Our Life in Christ
The Bishop’s Charge 2015
In autumn 2015, Bishop Martin visited each of the four archdeaconries to deliver his Charge to all licensed clergy in the Diocese.
The Charge events formally marked the end of the Visitation process which Bishop Martin undertook in 2013 – 2014. The Visitation had involved all incumbents completing a detailed questionnaire (The Articles of Inquiry) which asked questions about their ministerial life and the life of their parishes. The questionnaires were followed up with visits to all the deaneries, during which Bishop Martin had face to face meetings with 215 clergy and 30 sequestrators (where parishes were undergoing a vacancy). The questionnaires and the one to one meetings provided Bishop Martin with a snapshot of where the Diocese is, identifying its strengths and areas for further development.
The Bishop’s Charge was an opportunity for Bishop Martin to reflect upon all that he saw and heard during his Visitation and in the light of it, to sum up his findings and to outline his vision for the future of the Diocese. In particular, he used the Charge as a way of giving substance to the Diocesan Strategy (which was launched at Pentecost 2015) and in practical ways to show how the Diocesan Strategy will be implemented. While practical in terms of what needs to be done, the Charge was also deeply theological and centred on Christ. The title of the Charge was ‘Our Life in Christ’ because it is our life in Christ which has to be heart of all that we do and are as a Diocese.
The Charge was divided into four sections:
- The nature of the Church. Here Bishop Martin focused on the centrality of Christ for our life as Christians. He reflected on Christ’s ‘Charge’ to Peter – ‘Do you love me? Feed my sheep’ – and how our lives must be an ever deeper response to that question of Jesus. He also showed how the Charge fed into the Diocesan Strategy and the importance for parishes to identify one aspect of their life (as it relates to the Diocesan Strategy) to which they will be committed to accomplishing well.
- Growth in holiness and in numbers. Here Bishop Martin reminded the clergy of their promise at their ordination to be ‘diligent in prayer’. Prayer and the growth in personal holiness has to be at the heart of our ministries if we are to return to our roots in the mystery of Christ and attract others to Christian faith. In particular, he asked how we can make our worship more attractive and exciting so that it has the potential to become transformative. Bishop Martin designated 2018 as a ‘Year of Prayer’ where the Diocese will focus on spiritual formation and development.
- Re-imagining Ministry. Here Bishop Martin called for us to be imaginative in the way in which we exercise ministry in a fast-moving and changing world. In particular, he encouraged the development of new patterns of lay ministry within the Diocese and looked at how already lay people are involved in ministry as primary evangelists. The launch of a new Ministerial Development Review (MDR) for licensed clergy will be an important opportunity for reflecting on their ministry and how it might be re-invigorated and renewed. However, he emphasised that if we are to reimagine ministry we need to be the grounded in Christ and in his teaching which takes us back to being rooted in Scripture. To this end, he designated 2017 as a ‘Year of the Bible’ in which we focus on how the stories of God interact with us.
- Contributing to the Common Good. Here Bishop Martin reflected on some of the major issues confronting the world at the moment – the care of the earth and its resources; the current migrant crisis and the search for peace among us – and how Christians are called to respond. All of us are dependent upon God’s mercy and grace, and in receiving mercy and grace so we are called to be merciful and gracious in return. Bishop Martin designated 2016 as a ‘Year of Mercy’. This year will be marked by the opening of a door in Chichester Cathedral on 6 December. The use of the door is symbolic as the means by which people are let in to receive mercy and grace. But also the door is the means by which people are sent out in faith and joy and hope and to share that with others.
This is a brief summary of the content of the Charge. Five pdf files can be downloaded below and cover in considerably more detail the sections outlined above.
The Charge calls for exciting new developments and change and is the next stage for the Diocese as it lives out the call to know, love and follow Jesus.