significance.
Brochures will be sent out later in the summer, with further details, but I hope you will consider organising a group from your parish. Individual pilgrims are most welcome, of course, and there is no restriction to Anglicans and Catholics.
Services of Institution and Licensing
We have revised these services and, after a trial use, we will be printing copies over the next few weeks. As usual, supplies will be kept by Rural Deans. I am grateful for the work which the Worship Advisory Group has done on this.
We have taken the opportunity to review the designation of the collections which are taken at these services, and have decided that they should be for the diocesan Clergy Family Trust. Historically, the collections were for the families of ordination candidates in training but, with a proper national provision for this support well established, in recent years the collections have been retained in the parishes.
The general squeeze on incomes and stipends has produced an increased demand upon the Clergy Family Trust, and we have decided to augment its income from the collections at services of institution and licensing. Following a service, a cheque should be made out to the Chester Clergy Family Trust, and sent to Bishop’s House. The Trust operates as a fully independent charity, separate from the DBF, and is administered from Bishop’s House.
Women in the Episcopate
I am acutely aware of the issues with which we will need to grapple if the legislation receives final approval at the General Synod this July. Should the legislation fail, another set of issues would arise, of course.
I am unwilling to consider things more fully until such time as the legislation has cleared its last major hurdle, which would be final approval by the General Synod. If it is so approved, I would anticipate setting up with some urgency a process to consider a draft scheme for this Diocese, as would be required by the Code of Practice, a draft of which has now been published.
My fundamental concern would be to maintain as high a degree of unity in the Diocese as might be possible. At this stage I merely wish to emphasise this, and to assure everyone that they will have an ample opportunity to consider how a Scheme could be devised which is in the best interests of the Diocese as a whole, and consistent with the framework which the Code of Practice would provide.
If, at any point, individual clergy, or groups would find it helpful to meet with me, I would gladly facilitate this. The whole matter needs to be very much in our prayers.
Bishops Keith and Robert join me in wishing you every blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ, that ‘Great Shepherd of the Sheep’, who is the inspiration for our ministry.