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Epiphany letter from Bishop David

First published on: 5th January 2024

Dear sisters and brothers, 

As we celebrate Epiphany, with its message that Jesus Christ is the Good News for the whole of God’s creation, I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for all that you have done to make this reality more widely known and lived throughout the Manchester Diocese over the last twelve months. Over these last few years, Covid notwithstanding, we have managed to put in place structures which I firmly believe better equip us for mission and ministry in our chaplaincies, schools, parishes and other mission contexts. We are also blessed with hugely talented and highly committed people, not least the record number of graduating stipendiary curates who will be moving into incumbency-level posts over the next few months, and the specialist staff arriving in our deaneries. Their focus is on enabling all of us to play our part in meeting our share of the national target to double the number of young people among our disciples. 

The next twelve months will be a vital test bed for how we put our hopes and ambitions into practice. We are set up to achieve positive change, and now is the time to make it happen, so that the vision we have worked hard on, and with such widespread consultation and engagement, becomes the reality. 

As our vision makes clear, all our efforts must be surrounded by prayer. The founding and growth of our Prayer Community has been a real joy. The commitment made by members is simple, but the effect of so much purposeful prayer is immeasurable. Over this next twelve months, I hope that many more individuals will feel able to commit to the simple rhythm it offers. 

Most of us are only part of the church because somebody made the effort to talk to us about Jesus, or to invite us to a church event where we would hear the gospel set out. Whilst not every Christian is a gifted evangelist, we can all play our part, by being ready to share the difference our faith makes in our lives with those who ask or show interest. Beyond this, we need to identify, raise up and equip leaders who are gifted in evangelisation. My prayer is for everyone living or working in our diocese to be within reach of someone with whom they can identify, and who holds and can articulate our faith, in words and deeds. 

Gifted Christian leaders do not simply grow on trees. They have to be found from among our church members, then nurtured and provided with opportunities for learning and development. We need to be diligent in identifying younger people and those from more diverse backgrounds, and making space for them to develop their gifts and skills. I am delighted that in 2024 so many curates will move on to positions of greater responsibility, however the work of finding the next generation of new leaders, lay as well as ordained, begins now. 

As I leave the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners, I am aware of just how much we depend on money raised from national church endowments to support our mission and ministry. Not only do we receive over £2 million each year towards our poorer parishes, we have also had significant funds to establish fresh ventures such as Children Changing Places, Antioch, and our Resource Churches. It is right that we do receive such generous support; we are one of the dioceses with the least historic resources per capita in the country, and with a higher proportion of poorer parishes than any other. However, that does not remove the necessity to raise most of the funds that sustain our work locally. In 2024 we will need to redouble our efforts to develop a stronger culture of giving and generosity. 

I look forward to sharing with you all, as we seek to build in 2024 from the sound base and healthy culture we now have. As we do so, it will be important that we look after ourselves and those around us. The yoke Christ lays upon us should not conflict with attention to our well-being. Indeed, the two go hand in hand. So, my hope and prayer is that 2024 will be a year that combines effort with excitement, where hope becomes reality, and that our labours will prove both fulfilling and fun. 

May God bless you this Epiphanytide and throughout the year to come. 

+David Manchester 

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