Posted on the 2nd Nov 2020 in the category Statements
All Souls' Day 2020
A pastoral statement from The Society's Council of Bishops on the proposed suspension of public worship from 5 November
Our nation is facing a crisis of a scale and proportion unknown for over seventy years and as we write we are acutely aware of the desperate needs of those whose work is insecure, whose businesses face bankruptcy, whose education is being disrupted, whose mental health is being damaged by fear and anxiety and who can barely afford to feed their children.
We are equally aware of the extraordinary energy, agility and imagination that so many of you have demonstrated in recent months as you have risen to the task of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the people you serve. The dedication you have shown has been profoundly moving to witness and we take great pride in the ministry you have offered.
But all that we do as God’s people flows from our worship. The Mass is and must always be the very heart and centre of our lives, our gravest duty, our sweetest joy. As we meet the Lord at his altar, we are inspired to serve and to witness. Without the Mass, ministry becomes meaningless and any acts of love and service are swiftly rendered unsustainable. We can never allow our worship to be seen as dispensable, nor can we collude with a culture that wishes to see it as one activity amongst others. The Mass is literally a matter of life and death. Without regular re-orientation towards the life of God in the Mass, we are lost, we are nothing.
That is why the decision that has been made by HM Government and which will be debated later this week in Parliament to suspend public worship for a second time this year is such a grave one, and we write above all with the assurance of our prayers as you lead your people through this wilderness. We are aware of a profound disappointment, bordering on anger, in many of our congregations, an expression of the deep longing of the people of England to gather for worship.
We are very grateful to Cardinal Nichols and Archbishop McMahon for the measured lead they have taken and the wise words they have spoken in recent days. Our experience is that the Mass has been offered in the parishes we serve with huge care and great attention to safety and so we too would ask for clear evidence of transmission of the virus within congregations before we felt able to support even a brief second suspension of public worship. We express our solidarity with the Cardinal and the Archbishop in asking HM Government to rethink this aspect of the Regulations which will be presented to Parliament later in the week.
Of course we acknowledge our duty as subjects of Her Majesty to play our part in overcoming this deadly danger to our national life. Should the Regulations be passed as they now stand, we look to our priests to act strictly within the law and suspend all public worship as they will have been directed to do.
However the sacraments of the Church are life-giving not just for us but for the nation and we cannot simply turn off the source of sacramental grace. We therefore urge our priests to use their imaginations once again in celebrating the Mass within the law as local context allows and, where possible, to live-stream the Mass to the faithful who can unite themselves with this offering through an act of spiritual communion.
We write on All Souls' Day, a day on which we are powerfully reminded of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ who, through his saving work, draws us from death to life. It is in the sure hope of that salvation that we face the weeks and days ahead, for the God who shares his life in Jesus Christ is always faithful.
Please be assured of our thanks and our prayers.
Posted on the 15th Jul 2020 in the category Statements
On behalf of The Society's Council of Bishops, I am delighted to welcome Bishop Will Hazlewood to our number. On this the joyful day of his consecration, we pray for Bishop Will, his family and his ministry in the Diocese of Chichester.
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield
Chairman of The Society's Council of Bishops
Posted on the 10th Jun 2020 in the category Statements
We are grateful that the Government has heard the increasing dissatisfaction of Christians, and people of other religious traditions, and announced their intention to allow places of worship to open for individual prayer and worship from 15 June. We hope that basic principles of religious freedom, and indeed equity with other groups in society, will continue to be borne in mind in the coming stages of easing the lockdown. We are also grateful to all those in the Church of England, in other churches and in other faith communities, for their continuing work on the Government’s Places of Worship Taskforce to find a safe way of enabling congregational worship to resume as soon as possible.
In this short devotional video on the theme of Corpus Christi (below), the Bishop of Fulham speaks powerfully of the vital role the Blessed Sacrament has in our spiritual lives. The film is a joint initiative between The Society and the Church Union and was made in accordance with the Government guidelines in place during the pandemic. It is the final film in a series of eight such films, covering the themes of Holy Week, Easter, Our Lady, Pentecost, praying for the dead and, now, Corpus Christi. The films are offered, with our prayers, as a resource to all those looking to reflect on these important Christian themes at home in this time of pandemic.
Posted on the 14th May 2020 in the category Statements
The Council of Bishops encourages participation by Society parishes
The Ascension of the Lord marks a new moment in the life of the community of Christ’s followers. Jesus returns to the Father in order to send upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and so from earliest days, Christians have used the days following Ascension Day to wait in prayer for the renewing, reviving gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This time of expectant waiting echoes the experience of the Apostles who gathered with the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer before the Spirit came upon them.
This period of prayer is often referred to as a ‘novena’, which is an ancient practice of the Church to spend a series of consecutive days or weeks in prayer for a particular theme or intention. In praying this novena, we are uniting ourselves with the ancient tradition of the Church.
In the past few years this period has been given a particular focus through the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative; a global ecumenical movement that invites us to pray for strength in conviction as we live out our faith in our daily lives and as we strive to draw others into a lively relationship with God in Christ in the fellowship of his Church.
The circumstances of Covid-19 mean that we are unable to gather in our churches this year, but we provide these resources to encourage you to pray and act as part of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ in your homes, asking ever more earnestly in these times for the Holy Spirit to come to renew the face of the earth.
This year we have produced Praying at Home from Ascension to Pentecost:
Parishes of The Society running events as part of this initiative are encouraged to use the hashtags #TheSociety and #ThyKingdomCome when promoting them on social media.
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
Posted on the 5th May 2020 in the category Statements
Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020
As the Bishops of The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, we are gravely concerned by the growing body of evidence that indicates that the COVID-19 Pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the poor.
The parishes we serve are for the most part located in areas characterised by high levels of deprivation and every day we are hearing stories from our priests about the impact of the pandemic on those they serve. We thank these clergy and laypeople for the faithfulness and imagination with which, in desperate circumstances, they are serving some of the most deprived communities in the land. They report particular concerns about the negative effects of the current crisis on family life and the level of hunger they are finding amongst children. We are alarmed by data that suggests that those in our most deprived communities are twice as likely to die as those from wealthier areas.
To compound the situation, it is those same deprived communities who are worst impacted by other aspects of the pandemic including the spiralling rate of unemployment, the loss of fragile jobs, the chaos surrounding the distribution of free school meals vouchers and injustices and inefficiencies in the benefits systems. After years of austerity, our deprived communities have lost much of the infrastructure that could once have supported vulnerable people through a crisis such as this, and we are alarmed about the economic and social impact of pandemic upon those least able to bear it. Of equal concern to us is the disproportionate number of BAME people who are being impacted by the virus and we urge greater research into the reasons that lie behind this.
Whilst long-term restoration of the economy must remain a priority in resolving these issues, we call upon HM Government and the Church of England to take immediate and decisive action to bolster the resilience of our deprived communities.
We call upon HM Government to withdraw the two child limit on benefits, to review the benefits cap, to address at once inefficiencies in Universal Credit, to continue job furlough schemes for as long as necessary and to ensure that children who are entitled to free school meals have access to healthy food until such a time as schools are able to re-open. We support the Bishop of Durham, the Child Poverty Action Group and other organisations and individuals who are active in these areas.
We call upon the Church of England to commit itself anew to service and presence in our deprived communities, to strengthen its commitment to its poorer parishes as it emerges from crisis and to guarantee that central church funding streams dedicated to lower income communities reach the people for whom they are intended.
As we celebrate Easter with its themes of new creation and redemption, we pray that the whole Christian Church might faithfully and compellingly witness to the promise of the dignity of life in its fulness for every human person. Let us resist conformity to the inequalities of unregulated greed, and be transformed by the renewal of our minds, so that we might discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12.2).