On Saturday 1 July in Chichester Cathedral, 12 men and women became clergy in the Church of England.
It will be a very happy day of celebrating their faith in God, commitment to the Christian mission, service of others, successful completion of the initial training, and great hopes for the future. They are remarkable people and we are delighted that they are offering to undertake an amazing and daunting responsibility.
We are also aware that last week the independent Review, chaired by Dame Moira Gibb, into the case of Bishop Peter Ball, published its report. This takes us back into the latter half of the last century. It shows us a profoundly disturbing picture of charisma and power that were misused in the sexual abuse of men and boys. It shows us the deep scars inflicted by our safeguarding failures.
To those whose lives were damaged in any way, I, and all who bear responsibility for the diocese of Chichester, want to record our shame and sorrow, and extend to them our profound apology.
We commit ourselves to ensuring that the culture and safeguarding practice of the present and the future will do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of abuse and the failure to respond appropriately to those who report it.
But I also want to know about this. How did it all go so wrong? How did Peter Ball, and others, lose sight of the high hopes of mission, service of others, duty and awe at the privilege of being ordained?
I don’t know the answer to those questions but I am sure of this. If we are to serve in public office, we need to ensure that our relationships are authentic. By that I mean that we have to be what we appear to be. And we have to be accountable in what we do when we are ministering in the name of God.
Accountability on earth is vital and must be effective. But we are also accountable to the God who made us, who gave us gifts, and who longs to see them used well, for delight, not for harm and damage.
The Church of England has a number of resources to help individuals within churches to discern how they believe God is calling them to serve. This includes the ordained ministries, but also a call to serve in a number of different roles and opportunities.
The website: www.vocation.churchofengland.org has testimonies and explanations of a number of different ways that Christians can explore their calling within the Church of England. Other denominations will also have their own resources and advice for those who are seeking to explore how they might be called to use their gifts, skills and passions.
For Church of England parishes in the Chichester Diocese, there is a dedicated web page at: www.chichester.anglican.org/vocations
Summer Fete Season
The beginning of July is often the marker of a number of Church fetes, fayres and festivals. It's often a long-standing tradition that members of the local parish church will get together to offer something fun, friendly and welcoming to the local community.
There's all sorts of events planned over the next few weeks, in many of the 350+ parishes that make up the Diocese of Chichester.
Keep your eye open for a local event near you and head along for some fun and the almost obligatory slice of homemade cake!