Guest Blog

The Centenary Project… growing the church younger

In 2014, the year of Diocese of Sheffield’s Centenary, a significant decision was made to use £1 million of reserve funds into a new, 10-year initiative to create a step change in ministry with children, families and young people.  Now three years later, that money has grown 12 Centenary Project Workers so far, people placed in parishes across the diocese to engage, nurture and disciple children, families and young people.

The Project has grown incrementally with progress that has significantly exceeded our targets. 

In the first year the target was to engage with an additional 600 children and young people through the project.  Our data shows that our growing team of workers have engaged with 1,496 children and young people.  The first nine churches with Centenary Project Workers have also seen a 28% rise in Average Weekly Attendance in 2015-2016, compared to a diocese-wide growth of 1%.

“Due to the popularity of the Project, key workers have been appointed faster than originally planned, and the initial £1m will be used up ahead of time” says Centenary Project Leader, Helen Cockayne.  “This is why we are approaching the National Church of England’s Commissioners asking them to support our ambition to grow this exciting network of workers who are trained, supported and mentored to facilitate excellent ministry in their local churches.”

The diocese is now waiting to hear the success of phase two of the application process for Strategic Development Funding, requesting £1.5 million in order to appoint a further 10-15 full or part-time workers. This is alongside three part-time Area-Coordinators who will work closely with churches on their applications for a worker, to mentor a number of workers in post and to oversee the Centenary Project network across a designated area.  This could unlock a further 2,000 new relationships with children, families and young people.  News of whether the diocese has been successful in its application or not is expected by the end of 2017/early 2018

“I want to see my community transformed.  I want to see young people achieving things they never thought possible.  With the Centenary Project, I’m confident that this will happen,” says Dan Fall, Centenary Project Worker.

Our Centenary Project directly addresses some of the main reasons why many youth or children’s workers positions have failed in the past,” says Children and Young People’s Adviser for the diocese, Mike North.  “Workers will leave if they are overworked, or feel under-valued or unappreciated.  Paid workers also dropout due to poor line-management, or unrealistic-expectations from clergy, PCC members or parents.  The other reason is money.  Churches save up enough to appoint someone, but often fail to work out a strategy for raising the funds necessary to continue the post.  The Centenary Project provides achievable objectives for workers, and support for clergy.  It provides payroll services, and looks after recruitment.  Workers join a network that prays together, and are trained, supported and mentored.  Churches agree to support the ministry and workers by volunteering, praying and raising additional finance to support their worker long-term.”

“Our workers are not there to do it all, but to focus on drawing others into ministry with children, families and young people,” says Project Leader, Helen.  “They build up teams of volunteers and develop pioneering new expressions of youth or children’s ministry.”

With Strategic Development Funding, the Centenary Project can also expand its work and connect more meaningfully with the work of ‘Make Your City Shine’, based in St Thomas Crookes, Sheffield.  This secondary schools-focused ministry has communicated the gospel to thousands of young people in schools across Sheffield and Doncaster over the last 5 years, and will continue to work with the Centenary Project to provide church, schools and community events, inviting young people to be disciples in their relationships with local churches.

The Strategic Development Funding will also enable us to create a new intern programme, providing a year’s work experience and training for those exploring a calling to youth or children’s ministry within the Centenary Project.

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All Out in Rome

At 7am on Wednesday 18 October, twelve vicars and ordinands met at Gatwick airport to travel to Rome to play the Vatican at cricket.  On hearing the news, most people respond – ‘The Vatican! Do Italians really play cricket?’ The truth is that as a rule Italians don’t play cricket nor do they even understand what cricket is.  But the Catholic Church draws in people from all nationalities and the Vatican team – known as St Peter’s xi – is composed of priests and seminarians from England, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Africa.  The Archbishop of Canterbury’s (ABC) xi is a team that was started four years ago after an invitation from the Pope to play St Peter’s xi.  This year it was our turn to tour Rome and we were invited to play two 20twenty games, one against Rome’s own cricket club – Capanelle - and the second against a Vatican team. 

The cricket was a huge success for the ABC xi.  Our match against Rome cricket club was a hard fought affair.  Rome batted first and started steadily eventually making 145 in their 20 overs.  I bowled the last few overs at the end of the innings and was particularly happy getting the wicket of their opening batsman, caught on the boundary in the last over for 98!  ABC xi started scoring runs quickly, but we were losing wickets just as fast.  After 5 overs we were 40-4, when the experienced batting of Jez Barnes and Chris Lee put on a great 100 run partnership to see us home with two overs to spare. 

A couple of days later, we returned to the one cricket ground in Rome to play St Peter’s xi.  Although the Catholic team had spent much of the previous day trying to feed us up like Christmas turkeys, we turned up raring to go.  I was asked to be 12th man during this game, although this was disappointing, I never felt anything but part of a close knit group of players.  We won the toss and asked to bat and after that it was the Chris ‘Kenners’ Kennedy show.  Kenners batted wonderfully to score 103 off 52 balls, hitting the St Peter’s bowlers to all parts of the ground.  With good support from Chris Lion (41) and a cameo from Chris Lee (11), we finished on 176-3 after twenty overs.  Amazingly, all our runs were scored by vicars named Chris.  The total was a formidable one and it turned out a bit too much for the St Peter’s boys.  Despite a good opening partnership, they were 65-0 after 10 overs, the run rate forced them to attempt suicidal runs which meant the first four wickets were all run outs.  Eventually, the St Peter’s xi finished on a very respectable 137-8, meaning the Anglicans won by 39 runs to retain the ‘Ut Unum Sint (That they may be one)’ cup.

It was a huge privilege to be asked to be invited to be part of the tour.  Alongside playing cricket, we were asked to spend time with the opposing team with the aim of walking together in our sport, our lives and in our worship of God.  This involved more formal functions such as a reception by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, to informal times of being given tours around St Peter’s Basilica and the Pope‘s residence as Castel Gandolfo.  During one of these trips, the manager of the Vatican team, Father Eamonn O’Higgins, spoke powerfully about the special relationships between Catholics and Anglicans.  He went on to reflect that in walking together we needed to acknowledge the wounds caused between us in the past if we are going to find healing in the future.  In particular it was hugely humbling to be invited into one of the seminarian colleges for Solemn Vespers with the trainee priests.  Very graciously we were brought into an intimate space and were able to experience an integrity of worship in a different style and language that we were used to.   

A lot of people (possibly quite rightly) think cricket is a pointless sport and because of that it would be easy to think such a trip was frivolous.  However, globally there is a vast amount of evidence that sport can play an important part of bringing people together and healing wounds.  Whilst, I am under no illusion that a cricket match isn’t going to heal the wound that Father Eamonn spoke about, what is encouraging is seeing the respect, graciousness and love between the two teams.  As part of the trip we were able to visit the Anglican Centre in Rome.  Here, we heard about how four years of cricket have been instrumental in the Catholic Anglican dialogue of recent times.  We may not be doing the diplomacy or the theology, but in simply playing cricket together we are beginning to live out the practice of what it means to walk or even bowl together. 

It struck me that it is five hundred years since the reformation began this month.  On the 31st October we celebrated reformation day, reflecting on Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church.  We can be so torn by our divisions that we can miss that many of the critiques of the 95 theses have been addressed in the Catholic Church since then.  It is also amazing that in five hundred years, the Anglican and Catholic churches have never been closer.  This year, Pope Francis attended a service at All Saints Anglican church in Rome, also an Anglican service was conducted in St Peter’s Basilica for the first time ever.  Most of this dialogue has arisen out of the deep friendship between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin.  I just hope, in a small way, playing cricket has been part of the healing of that deep wound.

I would like to thank the many people who made this trip possible.  For the sponsorship from the Church Times (Paul Handley in particular who was with us to report on the trip) and Ecclesiastical; for the effort of the Archbishop of Canterbury in making such an event happen; for the support of Mark Rylands, the Bishop of Shrewsbury who chaperoned our trip; for the wisdom of our coach Tom Benyon and our chaplain Rob Walrond; for the team and the fun, friendship and unforgettable memories that we shared together.

Bishop Pete's sermon from his service of installation

Service of Installation, Sheffield Cathedral, 23.09.17, 3.00pm

2 Corinthians 08.01-09: Grace, gratitude and generosity

Let me begin, if I may, with some thanks.  Cathy and I are hugely grateful for the warmth of the welcome we’ve received since we moved into Bishopscroft in June.  We have very quickly been made to feel at home and among friends, here at the Cathedral and across the Diocese, here in this city and across the region.  I’ve been particularly grateful for the warmth of welcome I’ve experienced this past week, as I’ve walked from one extremity of the Diocese (almost the farthest point from this Cathedral Church) to this place.  If you didn’t know, that’s basically what I’ve been doing this past week, Monday to Friday.  I’ve covered over 50 miles on foot, passing through 8 of the 12 deaneries of the Diocese and 25 of its 175 parishes - and if my itinerary didn’t take in your deanery this week, don’t worry (or, for that matter, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet) - I hope to put / my walking boots / on again soon / to complete the set.  Where I have been this week I’ve been moved by the reception I’ve received and I mean it when I say that Cathy and I are really glad to be here and are very much looking forward to getting to know you and to working alongside you in the mission to which God is calling us together, for the sake of the Gospel and of his coming kingdom.  We are grateful not least for all the assurances we have received of people’s prayers and we do urge you please not to stop praying for us any time soon! 

It is 15 months since the farewell service took place here, to mark the conclusion of Bishop Steven’s ministry in this Diocese and obviously this is not the time to rehearse all that has taken place since then.  But almost no-one here will be unaware of the heavy burden which has been borne during that time by the members of the Bishop’s staff and above all by Bishop Peter in his role as Acting Bishop and I wonder if I could ask you please to take this moment to express your appreciation to the Bishop's staff in general but especially, and very particularly, to Bishop Peter. 

I also want to thank Dean Peter, Canons Chris and Keith and all the Cathedral staff and volunteers for the arrangements you’ve put in place for today.  Thank you too to those of you who’ve come to support Cathy and me from farther afield: it means a great deal to us to have you here – friends not only from Liverpool, but from Lichfield and Walsall, from Gateshead, Oxford and Teesside, from Durham and Worksop.  Do join us over at the Cutler’s Hall after the service if you can: we would love to greet as many of you in person as possible. 

And finally, I’d like to thank Sky television.  Sky has no interest at all in this occasion, of course; but when the current Championship fixture list was published in July, after we’d agreed this date for the installation, it showed that the first Sheffield derby of the season was also scheduled for this afternoon.  So, somewhat reluctantly, we moved this service to tomorrow — only for Sky to nominate the derby match for live broadcast, so moving it to tomorrow and freeing up our original first choice slot for this service.  The fact that the match now conflicts with the Sheffield 10k road race, also scheduled for tomorrow, is, thankfully, somebody else’s headache.  The Lord works in mysterious ways. 

Now, for the next 10 minutes I want to turn my attention to those verses from 2 Corinthians chapter 8 which Heidi read for us a few moments ago.  In the process I want to speak to you about Jesus, the grace of God and generosity.  Jesus, grace and generosity.  This is not the last time you will hear me place the emphasis there.  In fact, though I hope never to bore you, I do expect to become predictable in the way I return again and again to just this: Jesus, grace and generosity. 

  1. Jesus

Jesus, then, first of all.  The only explicit reference to Jesus in our reading comes right at the end, climactically — so at the risk of offending fans of The Sound of Music, who will doubtless feel that I ought to begin at the very beginning, I suggest that on this occasion the final verse of our reading is the very best place to start.  ‘You know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich’.

At the heart of the Christian gospel is a transaction, an exchange, by which every individual believer is transformed because of what Jesus has done.  This, ultimately, is what we Christians mean when we talk about Jesus as our Saviour.  Once we were lost, but now in Christ we are found; once we were blind, but now in Christ we see; once we were hurt, but now in Christ we are made whole; once we were dead, but now in Christ we are alive again; once we were bound, but now in Christ we are set free; once we were poor, but now because of Jesus, we are rich. 

The focal point of that transaction, that exchange is the cross, on which Jesus died as our Saviour, but from which God raised him from the dead; the cross through which at the cost of his own life Jesus won for us the salvation he now calls us to hold out to the world.

But here’s the thing: where our English translation says in that reading ‘you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ’, the original Greek text, says ‘you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’.  What Jesus did so generously, he did by grace, he did as grace: he offered himself for our salvation as an act of grace, to manifest fully and finally the unmerited favour of God.  He did it as something utterly undeserved by us, as sheer gift. 

2.  Grace and Generosity

Having said something first of all about Jesus, then, let me say something further about grace and generosity. 

I wonder when was the last time you received a gift which you knew in your heart to be undeserved?  Perhaps it was also unexpected.  To touch you, it need not necessarily have been an expensive gift.  Most of us know what it’s like to be disarmed by an inexpensive gift from a child or by the spontaneous kindness of a stranger.  If you can call to mind a gift you’ve received, whether recently or long ago, that you know to have been unmerited, undeserved, you’ll also be aware of the effect that gift had on you, on your heart — you’ll be aware of your gratitude.  Thankfulness is the only proper response to a gift.  Gratitude is the only proper response to grace.

And so it is in the Christian life.  Those who truly experience the grace of God, who recognise it and embrace it, are bound to be thankful.  I’d go as far as to say that gratitude is a characteristic mark of authentic Christian faith, in every authentic Christian disciple, in every authentic Christian community, and that when that is not there, something vital has been lost, some grasp of the grace of God has been lost.  At least, this seems to me to be Paul’s argument in the passage Heidi read for us.  Paul expects those who have experienced grace to practise it - those who’ve experienced the unmerited favour of God to extend unmerited favour to others, those who’ve experienced the undeserved generosity of God to live generously as a result.  Generosity is the way grace works itself out in and through the lives of Christians and Christian churches: it’s in our DNA because Jesus puts it there. 

So just take a look if you would at the earlier two paragraphs, the first eight verses of our reading, on page 19 of your service booklet.  First, in the opening verses, Paul points out that the grace of God which has been granted to the churches of Macedonia, to the Philippians, for example, and the Thessalonians, has changed them.  It has overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  That’s what the grace of God does: it generates generosity.  Or take verse 5: because of what they were given, they gave themselves — they gave themselves to the Lord and to Paul and his companions.  Those who receive the gift of grace can’t help // but give in response. 

And so in verses 7 to 8, Paul urges the Corinthians to live up to their calling. Since they too have received grace, he is looking for their gratitude.  You’ll see // that at the end of verse 7 // Paul urges the Corinthians, who excel in so much, to excel in what our English version calls ‘this generous undertaking’ (in fact the same phrase occurs at the end of verse 6 too).  But the Greek text is simply this: ‘just as you overflow (it’s the same word he used in speaking of the generosity of the Macedonians in verse 2) ‘just as you overflow in everything, overflow also in grace’.  The phrase ‘This generous undertaking’ simply translates the word ‘grace’: ‘since you have received abundant grace’, Paul urges here, ‘overflow with grace’.  Let the grace you’ve received transform you, let it generate in you abundant generosity.  Let it do its proper work: as you have freely received, freely give. 

3.  Generosity and Grace today

Which begs the question, what does this mean for you and me here today, and for the Diocese of Sheffield in the coming years?  It’s with those questions that I want to finish.

You see, insofar as I have any sense yet of what the Lord has called me here for (as your new Bishop), it is to foster generosity, to call us all // back, again & again, to the grace which God has made known in the face of Jesus Christ and to the gratitude, expressed as generosity, which is the only fitting response to that grace.  I believe the Lord is calling us, as a Diocese, to be generous with Jesus. 

And by those three words, ‘generous with Jesus’, I mean two things.  I mean, first of all, that those who align with Jesus are bound to be generous as he is generous.  We are bound to be generous, both in the sense that an obligation has been placed upon us and in the sense that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of grace, will (truly will) form generosity in us.  It’s bound to happen. 

One of the striking things about our Bible reading is the fact that what Paul had immediately in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians in these terms was a collection: a collection he was organising among the mostly Gentile churches in Greece, to relieve the needs of the mostly Jewish churches in Jerusalem and Judea.  I say it’s one of the striking things, because Paul never once mentions money in the whole of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.  A generous donation to a charitable cause might have been his principal aim — but to get there, he holds fast to the language of grace and gratitude. 

Now it’s true that shortly we will be singing a hymn during which a collection will be taken.  And of course I hope you will give generously — of course I do.  The generosity of Christians is rightly expressed in the way we use our money — and there will certainly be times in the days to come when you hear me calling for financial generosity.  But the generosity to which you and I are called, as we seek to express our gratitude for the grace which has touched our lives, can never be confined to the way we use our money.  No: our calling is to live generously, period.  Our calling is to think generous thoughts, to speak generous words, to act generously in every way.  You might well contribute generously when the collection plate comes around, but my friends, that won’t get you off the hook.  If you have experienced the grace of God, your calling is to give yourself in response — and that will be manifest not least in the way in which you relate to other people, and especially those who differ from you.  Your challenge, under God, is to deal generously with them.  And it’s not enough simply to respond generously when others are generous to you: if you belong to Jesus, you are called to set the standard.  That, by the way, is one reason I am so grateful for the tone, as well as for the content, of the Mawer report published just over a week ago.  It sets a generous standard. 

So that’s the first thing I mean when I say I believe God is calling us as a Diocese to be generous with Jesus: as those who are with Jesus we are bound to be generous as he is generous.  But my final point is this: when I speak of being generous with Jesus, I also mean secondly that in seeking, as Christians and as Christian communities, to be generous, we will want to be generous not least with the Lord Jesus himself: we will want to share him.  We will want to be generous with Jesus in that sense too. 

In other words, there’s an evangelistic challenge here: a generous church is a missionary church.  We can’t help ourselves: those of us who have received Christ freely, can’t help but give Christ freely away.  We long for others to unite their voices with ours, in testimony to what the Lord has done for them.  We long for them to say: ‘Once we were lost, but now in Christ we are found; once we were blind, but now in Christ we see; once we were wounded, but now in Christ we are made whole; once we were dead, but now in Christ we are alive again; once we were bound, but now in Christ we are set free; once we were poor, but now because of Jesus, we are rich’.

Conclusion

It is this sort of church that I believe the Lord has called me to assist in fostering, here in this Diocese, in the next phase of our life: a church marked out by generosity; a church full of gratitude; a church which, day in and day out, is shaped by its experience of God’s grace; a church in which, day after day, the grace of God generates in us an overflowing generosity; a church which is therefore generous with the gospel, and generous in its behaviour and above all in the way it relates across difference.  Nothing less than a Diocese which is generous with Jesus is worthy of the grace which God the Father has lavished upon us, through the Spirit, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

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Introduction to the Bishops' Advisor for Disability and Inclusion Issues

Last August (2016) I was appointed as the Bishops' Advisor for Disability and Inclusion Issues.  Much has happened (personally and within the Diocese) since then, and it is only now that I am able to start working on this role.  So, a little about me, a little about the role, and a little about how we work together.

I am Revd Katie Tupling, Vicar of Dore and Priest-in-Charge of Totley.  I was ordained in Derby Cathedral 2003, and came to Sheffield in 2013.  My husband Chris is a Primary School Teacher (currently on a phased return to work whilst on dialysis for Renal failure) and we have a son at Dore Primary School.  My background pre-ordination is in youth, families and children's work (in Birmingham). 

I was born with Cerebral Palsy - diagnosed when I was 2 years old - and have walked with elbow crutches since 1992.  I have served on General Synod (2005 - 2010), Archbishops' Council Committee for Ministry of and among Deaf and disabled people (2006 - 2010), Disability Task Group for the Church of England's National Disability Advisor (2014-2016) and am a founding member of 'Disability and Jesus' (began in 2014).

The Bishops' Advisor role can be summarised under 4 headings:

  • To provide practical information, links and resources for clergy and laity in parishes on disability and inclusion in the Church
  • To help formulate diocesan policies and procedures for parishes and churches on disability and inclusion issues
  • To raise awareness and engagement on disability and inclusion
  • To convene a Disability and Inclusion Issues Working Group

I would very much like to hear from Churches and Mission Partnerships who already have Disability Policies in place, and how well they might be working.

In order to convene a Working Group I am interested in talking to people who might want to be part of it.

It would help me to know what kind of resources you might want, and in what format - ie websites, printed information, video links, a personal visit etc...

I look forward to hearing from you - remember this is a voluntary post, and I need to get the right blend of Role and Parish responsibilities!

Revd Katie Tupling

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The Blessings of Ignorance

Bill Goodman has just started work as Assistant Principal of St Peter's College and Director of Ongoing Ministerial Development. 
Here are a few reflections from his first week in post.

There’s a lot to learn when you’re new in town.  Does anyone else recognise that feeling?  It starts with locating the supermarket, DIY centre, post office, doctor, recycling…. working out why we got a fine for being in a bus lane, and how to combine tram with train to get to the office.  New patterns of life: where and when shall I pray in this place?  Not to mention learning the implications of moving into a smaller house: a few things we squeezed onto the removal van in the fond hope of finding a corner for them somewhere now make their way to the local charity shop. 

Ignorance can feel alarming and humiliating.  So many names to learn… and then instantly forget… and then try to learn again!  When does it get just too embarrassing to ask a name again?   Yet somehow not knowing can also be fun.  Exploring the local bakery: ‘Hmm, I wonder if those taste as good as they smell… only one way to find out!’

Being ignorant is an opportunity to let other people help and teach you.  One of the keys to learning is choosing some good questions, and then listening carefully to people’s responses.  When you’re new, you can innocently ask interesting questions: ‘What’s been going up to now?’  ‘Why do we do it this way?’  ‘Who are the key people?’  ‘How do we decide our priorities?’  (Not forgetting, ‘How do you work this irritating photocopier?’)  And interwoven with all this, the bigger questions: ‘What is God saying and doing here?’  Your question might even spark the other person to a new train of thought – so you both end up learning more.

Ignorance only becomes a problem when we refuse to admit it, or when we don’t even notice it.  In today’s world, it’s easy to form ‘gated communities’ of like-minded people, perhaps a social media group or a church home group.  It becomes a kind of echo-chamber, where we only hear voices and views that sound much like our own.  So we don’t realise how much we still have to learn, or how others may see things differently.  (I know someone who occasionally searches online for a topic in which he has no interest at all – just to confuse that clever algorithm in his Facebook page, which works out his preferences and chooses what news and views to feed him!)  In study groups you need someone who is brave enough to ask awkward questions: it may become less comfortable, but the learning goes deeper.  We need good understanding to build our convictions on.

Being new tends to be somewhat bewildering, and at times you can feel pretty clueless.  Which you are; and that’s okay, for now.   So let’s hear it for ignorance: something we simply need to acknowledge and embrace.  That’s the gateway to the fun bit, the adventure – exploring new places, people, ideas and possibilities.  There’s always a lot to learn.

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