A communication from the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
COVID-19 Update 26 - Bishops Pastoral Letter A Different Rhythm Emerges
‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.’ (Psalm 127.1)
‘You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.’ (1 Peter 2.5)
Dear friends, As a different rhythm emerges over the August holiday period we wanted to say thank you. Thank you for all the work that has been done by clergy, churchwardens and PCCs in the whole process of deciding when to re-open our buildings, both worship and community ones, and then the ‘how’ work being done to enable this to happen safely. Thank you too for the work on developing ‘hybrid’ services for the coming months, continuing to care for those who cannot yet physically return to worship in our church buildings. We appreciate that this has been and remains a demanding time. The majority of feedback we have received has affirmed the image of ‘exile’ as the one which has resonated most commonly with people during the time of this pandemic. It is the idea of being God’s people living in a strange land, away from home and the Temple, compelled to re-imagine living, worshipping and praying in fresh ways, that has spoken most to people. Our slow, careful return to the use of church buildings for prayer and worship has not ended our own experience of exile. Many continue to shield for their own protection, while some are naturally fearful of mixing with a number of people, even friends and fellow worshippers, and so are not yet ready to return. The feel and practice of our worship is strange and so it does not feel that we are fully back. We remain exiled from the cup, singing, close greeting, sharing refreshments and even friends. The journey ahead still looks long and slow. Patience is definitely required alongside carefully looking out for the needs and well-being of others. Yet thankfully we are learning to sing the Lord’s song afresh in this strange land. As we learn anew both the value of our church buildings and the limitations they impose on us, at our core we have been reminded that it is the Lord who matters. It is the Lord God who is to be honoured in and through the use of our church buildings, including our church halls. We have been reminded starkly that the church is the people, not the building. It is as God’s people that we are being built together. We have this enormous privilege of together being the holy priesthood who through our lives offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. For it is our service in and for the world that is equally our act of worship. We are deeply mindful of children and young people who will need extra mentoring and support to help them make up for their missed schooling; of the expected increased unemployment and the potential demand for job clubs, welfare advice and the practical support of foodbanks. We know that there will be a need for sensitive pastoral support given the mental health needs that are emerging from bereavement, long-term sickness, and the lack of social engagement. So, we should expect to continue to be out serving others in these coming months even as we return to our buildings. This all leads us to encourage each of you to take some rest over these summer holidays. We may not have the holiday we had planned but we should seek to stop; to get away from our screens, our ‘confined’ homes and the routine of these past months. Rest and renewal are important. With schools returning in September, and many places of work also opening up August must be the month for as much rest as we can find. The Bishop’s Leadership’s Team holiday dates are at the end of this letter, given so that you know that one of us will always be available to you over the August period. There are other developments that we wish you to be aware of as we look to the coming months: DIOCESAN SECRETARY Edward Gorringe has served as our Diocesan Secretary for the past 20 months. By mutual agreement, Edward has decided to step down from the role. This is taking effect straightaway. We are grateful to Edward for all he has given during his time in this role. We pray for him that a new role in which he can truly flourish emerges soon. Edward continues to hold Permission to Officiate and will continue to serve as Chaplain to the Rifles. Do pray for Edward and his wife Jennifer in this time of change. Pray too for wisdom as we start the process of seeking a new Diocesan Secretary. STRATEGIC THINK TANK There are 12 ‘streams’ of conversation taking place as we seek to discern what God is calling us to from the Waymark Process and all that we have been learning through these past months. This will lead to a new 5 Year Plan in due course. This process has been agreed by the Bishop’s Council and Duncan Podbury is leading the ‘Strategic Think Tank’ rapidly and with great flair. Please do share your own thoughts on our Poverty, Children and Young People, and Growth Priorities and also on how we respond to the Environmental challenge. Please send any thoughts to email@example.com DIVERSITY & EQUALITY With Libby Wilkinson’s move, the role of Woman Adviser in Ministry on BLT becomes vacant. We think that the time has now come for this role to be a Diversity and Equality Adviser. This person would coordinate the existing work of our BAME Adviser, Remi Omole, our Disability Adviser, Bill Braviner, our Deaf work coordinated by Kate Jamie, and pick up on continuing oversight of Gender issues plus LGBTQI+. We would like to know your thoughts on this. Please send these directly to Bishop Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org). PASTORAL CALLS On a final note over these past months, along with the Archdeacons, we have been seeking to have very regular pastoral contact with clergy and lay leaders in places of vacancy. A small team led by Peter Waterhouse and Geoff Lawes has also been doing this with our retired clergy. Once we have completed our current ‘round’ we will stop doing this through August. We want then to reflect on what we have learned from this increased contact and shape a longer-term plan. If you have any thoughts on this then do again please let us know. Obviously, we remain available whenever we are needed, just email or call us. Please know that we continue to give thanks to God for all that you are doing to serve the Lord and also want to say ‘Thank you’ to each of you. Please do have a good rest over the coming weeks so we can be ready for whatever September brings. May God’s rich blessing rest on you +Paul and +Sarah BISHOP’S LEADERSHIP TEAM HOLIDAYS
Bishop Paul July 31st - August 15th plus a few further days at the end of the month.
Bishop Sarah occasional days in August then September 1st - 12th
Archdeacon Bob is moving to his temporary home in Durham July 29th - 31st. He will be there until the New Year whilst his house undergoes underpinning. He is on holiday August 8th - 22nd
Archdeacon Rick August 22nd - 31st
Soon to be Archdeacon Libby, is moving to Durham this week and on leave until she is licensed as Archdeacon of Durham and Director of Mission, Discipleship and Ministry on August 17th
David Tomlinson July 27th - August 9th
Denise Dodd July 20th - August 7th
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