At the start of his sabbatical Bishop Paul writes about his period of study leave
Friends last week, as many of you will know, I am embarking on an extended period of study leave that will continue until March 2018. I am grateful that during that time Bishop Richard has agreed to step forward and hold the episcopal responsibility in our diocese. I start this study period in the knowledge that our diocese is clear about the direction we are taking, with strong supportive leadership working together to make a bigger difference in every community.
During my study leave I hope to write a book which will explore what it means to live as a faithful Christian in the world we have, in the world God loves. Please pray for me as I attempt this, and pray for Bishop Richard as he holds the episcopal responsibility in the diocese while I am away.
In my absence I will continue to pray for you all. In this Advent season my prayer will be that God will show you how valuable - how infinitely valuable - you are in His sight; He who gave his life for you. And that in all the busy-ness of Advent and Christmas, you will never lose that awareness of your infinite value, and of the love of God for you as you are, that confers that value.
I’m so grateful to be in our Diocese and to be able to work and live among you, as you open your lives to God’s people and to the pastoral demands, the hurt and the grief of the world God loves. Thank you for your ministry, whether you’re ordained or lay, whether you minister in the gathered Church or in the life of the world. God loves this Diocese through you, and I pray that he will protect you as you serve him, protect you after the pattern of Jesus.
In the famous Advent collect we ask God for grace “to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light”. Armour made of light will not deflect stones, or arrows or insult. As Christian ministers we are undefended, open, present to the world in all its pain, distress and anger. The one thing - the central, crucial thing - that the armour of light will do is to dispel darkness. The one thing that the helpless, undefended Christ-child promises is that darkness will be dispelled, forever.
May God bless you with that light; with encouragement, with companionship, and with peace in this Advent season. And may God make you ready to meet him joyfully when, and whenever, he comes.