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Rector’s letter September 2017

On Sunday 3rd we will welcome Bishop Andy who will celebrate and preach at our 10.30 am Sung Eucharist. We are used to the Bishop coming to us for Confirmations and other special events but on this occasion Bishop Andy will just be coming to visit us as our Bishop and Father-in-God. I say ‘just’ but surely the visit of a Bishop to a parish in his or her diocese is an important occasion in its own right, and it will be good simply to have him with us without there being any special ‘reason’.

The visit of our Bishop reminds us that we are part a much larger family than the church we normally attend or the parish to which we belong. The bishop represents the church universal and also, because he or she stands within the Apostolic Succession and is therefore a successor to the Apostles, represents the church throughout time.

We may think that the parish (or ministry area) is the most important unit of the Church but in fact it is the diocese that truly fulfills this role. From ancient times the most fundamental unit of the Church has been Christians gathered around their bishop. Parishes only developed when the church grew out of the towns and the bishop couldn’t be everywhere to minister to the needs of his people. Priests (or presbyters) were only given the power to celebrate the sacraments and preach the word on their own because the Bishop himself could no longer do these things in person for everyone. So, to this day, priests (and all other ministers) need to be licensed by the Bishop before they can function in their parishes, and when they are inducted the bishop entrusts them with the cure of souls which, as he says during the induction service, ‘is both mine and thine’.

So on Sunday 3rd we will gather around our bishop to celebrate the Eucharist and to experience his ministry in word and sacrament – an important thing to do in its own right. Having said that I know that Bishop Andy also wanted to come to the parish to mark the impending end of my ministry here and so it will indeed be a special occasion for me. I look forward to sharing this event with you all and having an opportunity to experience and rejoice in the ministry of our Bishop.

Fr. John

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