The Bishop of Wakefield looks back at the year


We had been hoping to gather at Saint Alban’s in Holborn at this time to celebrate our National Assembly but unfortunately that has not proved to be possible. We expect to be able to gather at some point in 2021 but it is too early to say exactly when that might be.

As a replacement for gathering in person, I am presenting a series of videos to you which – taken together – form an annual review for Forward in Faith. I hope you find them informative and please do contact the Forward in Faith office if you have any questions.

As with every other part of society, the Covid pandemic has had a huge impact on our work this year. It has prevented us gathering in person and has presented us challenges in how we communicate our messages.

I am particularly pleased that The Society, which is supported and funded by Forward in Faith, has worked closely with the Church Union in releasing a set of ten high quality devotional videos on-line and in publishing a set of thirty devotional booklets, some which have been sent out as supplements to the New Directions magazine.

There are separate videos on each of these activities which are presented as part of this package of videos. I am sure you will find them informative. In fact I would go further that – I think we can all be very proud what has been achieved across our constituency through the devotional resources which we have made available for those times at which we have been unable to gather.

However, at the same, we also know that there is no replacement for gathering in person to celebrate the sacraments together and particularly the Eucharist. Forward in Faith and The Society have been clear throughout the first national lockdown, and also as we approach the second national lockdown, that every effort should be made to allow public worship to continue in as safe a manner as possible. 

If public worship has not been allowed on health grounds, we have been clear that the parish priest should be able to stream liturgies from his church for the faithful to follow at home.

Between the two national lockdowns there was, thankfully, an opportunity for ordinations to take place across the Church of England, including Society ordinations. This included Will Hazlewood’s consecration as a bishop in mid-July and diaconal and priestly ordinations around the feast of Michaelmas. While numbers attending the ordinations had to be severely limited, I was pleased that you were able to pray for our candidates from your homes and that the prayer booklet for ordinands sent out with the September edition of New Directions helped you to do that. These ordinations are the subject of a separate video. 

On a sadder note, we lost two giants of our movement this year. Dr Geoffrey Kirk died in April of this year. Geoffrey had been at the heart of Forward in Faith for almost twenty years, including acting as its National Secretary. The June edition of New Directions included a supplement entitled The Way We Live Now which represented a selection of Geoffrey’s renowned writing.

In May of this year Fr Beau Brandie died. Fr Beau had served on the Forward in Faith Council for many years, most recently acting as the Area Dean for Scotland. Fr Beau was a loyal and kind priest who was a source of encouragement in the Faith for many. May Geoffrey and Beau rest in peace.

Fully bearing in mind the selfless witness to the Catholic faith of those who have gone before us, including Geoffrey and Beau, we continue to make the case in favour of the retention of the Seal of the Confessional. 

It remains under attack from those who do not seem to understand its purpose or the nature of the Church’s sacraments. We have already achieved one part of a retraction which we have been seeking from a diocesan document which conflicts with the Church of England’s canons and are looking at other, similar examples of misleading literature which has been issued by dioceses on this topic.

We all fully support more robust safeguarding measures but it is a serious misunderstanding to think that breaching the Seal of the Confessional will in any way help with safeguarding. This is very likely to come up again in 2021 with the publication of further IICSA reports and we shall continue to make our case. We should not underestimate the strength of the attack which we face on the inviolability of the Seal of the Confessional.

In February of this year, Dr Colin Podmore retired from his role at Director of Forward in Faith. Colin served our cause with great distinction and we were delighted to hear in October this year that Colin had been awarded an MBE. This was fitting recognition of his many years of loyal service to the Church of England and particularly its Catholic cause.

Tom Middleton has taken over from Colin as Director and I know that Tom is very grateful for all the support he has received as he settles into the role, particularly in the challenging circumstances which he has faced. Tom presents a separate video as part of this package on the work of the Forward in Faith office, including worship at the English Chapel, over the course of this year.

I am grateful for your continued support for Forward in Faith over the course of this testing year. May God bless you in the months ahead and I very much look forward to meeting in person once more in 2021.