Dear Friends

It has been rather unfortunate, to say the least, that there has been so much bad publicity recently in the press over the high incidence of historical child sexual abuse, particularly in the Diocese of Chichester, over the last twenty or thirty years. Of course, this does reflect badly upon the Church as well as upon the way in which such allegations were handled in the past. But I was greatly saddened to hear a senior clergyman say recently that he was ‘ashamed’ of the Church of England.

Although this is perhaps an understandable statement in the circumstances, it is not encouraging to the majority of decent people ‘in the pews’, for want of a better term, who come faithfully to church week by week and who give generously of their time, talents and money to ‘keep the show on the road’ — they are the ‘treasures’ of the Church and it is invidious to make them feel that they are in some way part of the problem. Similarly, the vast majority of parochial clergy continue quietly on, doing a good job of pastoral care, conducting worship regularly and faithfully administering the sacraments to those for whom they have the ‘cure of souls’. It is heartening, too, to hear, through contacts with clergy training schemes, of the many younger people who, even now, are prepared to sacrifice successful careers in order to take up full-time parochial ministry — this is surely encouraging evidence that God is at work in the lives of ‘ordinary’ men and women, calling them to his service in a Church which, despite its failures and shortcomings, is constantly being renewed and restored in its witness to the world.

Here at St Mary’s we have innumerable ‘treasures’ of the Church, exercising a great diversity of gifts, all of which greatly emich the life of our community of faith - I know that none would wish to be named, or their contribution particularly highlighted in this context, but for each of them we give grateful thanks.