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Parish Brief – 26th January 2021


When God sighed

I was reading a passage of scripture the other day when a word jumped off the page at me. It’s only one word, and not a very big one at that. It is a word that I didn’t remember seeing before, but it hit me square in the face. I found it in Mark 7: 31-35. Jesus is presented with a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Jesus took the man aside and looked him in the face. Knowing it would be useless to talk, he explained what he was about to do through gestures. He spat and touched the man’s tongue, telling him that whatever restricted his speech was about to be removed. He touched his ears. They, for the first time, were about to hear.

But before the man said a word or heard a sound, Jesus did something I never anticipated.

He sighed.

One might have expected a clap, or a song or a prayer. Even a ‘Hallelujah!’ but the Son of God did none of these. Instead, he paused, looked into heaven, and sighed. From the depths of his being came a rush of emotion that said more than words.

I’ve never thought of God as one who sighs. I’ve thought of God as one who commands, weeps, calls forth the dead…But a God who sighs?

I have begun to wonder if this word caught my eye because I have done my fair share of sighing recently. I have sighed at the ever-increasing numbers of those who have died because of Covid. I have sighed as I have watched doctors and nurses cry because of the pressure they are under. I sighed as I watched protestors storming Capitol Hill. I sighed after I realised, I had spoken wrongly and harshly to my son.

No doubt you have done your fair share of sighing.

Of course, there is the sigh of relief, a sigh of expectancy, and even a sigh of joy. But that isn’t the sigh described in Mark 7. The sigh described is a hybrid of frustration and sadness. The apostle Paul spoke about sighing: he said that Christians will sigh as long as we are on earth and long for heaven; and that the creation sighs as if she were giving birth; even the Spirit sighs as he interprets our prayers (Romans 8:22-27). All these sighs come from the same anxiety; a recognition of pain that was never intended, or of hope deferred.

When Jesus looked into the eyes of this man, the only appropriate thing to do was to sigh. ‘It was never intended this way,’ the sigh said. ‘Your ears weren’t made to be deaf, your tongue wasn’t made to stumble.’ In a strange sort of way, this sigh brings me comfort, because in an indirect way, God’s pain is our comfort.

For it is in the agony of Jesus that our hope lies. Had he not sighed, had he not felt the burden for what was not intended, we would be in a pitiful condition. Had he simply chalked it up to the inevitable or washed his hands of the whole mess, what hope would we have?

But he didn’t. That holy sigh assures us that God still groans for his people. He groans for the day when all sighs cease, when what was intended to be will be.

Martin Breadmore, Archdeacon of Dorking

Critical updates

A call to pause, pray and reflect

In an open letter, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling the nation to pause, reflect, and remember the more than 100,000 people across the UK who have died after contracting Covid-19, and all those who know and love them.

They also urge people to support each other both by following the guidelines to limit the spread of the virus and in practical ways, reaching out in care and kindness.

The below prayer is being shared across social media and is available in 

A prayer for those who mourn
Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

Church House Guildford savings

On Wednesday 20 January we announced changes and cost reductions for Church House Guildford and Willow Grange staff.

This has been a year like no other, COVID-19 tested everyone and the Bishops Leadership team has been impressed by the flexibility of our teams to effectively adapt and shape the offering from Church House to support the changing needs of our parishes, schools and communities through this time. This has affected the majority of our staff, through furlough, adaptions to roles, working from home and increased flexibility – we would like to thank them for everything they have done during this period of ongoing change.

The first two phases of the Church House Review were announced in May and November 2019, however further analysis into our administrative support and one training plan offering was required in 2020. The challenges of COVID-19 have also meant we have had to review the services which we provide to our parishes to deliver an additional 10% saving as part of the 2021-23 budget in light of the financial challenges that our parishes face.

A summary of changes announced were:

  • A fundamental re-organisation of our administrative support for CHG and Willow Grange, creating  a new centralised admin team led by an Office & Facilities Manager, supported by five Team Administrators, each with a specialism. A single shared PA for our Bishops; and a Hospitality Administrator for CHG (once the office can reopen). In addition, there will be a new Clergy Appointments Officer supported by a part time Clergy DBS & Appointments Administrator.
  • A reduction in CHG parish facing services, aimed at delivering cost savings, through staff reductions, whilst minimising the direct impact on our parishes. This involves a range of measures including the closing of three roles in the Mission and Operations Teams (two of which are vacant), reducing the parish share funding for the Education Team and moving two of our key Bishop’s Leadership Team roles to part time.
  • A re-organisation of our parish facing training arrangements, ensuring we are equipped to support our aspiration for “one training plan”. This includes closing one role in the Mission team and creating a new part time role of Training Lead.  

The changes represent a significant amount of change, impacting staff in all teams at CHG and Willow Grange. Regrettably, it includes the closure of 18 staff roles, of which 8 are vacant, alongside the creation of 9 new staff roles. Read the briefing document for full details.

Our priority now is to support all those impacted by these decisions and we will be supporting them through the process over the coming weeks. Please be mindful when working with our Church House colleagues of what they are going through. Your prayers and support will be much appreciated.

We are hopeful that these changes will enable some stability for Church House and Willow Grange going forward, although we will need to remain realistic about the level of financial challenge we’re facing and the impact on the services CHG provides to our parishes, schools and chaplaincies as we support their needs

2021 APCMs may meet online

Permission has been granted for 2021 Annual Parochial Church Meetings (APCMs) to be held virtually, e.g. via Zoom. Last year an exception to the requirement to meet in person was granted and with the continuing Coronavirus restrictions a further exception has been made for 2021 through a Bishop’s Instrument published this week giving permission for these meetings to be held online or with a mix of some attendees online and some meeting in person. 

As always local decisions must be made in the light of prevailing government guidance and regulations.  APCMs must take place by 31 May.

Lent 2021- Diocesan resources available 

This year’s Lent theme in the Diocese is ‘See, I am doing a new thing!’ (Isaiah 43:19). This year we will be sharing:

  • a weekly Lent Parish Briefing every Monday
  • prayers with the senior team, online 12.30-1pm every Wednesday in Lent
  • Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday 1st April at 11am 

The Bishop of Guildford’s Community Fund will be running an appeal across Lent. The Coronavirus pandemic has created difficulties for the Fund. A major source of donations is the collections taken at licensings and confirmations, most of which have not been possible due to Covid restrictions. The result is that, just at the time when the Fund’s support is needed most, income is down substantially and there is little support that the Fund can now give to many deserving causes. We will be sharing some of the projects that the Fund has supported throughout Lent.


Sign up link for the Lent Parish Brief

As you already receive the weekly Parish Brief you will receive the Lent Parish Brief. Please share the sign up link ( with anyone who would find comfort in receiving these Lent emails. 

For your information

Living in Love and Faith Advocates

Following the launch of Living in Love in Faith and our clergy study day in November, each diocese is appointing its own LLF Advocate to encourage churches and deaneries to engage with the project and to serve as the conduits of feedback as we go. Bishop Andrew has asked Mark Wallace to be the Advocate for Guildford Diocese, and we’re putting together a small team to help him. Mark and his team will be working their way round the diocese to help you engage with LLF; do get in touch with him if you would like some help with this. His contact details are:, 07469 170317. 

LGBTQI+ Pastoral Team

Steve Cox, foremr Local Mission Advisor in Guildford, will be taking on the role of leading the LGBTQI+ Pastoral Team. His new book, Navigating the Son, is timely to Living in Love and Faith.

Navigating the Son is an exploration of how Christians can live with deep disagreements. It is about what is important to a healthy church (and society) in rapidly changing times when anger and division are the easy and common responses. Starting with how Jesus lived, the books examines what it means for individuals, and for a church to be Christlike. 

Charity Commission registration exemption extended

PCCs with an annual income under £100k are currently excepted from the requirement to register with the Charity Commission and to submit annual reports to them. The exception was due to expire on 31 March 2021. The Legal Office and the Finance Team of the NCIs have been negotiating with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport with a view to obtaining an extension of the exception for smaller PCCs. 

A successful outcome to the negotiations has resulted in the Government laying a statutory instrument before Parliament extending the exception for a further 10 years, to 31 March 2031. The continuation of the exception means that significant additional administrative work will not now need to be undertaken by PCCs with incomes under £100k. 

 Resources and FAQs

Sunday sermons will continue to be provided each week until at least Easter. 

Sunday Sermon

Bishop Jo preaches on ‘Growing old while staying young’, focusing on Simeon in Luke 2:22-38 (celebrating Candlemas, the Presentation of Christ in the temple).

Words to change the world

At the Heads and Chairs meeting on 21 January, Alex Tear the Diocesan Director of Education used the words of the young poet Amanda Gorman at the Presidential Inauguration in his opening thoughts. We were so inspired by her poem and the way that she delivered it that we just had to create an extra collective worship based on the poem

We have produced a script and slides for schools to use in their collective worship with critical worker children in school or to send home. We have also recorded a video of the collective worship for schools to use at school or send home. 

In addition we have worked with colleagues in the Diocese of Liverpool to create a reflective prayer activity that offers an opportunity to pray around the change of leadership in the United States, using the stars and stripes on the American flag.

Dates, Events & Training

Clergy Study Day on the 27th Jan has been postponed in light of current situation. 

Online Worship Wednesday Webinar, 
27 January, 7.30-8.30pm
The hour-long webinar will be full of familiar faces from our parishes as they explore lessons learned, technology that is available that can support worship, and keeping everyone engaged.

Church Buildings, Faculties, and Churchyards

3 February, 8-9.30pm

Each year, our diocese stages a training event for new churchwardens. This year (just like the Zoomitation!) it takes the form of a Zymposium over Zoom. This session will give tips and resources for all Churchwardens need to know on buildings including how to apply to make changes.

Weekly bitesize leadership formation in lockdown

Mondays, 12.30pm
There is still time to join our new weekly guided reflections on leadership for clergy and LLMs. Hosted on Zoom, the 30 minute weekly reflections will centre on scripture using Jonathan Sack’s brilliant book “Lessons in Leadership” and have time for discussion and prayer.

Becoming a Sight Loss Friendly Church 

Torch Trust, the Christian sight loss charity,  are holding free 30-minute Taster sessions about becoming a Sight Loss Friendly Church (SLFC). 

Tuesday 23rd February 7pm
Wednesday 24th February 2pm
Thursday 18th March 2pm
Tuesday 23rd March 2pm. 
These interactive Zoom sessions offer an opportunity to hear about all the benefits of this free resource, as well as a chance to meet the SLFC team and ask questions. Visit or email for more information & to book your place.  

Building a Generous Church: webinars for church leaders

The Church of England’s National Giving Team are offering a great series of free webinars to support parishes in encouraging generosity and enabling giving. We will be exploring discipleship materials to help grow generosity, as well as practical mechanisms for giving such as online, contactless and legacies. Topics include The Theology of Giving, Why People Give (And Why Some Don’t) and Giving Essentials: How To Run a Giving Review – plus a look at the brand-new Generosity Toolkit. Multiple  dates available. Book your place now.

Get the information as it happens

We have set up a Facebook Group, bringing together leadership across the diocese, to share best practice, to ask questions and encourage one another.

The next brief will be issued on Tuesday 2 February at 4pm. 

The post Parish Brief – 26th January 2021 appeared first on The Parish of Capel and Ockley.

St John The Baptist Church, Capel is a small friendly village church in the centre of the village. We are part of the Surrey Weald Team of parishes close to the south Surrey border with West Sussex. The other parishes in the team are St Peter’s, Newdigate, and St Mary Magdelene, South Holmwood. Our church offers a variety of worship, both separate and as part of the Weald Team.

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