February 2014

I want to share with you elements of a message which I together with a number of other people received from the bishop of Winchester at Christmas.

Bishop Tim wrote “The past year has been remarkable. To me, it feels a bit as if the glory of the Lord has appeared among us. At the Diocesan Synod Conference in September, I realised that it had been two years to the day since my appointment as Bishop of Winchester was announced. So much has happened already as we have sought and seen the Holy Spirit at work among us. What lies ahead may appear daunting; but don’t be afraid, it’s good news.

In September, through our synodical representatives, we listened to the Holy Spirit and agreed what we are trying to achieve:

Under God, delighting in His grace and rooted in the Diocesan rule of life, we will be a Diocese in which:

    1. We grow authentic disciples;
    2. We re-imagine the Church;
    3. We are agents of social transformation;
    4. We belong together in Christ, practising sacrificial living and good stewardship of all that God has entrusted to us.

Now we are beginning to plan for how we go about achieving these four strategic priorities. 


Working with the Bishop’s Staff Team, the Rural / Area Deans and the Lay Chairs of Deanery Synods, we have begun to map out what this might look like in the year ahead. We have already begun to make some structural changes, getting our framework right. We’ve started drawing up role descriptions for all existing senior posts, and we’ve created some new ones too. We’re hoping, very soon, to appoint an Archdeacon for Mission Development, an innovative new position heading up five areas of responsibility:

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    1. The School of Mission, the Bishop’s seat of teaching for all forms of lay and ordained mission and ministry;
    2. ‘Sodal’ ministry and communities, including pioneers, evangelists, chaplaincies and some fresh expressions of church;
    3. Social enterprise, working in collaboration with key partners to transform our communities;
    4. Education, including our schools and the colleges and universities in the Diocese;
    5. World mission partnerships, including our links with the five Anglican provinces and the Diocese of Newcastle. 


We’re also hoping, in the next year, to take some practical next steps. I’m hoping that, in one way or another, we’ll all be taking part in the Diocesan Lent Course 2014, exploring together what we are being called to do and how we are going to do it. We’re also going to begin to develop a Diocesan Rule of Life, inspired by our deep Benedictine heritage, which will help to resource our new vision and mission. Professor Sarah Foot of Christ Church College, Oxford, an Ecclesiastical Historian with a particular interest in the Benedictine movement, is going to help and inspire us with her Lent Lectures.

We’re hoping to have a social enterprise company established as a subsidiary of the Diocesan Board of Finance by early in 2014, while Deaneries and Parishes will be exploring how Mission Action Plans can help to deliver the key priorities in the variety of local contexts across this Diocese.

There is plenty going on – and we’re all part of it. Inevitably some of this will be uncomfortable. We will be stretched and challenged; some things will be revitalised, other things will need to change. But we pray for the glory of the Lord to shine around us, and through us, and out into the communities we represent.

Is this wonderful, or terrifying? Don’t be afraid; it’s good news!”

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Picking up on the Lent course, I am going to run two in parallel – one on Tuesday evenings in the Church Room at East Boldre and a second after the Wednesday morning Holy Communion Service in Beaulieu. Last year this was followed by a bread and soup lunch which went down very well and so will be repeated. Further details will be in next month’s magazine.

Finally, the Abbey Church Heating Project is cranking into action. With regard to the fund raising, with the £30,000 which the PCC had reserved and a further £21,000 so far collected we still have some way to go towards the £90,000 target.

On Palm Sunday Jonathan, Bishop of Southampton is coming to re-open the Church and also dedicate the Cross in the Niche. Just as the latter has been generously paid for without any recourse to the PCC’s funds so it will a mark of the responsibility which the parish takes for it’s church if the same can be said of the heating improvements by the time the work is complete.

Bishop Tim is not the only one who puts his trust in God and believes in the goodness of people – as Parish Priest here for the past seven years I share that faith.

Ryc.