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.  

We are acutely aware of the painful experience borne by the vast majority of lay people and some clergy in recent months, deprived of corporate worship and the sacraments, and many others who have been unable either to marry or pray for their deceased family and friends in church. We hope that all who wish to - and are able to do so - will make use of the restored freedom to enter Christian churches, where it is feasible for those churches to open safely, and will continue to make use of widely available resources and opportunities to support their faith as we await a further easing of the lockdown.

The influential Anglican priest and theologian Richard Hooker wrote these words in the sixteenth century, "Churches receive as everything else their chief perfection from the end whereunto they serve. Which end being the public worship of God, they are in this consideration houses of greater dignity than any provided for meaner purposes.” While our use of language has changed slightly in the intervening centuries, the essential truth of Hooker's statement remains: the worship of God through gathered, corporate worship, as well as private prayer, is intrinsic to that dignity in worship we seek as Christians. Hooker's writings go on to re-iterate the words of the Psalmist, "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

On this Eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi, we look forward to people being able to return to churches next week to offer their prayers before the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord. We also look forward to the time, over the coming months, when the Eucharist can be celebrated and shared among God's people. The Eucharist is not an optional liturgical extra or a contemporary lifestyle choice; it is the source and summit of the Church’s identity and forms an essential part of our Christian witness, as the historic formulae, the canons and the liturgies of the Church of England rightly recognise.

 

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:

 

Download booklet.

 

There are also lots of resources on the Thy Kingdom Come website as well as our own resources from previous years.

 

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.

 

 

+TONY WAKEFIELD

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).

 

 

+ TONY WAKEFIELD

 

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield,

Chairman of The Society’s Council of Bishops

+ GLYN BEVERLEY

The Rt Revd Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley

+ PHILIP BURNLEY

The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley

+ MARTIN CICESTR: 

The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester

+ JONATHAN EBBSFLEET

The Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet

+ JONATHAN FULHAM

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham

+ NORMAN RICHBOROUGH      

The Rt Revd Norman Banks, Bishop of Richborough



Posted on the 17th Apr 2020 in the category Statements


As the three Society Bishops based in the Province of York, we welcome the Time to Sow in the North report produced by St John’s College, Nottingham.

 

As the Bishop of Burnley states in the report’s Foreword, “it is not hard to find Catholic parishes where Church life is vibrant and alive, and the identification of common features associated with such growth is important if parishes in this tradition are to grow in evangelistic confidence.”

 

We look forward to discussing how the Church’s resources can be targeted at our most deprived communities, where many such Catholic parishes are to be found and where additional resources will, among other factors, help to achieve a growth in Church life.

 

The Society’s mission strategy, ‘Forming Missionary Disciples’, will also play an integral role in achieving that growth.

 

We are grateful to St John’s College, Nottingham, especially Fr John Tomlinson, for producing the Time to Sow in the North report and we commend its contents to a wide readership.

 

+ TONY WAKEFIELD  

 

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield,

Chairman of The Society’s Council of Bishops

+ GLYN BEVERLEY

The Rt Revd Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley

+ PHILIP BURNLEY

The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley











Posted on the 1st Apr 2020 in the category Statements


At this time of national emergency, we remain acutely aware that the needs of those directly affected by the Coronavirus, and the necessity to limit the risk of infection, make a legitimate demand on our behaviour. As the nation suffers and grieves, let us be constant in prayer and in our public duty to stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

 

The sense of loss we all feel from the necessary closure of our churches for public worship is heightened as we approach the most important week of the Church’s year, Holy Week. Nevertheless, there are spiritual benefits which can and will flow to us from a faithful observance of Holy Week in our homes. We should be diligent in our reading of scripture and in our recitation of the Church’s cycle of prayer. To supplement these activities, there is a growing body of liturgical resources available digitally.

 

For our own part, we shall be issuing a series of short videos to aid devotion and prayer at home during Holy Week. They have been professionally produced and, we hope, will be attractive to a wide audience. The videos will be made available at the following times here.

  • Palm Sunday at 8am.

  • Maundy Thursday at 3pm.

  • Good Friday at 12pm.

  • Easter Day at 8am.

 

The first verse of Psalm 130 speaks to our current circumstances: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” May we urge a prayerful keeping of Holy Week as we look with confidence to the joyful celebration of Easter in our homes.

 

 

+ TONY WAKEFIELD

 

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield,

Chairman of The Society’s Council of Bishops

+ GLYN BEVERLEY

The Rt Revd Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley

+ PHILIP BURNLEY

The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley

+ MARTIN CICESTR: 

The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester

+ JONATHAN EBBSFLEET

The Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet

+ JONATHAN FULHAM

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham

+ NORMAN RICHBOROUGH      

The Rt Revd Norman Banks, Bishop of Richborough

 

 

The videos were recorded in the Diocese of London in accordance with the restrictions which were in place at that time.

Photo Credit: George Reynolds

 

 

   



 

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