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Living well while waiting

Catherine Fox and the Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox reflect on living well during this time of continued hoping and uncertainty.

Catherine Fox and the Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox reflect on living well during this time of waiting. For people yearning for things to be 'normal' again it seems like there'll be a long time to wait. Many people's plans for the summer, including weddings and ordinations have been cancelled, so what can we do to stay positive in this period of continued hoping and uncertainty? The Miraculous Catch of Fish (John 21:1-7) leads them to suggest that old plans and hopes can be transformed by Jesus. After Jesus' resurrection the disciples had gone back to what they knew, fishing, but they didn't catch anything, until the risen Lord appeared and they caught more fish than they could cope with. Producer: Miriam Williamson

Before the throne of God - Lou Fellingham
Be Thou My Vision - Wallingford Parish Choir
I was Glad - Choir Of King's College, Cambridge
There is a Balm in Gilead - Paul Robeson
We Are Waiting - All Sons & Daughters
King of Glory (instrumental) - Rivers & Robots
All My Hope on God is Founded - The Cambridge Singers
Hallelujah Anyhow - Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

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Sun 24 May 2020 08:10

Sunday Worship- Living well while waiting


Introduction – Catherine Fox

Good morning, and welcome to this morning’s worship, on the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost.  This is a time when we find ourselves forced to wait.  Waiting doesn’t come easily, especially when we don’t have a timescale.  The old ways aren’t possible, and we can’t picture yet what the new might look like on the other side of lockdown.  How do we live in the meantime?  What are we to do with all our disappointed hopes, when the things we’d been longing for, and working so hard towards, are postponed or cancelled?  How can we live well while we are waiting?  When we sometimes find ourselves—as the hymn writer puts it—tempted to despair? 

Music – ‘Before the throne of God above’ – Lou Fellingham

CD - The World's Favourite Hymns

Prayer – Bishop Pete Wilcox 

This ten day period, from Ascension Day to the Feast of Pentecost, has a distinct character for Christians, as we remember the disciples waiting prayerfully in Jerusalem, as Jesus had invited them to do -- looking expectantly for the promise of the Father, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, longing to be clothed with power from on high. 

In recent years, these days have been enriched for the church throughout the world by an ecumenical movement of prayer, initiated in 2016 by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.  Like those first disciples before the first Pentecost, we too are a waiting people.  Looking back on the life and death of Jesus, on his resurrection and ascension, we also look forward expectantly to the coming of God’s kingdom, the consummation of all God’s purposes for creation.  And as we wait, we remember that in the work Christ Jesus has entrusted to his church, we are every bit as much in need of power from on high as those first disciples – and so we pray specifically in these ten days for the Holy Spirit to empower the church afresh, in our own time and place, as we seek to bear lively and effective witness to Jesus. 


O God the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ

with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:

we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,

but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us

and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.



MusicBe Thou My Vision – Wallingford Parish Church

CD - The Hymns Album by Wallingford Parish Church Choir

LinkCatherine Fox  

We’ve all had to deal with disappointment and sudden change this year.  It’s felt as though our old favourite music score has been snatched away, and now we’re having to improvise madly.  For me that’s meant working from home and not in my busy office at the Manchester Writing School, trying to see what teaching online instead of on campus looks like.  It’s meant watching all my speaking and research engagements disappear, and starting new writing projects unexpectedly.

We thought we knew what 2020 would look like.  We thought our plans were finalised.  But so many events have now vanished from our calendars—weddings, anniversary parties, holidays, sporting events.  Here in Sheffield we had just announced the appointment of our new bishop of Doncaster, Sophie Jelley.  There was due to be a big celebration in York Minster on 27 March for her, with all the church bells and whistles, crowds of people, more bishops than you can shake a crook at, and the Minster choir singing Parry’s anthem ‘I was glad’.  I can remember it vividly from Pete’s consecration three years ago when he became bishop of Sheffield.  But for Sophie, all that is now on hold. We asked her what that experience of disappointed hopes and waiting has been like. 

Sophie Jelly

Do what you can and mind the gap.

. Disappointing as it was, events unfolded by the hour and we had little choice than to be swept along with them. Graciously I was given the opportunity to decide how I wanted to proceed, I could wait and not begin any form of ministry in the new place, or we could find a way for me to pick up the new duties as I would have done, except of course those affected by the suspension of public worship. It didn’t take me long to choose the latter. In a breath it felt like a moment where I should do what I can as I have now been doing for 8 weeks. After a warm and generous welcome I joined in ringing round clergy and picking up responsibility for vocations work in the diocese meeting one by one with candidates who have spent years preparing for their ordination this summer – that is until all was put on hold. Their patient acceptance has been inspiring in the face of significant disruption and like me they are adjusting to the idea of a very different start than the one they’ve been working towards. Still this has been a rich time to get to know the people who will be ‘my people’ and I hope they feel they have been able to get to know me. A particular joy has been the ministry of prayer – even by phone praying for people has felt like an act of compassion, sharing together in the life God has called us to in these days of uncertainty. Of course there is a communication gap when you are not in a room with people sharing a  pot of coffee or seeing their faces up close, so doing what I can also means minding the gap, the gap that could lead to error of judgment or misinterpretation. So I am asking people to pray for additional wisdom, wisdom to mind the gap, a wisdom best issued by the Holy spirit who fortunately has not been in lockdown in these days. Rather, he is quietly and patiently connecting people with God himself, who is Father Son and Holy Spirit as he always does, as we do what we can and mind the gap. I look forward to the day when public worship can resume, when we join together in saying I was glad when they said let us go into the house of the Lord.

Music – I was glad – King’s College Cambridge

CD - Hallejuah 

Catherine Fox

 I do long for the day when we can all gather again, and hear that music echo round a cathedral. I’m pretty sure we would have sung it to celebrate the arrival of our new archdeacon of Doncaster, Javaid Iqbal, who was also appointed to his new role just before lockdown.  Bishop Pete licenced Javaid last week—not in a big church building, but online via Zoom.  We asked him to tell us a bit about his story. 

Javaid Iqbal 

I was born and brought up in Pakistan in a Christian family, in my teenage years I found my living faith in Jesus Christ and decided to follow him for the rest of my life. Initially I became a youth leader and trained and served as an evangelist. Having received call for ordination I trained in Pakistan and England. My ordination in 1997 was followed by three years of ministry in Lahore. In 2000 my family and I moved to England and last 20 years I have served in Leicester and St Albans dioceses. Pakistan and England might be very different context but in both places people need assurance and experience of God’s love– it has been a real joy to serve god and his people as priest, and to proclaim God’s love and his forgiveness for all.

I am now going to read from the gospel, hear the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ according to

St John, chapter 21 

Reading John 21 1-7

21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.


4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’

Music –‘There is a balm in Gilead’ Paul Robeson 

CD Paul Robeson Sings

Reflection Catherine Fox

‘Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain’, says the song.  That probably resonates with a lot of us right now.  All those enterprises that we poured all our love and energy and resources into—cancelled, or forced to close.  And who knows what will survive of our plans on the other side of the pandemic?  A lot of it feels in vain now.  Like the disciples—we fished all night and caught nothing.

Why were they fishing anyway, those disciples by the sea of Tiberias?  Hadn’t they left their nets behind, when they started to follow Jesus?  Maybe they were falling back on the thing they knew best, doing the thing they’d done all their lives, even though everything had changed forever.  A lot of us are doing that.  Wherever possible, we’re finding ways of doing what we’re trained to do, what we are skilled at doing, what we still love doing, in spite of it all.  Teaching, caring, delivering supplies, making things, supporting people, providing services, leading teams.

We can only do what we can do.  But there are some things that only we can do.  This is something I tell my creative writing students.  Only you can write your book.  I’ve discovered recently that it’s much easier to tell someone else that than believe it myself.  Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my writing’s in vain, definitely.  But I still carry on trying to blog these strange times in fictional form.

There’s something else that only I can do at the moment.  Only I can be the congregation in the chapel here in Bishopscroft.  For the last 9 weeks of lockdown, Pete has celebrated holy communion each Sunday evening.  I’ve found myself somehow standing in for the whole diocese, even if all I can do is cry through the whole service.

And so we do what only we can do, however small it may feel.  Maybe this is how we live well?  We do our version of going fishing.  If we don’t go out fishing we will catch nothing, that’s for sure.  We may end up fishing all night, and still catching nothing.  But if we’re not out there, we can’t hear the voice calling, and telling us to try dropping the nets on the other side.  At first it won’t be obvious who’s calling.  But if we listen, and follow the prompting, that’s the moment when the miracle happens.  That’s the moment when what we do synchronises with something beyond our imagining.  It is the Lord.  And nothing is impossible for God.

Music  ‘We are Waiting’ - All Sons and Daughters 

CD World’s Favourite Hymns 

Reflection Bishop Pete Wilcox 

‘We are waiting, we are trusting, we are longing for your blessings, Lord.’

 Not just across the Diocese of Sheffield, not just across the Church of England, not even just across the churches of Britain, but for the church of God throughout the world there hasn’t been much Eucharistic feasting in the last two months.  Even where it has been possible for Holy Communion to be celebrated, it has not been possible for the people of God to gather, as we usually do, as brothers and sisters in Christ around the Lord’s Table.  For many of us, this has been a costly deprivation.  For many of us, it is as we receive the tokens of our Lord’s body and blood, week by week, for some of us even day by day, that we are granted the closest sense of the Lord’s presence with us.  The church is never more fully itself, than in this act which our Saviour gave us, by which to remember his body broken for us and his blood shed for our forgiveness, and in which, week by week or day by day, we are strengthened for service in the world.  This is the heartbeat of church: we gather, to be nourished, and we are dispersed, in mission; we congregate, and we are sent out.

 So it is a mystery of God’s grace that although in these past two months there has been precious little opportunity to gather, there has nevertheless been an extraordinarily fruitful experience of service, of missionary activity across our Diocese .It’s not just a matter of spectacularly high Facebook views and YouTube hits, encouraging as those are – it’s the live gatherings, the numbers participating together in worship and other church activities, which now often include newcomers.  There’s the service of Morning Prayer at Christ Church Heeley, here in Sheffield, which has grown from a once a week service with a usual attendance of just three, to a daily service online, with between 9 and 17 taking part; and there’s St Lawrence Church, Hatfield, where Messy Church online has attracted a significant number of new families.  There’s the daily bedtime story livestreamed from All Saints’ Church, Woodlands in Doncaster, an entirely new ministry to engage the very young and quickly building a committed audience.  The vicar told me how a small child he did not recognise had recently waved at him in the street. When he looked perplexed at the mother she said, ‘She watches every day’.  And in many places, where it has been possible to move Sunday worship online (and obviously that’s not been the case everywhere), clergy report not only that the regulars are attending more regularly, but also that every week unexpected faces join in too.  I think of one of our priests, named Joy, who tells me how encouraged she is that neighbours and friends, who might baulk at an invitation to an actual church service, have had no qualms about accessing worship online.  It’s almost as if the Holy Spirit has directed us to cast our nets on the other side of the boat, the online side, and we have found our nets bursting with fish.  Of course, it’s early days and we don’t yet know what this new online fringe to church represents, but Sheffield is by no means special in this respect.  Quite the contrary, what has been happening in the towns and villages of our Diocese has been happening up and down the country, across church denominations.  And this is not to pretend everything is rosy.  While we are proud of the work our foodbanks have been able to continue, it is heart-breaking to hear stories about the needs they are having to meet.  And many of our clergy have been conducting distressingly large numbers of funerals in desperately difficult circumstances.  One Rotherham priest told me recently that she had officiated at eight funerals in one week.  So, no, it’s not all rosy.  But having dipped a toe in the water of online mission, few Dioceses will quickly forget the shoals of fish we have now at least glimpsed.  We are more likely to exclaim with the Beloved Disciple, ‘It is the Lord’. And all the while, we wait, and long, to be able to gather again around the Lord’s Table.  But we do not wait idly: rather, like the faithful servant in Jesus’ parable, we wait as those who hope to be found fruitfully at work when our Master comes.  So let us pray. 

PrayersSophie Jelly

Music under – King of Glory – Rivers & Robots – CD ‘Still’ 

Lord of life: bring your hope

Loving God in these days of Coronavirus we begin our prayers conscious of those who mourn the loss of loved ones and whose lives have been forever changed.

Lord of life: bring your hope

We pray for all those frontline and key workers, those in education and social care and we ask your peace and provision that they may know your strength to sustain.

Lord of life: bring your hope

We pray for those who feel especially disrupted: those whose life events and celebrations have been cancelled or postponed and those whose future hopes and dreams feel distant and uncertain.

Lord of life: bring your hope

We pray for world leaders internationally and closer to home, for wisdom, insight and clarity and for a vision of community that goes beyond our national borders

Lord of life: bring your hope

As those entrusted with the care of your creation, we pray for a right judgement in the stewardship of the earth as lockdown begins to be eased and for our future commitment to the wellbeing of the environment

Lord of Life: bring your hope

We pray for your church throughout the world as we gather in our different ways. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us so we so that we and all your children may be free to worship you all our days

Lord of life: bring your hope

Finally, we take a moment in quietness to recall the goodness of God and to inviting his grace to make us worthy of our calling

Lord of life: bring your hope

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ


Music - All Our Hope on God is Founded - Cambridge Singers 

CD I will lift up my eyes

Bishop Pete Wilcox

Together with followers of Christ Jesus, across the Diocese of Sheffield and right around the world, as our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and for ever. Amen.

Final wordsCatherine Fox

We thought we had some idea what this year would be like.   Then everything changed.  And maybe we have had to change as well.  Sometimes the night has been long and dark, and our work has felt in vain.  But through all these changes, we rest on God’s eternal changelessness.  By God’s grace everything is transformed.  Our work is not in vain, because it’s caught up in God’s work.  Just as we are caught up in God’s love and can live well, waiting for the Spirit’s prompting.  We are still Easter people, and hallelujah is still our song. 

BlessingBishop Pete Wilcox 

God the Father,

by whose glory Christ Jesus was raised from the dead,

strengthen you in the Spirit to walk with the Lord in his risen life;

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.


It doesn’t matter what comes my way, I lift my voice and say ‘hallelujah anyhow.’

Closing music –  ‘Hallelujah anyhow – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir 

CD I’m Amazed


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