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Advent 2023 Pastoral Letter

Posted on the 30th Nov 2023 in the Category - News


The Feast of St Andrew

 

Dear Friends,

 

It is twelve months to the day since I was consecrated bishop to serve the Church as a “shepherd of Christ’s flock”, a “guardian of the faith” and a “chief pastor”, “following the example of the prophets and the teaching of the apostles”, to use just a few of the words and images from the Ordinal.

 

These past twelve months have been filled with new encounters, many joys, inevitable mistakes, and some sadness.  They have, however, been overwhelmingly good.  Thank you for your prayers and support.  I hope you have felt supported and prayed for too – as your shepherd, guardian and pastor I long to know you better and, as year succeeds year, I hope that will become the case.

 

Advent

And so it is that the new liturgical season begins in a few days’ time when we turn our minds, hearts, worship and mission towards Advent with our preparation to receive Him again as the Incarnate Lord.  I hope that you will have a joyful Advent (December commercialism aside) and a beautiful Christmastide. 


If you’re looking for something extra to read during Advent or Christmastide, I recommend Pope Francis’ book I am Asking in the Name of God.  Compiled to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his papacy in May 2023, the Holy Father presents ten prayers in the form of short essays addressing the most pressing issues of our generation.  I doubt you will find a new ethical issue to be troubled by, but you may gain a new perspective or insight - or discover a fresh way of putting prayer into action.

 

Living in Love and Faith

One prayer that we must work hard at in the Church of England (and beyond) is our participation in our Lord’s desire for the unity of his people.  When the Church is united, she is a better advocate for unity within and between nations and communities.  The Living in Love and Faith process in the Church of England has borne some positive fruit, but it has also unearthed deep divisions that if we’re not careful will tear us apart as has happened in other parts of the Anglican Communion and sister denominations. 

 

More will be said about this in the months and years ahead and the Bishops of The Society will issue their statements and advice when appropriate. The timing of our comments will be difficult to discern because the national conversation takes many twists and turns.  

In the meantime, it is worth reminding ourselves that through our common baptism we are all members of the Body of Christ and, with Jesus as our Head, we are invited to grow in holiness: But, just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written ‘be holy, because I am holy’. (1 Peter 1 v 15 -16)

 

As Christians who look to the See of Beverley and The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda for pastoral and sacramental care, one of our purposes is to “promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England” - www.sswsh.com/aboutus.php  “Catholic” means that which is held universally.  The Bishops of The Society are pleased that the House of Bishops and General Synod have reaffirmed their commitment to the universally accepted doctrine of marriage as being between one man and one woman.  If you are wrestling with the doctrine of marriage from a personal, pastoral or theological perspective please feel free to be in touch with me.  In the meantime, as the whole Church continues to engage with new insights and fresh “pastoral eyes” into human identity, gender and sexuality please be patient and please be prayerful.  It is so much easier for us to focus our discourse on “acts or desires of the flesh” because that is where wider western culture situates itself.  But the more difficult and counter-cultural call to holiness enables us to bear the “fruits of the Spirit” against which there is no law – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5 v 22)


Vocations Network

I hope it goes without saying that all the baptised have a vocation to serve Christ according to their individual gifts.  Most dioceses have very good teaching and enabling programmes for lay vocational development and I am continuing my discussions with a handful of people about lay ministry in the See of Beverley.  It also goes without saying that we need more ordained priests: the Vocations Network is a good starting point for those interested in exploring priestly ministry in the catholic tradition of the Church of England - www.vocationsnetwork.org  St George’s Preston also runs a programme for people considering their vocation.  A conversation with Fr David Craven about the Preston Experience might be worthwhile for some - www.sgp.org.uk

 

Mission Network

A new website aimed at helping parishes with mission is the Mission Resource Hub, a single place for Anglo-Catholic Parishes to access materials and resources to enable and support mission and evangelism and it does what it says on the tin! - www.catholicmission.net   It is designed primarily as a resource hub so that ideas can be shared, tried and tweaked for the benefit of us all.  Do have a look at it and maybe even contribute.

 

2024 Save the Dates

 

**Northern Provincial Festival - 27 July 2024, 11am, York Minster.  It would be wonderful if we could fill the Minster for a Festival Mass with people from every Society parish in the Province of York.  Book coaches and cars and make a day of it in the beautiful city of York.  More details will follow in the New Year.  Please make this a priority.**

 

Beverley Clergy Quiet Days – 15th February, 1 May and 21 October.  10am to 3pm with me at St Peter’s Church, Woolley, WF4 2JU.  Invitations will follow nearer the time.

Chrism Masses – 24 March, St Aidan’s Sunderland, 25th March St Jude’s Hexthorpe and 26th March Manchester Cathedral.

 

May you be blessed this Advent and may the grace of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit go before you.

 

 

+ Stephen Beverley



 

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