Christmas Message 2015
Posted on the 23rd Dec 2015 in the category Announcements
Yet again, the year that is ending has witnessed violence and tragedy around the world – in oppression, terrorism and war, and in actions of local prejudice and bigotry. Who can forget the images from Paris, or the tragic sight of the young child washed up on a Mediterranean beach? One of our Anglican hymns for Advent cries out to God:
Where is Thy reign of peace
and purity, and love?
When shall all hatred cease,
as in the realms above?
It is a prayer that will be repeated with great fervour this Christmas by refugees and displaced people, by wounded and bereaved people, the world over, especially in Paris, across Syria and Iraq, and, unforgettably, in Bethlehem.
But this agony that we feel—as violence, and the threat of more, and its consequences continue—is simply the reverse side of the great good news of this season: that God has taken on our human form and raised it to glory. The Immortal Son of God has taken on our mortal flesh, and now the face of Christ has been revealed in all human beings.
For the eyes of faith, the consequence of this fact is that no human form or face can hereafter be ignored or abused; and whenever those same eyes see God’s image attacked and disfigured, they will weep all the more bitterly. Thus the strange fact is that what makes us most passionately glad and grateful at Christmas is also what gives us the possibility of grieving as we should for the disfiguring of God’s image in the world. Let us trust that it also gives us the vision, the courage and the strength to go on working and praying for a world in which God’s image in mankind—but not only mankind, in the created environment also—is universally honoured and protected.
Our transcendent and glorious Lord has bowed in loving respect to our fallen and failed human nature; as Christians we can do no other than imitate such loving respect. As the carol has it, ‘O that Mary’s gentle child might lead us up to glory!’
May Christ, who renews our hope in this celebration, be with you throughout the whole of the coming year.
THE BISHOP OF EBBSFLEET’S LENT APPEAL
Posted on the 20th Feb 2015 in the category Announcements
For the needs of suffering and persecuted Christians of the Middle East
"Always”, says St Peter, “be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you" (1Pet 3.15). True glory and joy are found in an eternal life prepared for all who live in, and for, love and peace.
As I settle down to write to you (16 Feb), an email from a brother bishop gives confirmation of yet more brutal murders of Christians, this time young Coptic Christians in Libya at the hands of Daesh (IS). Theirs are the most recent deaths in a mounting and clear atmosphere in diverse places around the world where suffering and persecution are inflicted on those who follow Christ, who have heard and obeyed Christ’s command to live in, and for, love and peace. Then suddenly another email arrives, from elsewhere in the same region: “We are so alarmed about what is happening around us with barbarism reaching the point of no return!” Reaching no return. And, of course, as Christians we cannot be mindful of the wounds being inflicted on the body of Christ without also knowing the closeness of the Church, a very precious closeness, to all the aid workers, journalists, medical staff, and others whose lives and deaths are also being made the focus of brutal pain and dehumanizing terror. Nor can we forget Jesus’s command, ‘Pray for people who persecute you!’ (Matt 5.44)
For Christians, the suffering and persecution of our fellow Christians is something that we cannot help but recall every single time we celebrate and receive the Body of the Lord. ‘When one member suffers, all suffer with it.’ (1Cor 12.26) At every Eucharist we hear their cry, we touch their wounds, we feel their plight and experience their loss. This is the reality of the Risen Body we share: our body. Our own General Synod heard testimony of this reality when it welcomed Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil (northern Iraq) just last week.
And how shall we respond? with prayer, daily prayer, and with solidarity and with support. And that is why I have chosen this year to focus the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Lent Appeal on the pressing and mounting needs of the persecuted Church, especially in the Middle East. There are relatively few Anglicans in that particular region: but what popes and others have called ‘the ecumenism of martyrdom’ has given the Christians new depths of mutual solidarity and communion in faith. They are in this defining adversity together.
I want to appeal to you, as individuals and as parishes, to take this cause seriously to heart, in your prayers, in your imaginations, and in your practical support and giving. If possible, even at this late stage in preparation for Lent (which begins on Wednesday), make this appeal the Focus of your parish and your personal Lenten almsgiving. Long experience of the work of Aid to the Church in Need (www.acnuk.org) , a Catholic aid agency, who in the Middle East work direct with the larger local churches like Archbishop Warda’s Chaldean Catholic Church, has led me to highlight their work, and channel any funds we gather through them. The collections from all this year’s Chrism Masses will go into our response too.
The Ebbsfleet parishes are used to feeling a real solidarity with one another; let us extend that gift to our brothers and sisters, displaced and threatened, in the Middle East.
With every blessing:
+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet
Hill House, Caversham
You can give, individually, or as a parish at the end of Lent, via the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Mission Fund: The Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Mission Fund Hill House, Tree Tops, The Mount, Caversham, Reading, RG4 7RE BACS to: The Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Mission Fund, Barclays Bank Account No: 30312991 — Sort Code: 20-01-09 Please give ‘Lent Appeal’ as the reference.
Bishop’s Representatives announced
Posted on the 31st Jul 2014 in the category Announcements
To all clergy and laity looking to the See of Ebbsfleet
Dear Fathers, dear Brothers and Sisters: dear Friends
Very soon after coming into post last year, I realised that to promote our life together in the future, and to help us take our part in the life and structures of the Church of England, I needed to restructure the liaison capacity between myself and the thirteen dioceses related to the See of Ebbsfleet. Therefore, in common with the Bishops of Richborough and Beverley (and the other bishops who minister to petitioning and other parishes), I have created a new role of Bishop’s Representative replacing the former regional deans of Forward in Faith.
After a period of consultation with clergy and laity across the area, including diocesan bishops, I have made the following appointments.
Bath & Wells Fr Julian Laurence
Birmingham Fr Oliver Coss
Bristol Fr Dexter Bracey
Coventry Fr Kit Dunkley
Derby Bp Roger Jupp
Exeter Fr Will Hazlewood and Fr Robin Eastoe
Gloucester The Bishop pro tem
Hereford The Bishop pro tem
Lichfield Fr Mark McIntyre and Fr Derek Lloyd
Oxford Fr David Harris
Salisbury Fr Richard Harper
Truro Fr Sam Philpott
Worcester Fr Mike Bartlett
The appointment is for three years, and is renewable thereafter.
Each Representative’s preferred means of being contacted appears on the Society website: http://www.sswsh.com/dioceses.php
The primary purpose is to enable me to have a local liaison point, a person who already ministers as a priest of the local diocesan family. My hope is that having this kind of colleague will support—not in any way detract from—my relationship with the clergy and the parishes that identify with The Society, and give greater capacity to our life together in Christ. The Representative will have my confidence, and is there as a support for you as well as for me.
Together the Representatives will constitute the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests, a body which meets three or four times a year to promote all aspects of the communion and mission of the See of Ebbsfleet. The vice-chairman will remain Fr Ross Northing.
The role-specification of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Representative includes inter alia:
Please pray for them, encourage them, and use them. And bring to their attention any matter that you believe to be important to help us thrive in the Church of England in the years to come.
Bishop promotes Society Bishops’ Pastoral Letter
Posted on the 17th Jul 2014 in the category Announcements
Bishop Jonathan has distributed to all the clergy in the parishes under his oversight the following Pastoral Letter ahead of services this coming Sunday. The bishop writes:
As was widely expected, the General Synod approved on Monday the package of measures that, together with the House of Bishops Declaration, forms the new framework which enables those of us who cannot receive the ministry of women as priests and bishops to live — and, so we hope, to thrive — in the Church of England's life and structures when women have been ordained as bishops.
Please share the Pastoral Letter with anyone to whom you think it will bring encouragement.
Bishop Jonathan encourages parishes to prepare for Synod in prayer
Posted on the 8th Jul 2014 in the category Announcements
Some of you will already know, but others not, that Dr Lindsay Newcombe has prepared and publicised material for a period of 9 days’ prayer before the momentous discussions which will take place at the upcoming York Synod. That Synod as a whole, and the Catholic Group in particular, need to sense the Church’s prayerful support for their far-reaching debates and decisions, and the grace of God to speak and act for the good of the whole body of the Church of England.
Dr Newcombe, in her introduction, has written:
“The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are encouraging people throughout the dioceses and parishes to pray for the work and life of the General Synod meeting Friday 11th-Tuesday 15th July 2014. You are invited to join in the Novena movement of prayer which incorporates the words prepared by the Archbishops. A novena is nine days of prayer for a particular intention but don’t worry if you have missed some, join-in whenever you can.
During this meeting the Synod will come, for a second time, to a Final Approval vote on a package to introduce women in the Episcopate in the Church of England.
We should pray for our General Synod members whenever they meet. It is particularly important at this meeting because the outcomes of this process have the potential to shape the pattern of our life together in the Church of England, influence our journey to unity with the worldwide Church, and give us an opportunity to show a divided world a way to live together despite differences.
The process that has led to these proposals has been based on a desire to work together with trust. Pray that the synod meeting is characterised by trust, love, and humility.
I initiated Novena because, as a member of General Synod, I know we all need to be surrounded by prayer. Please pray for all attending General Synod this week.”
Therefore, I encourage you to join your prayers to the prayers of many others, using the Novena of prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection for the life and witness of our Church.