We held our first Diocesan Youth Forum on Saturday.
Over 100 young people from across the Diocese of Oxford gathered in St. Andrew’s Church, North Oxford for a morning of listening and reflection as part of our common vision process.I guarantee you’d have loved it.
There were donuts and burgers and funny hats. There was a lot of serious conversation.
As the young people came in, they were invited to write up “Questions for the Bishop” on a large whiteboard.
There were too many to answer on the day – so here are the questions and some very short answers.
Is the hat comfy?
Not really. It stays on because it grips the head. After about 5 mins I get a headache.
What does a Bishop do?
I serve and lead and represent the Church of England across three counties. We have more than a thousand churches, schools and chaplaincies in the Diocese.
Do you support a sports team?
Not really. I’m from Halifax so if pressed I say “Halifax Town”. They’ve never won anything. *
What do you do in a day?
Every day is different: community and parish visits; pastoral interviews; meetings with my team; work in the House of Lords.
How do we raise money to pay a youth worker?
Paid youth workers are a great idea. Ask your congregation if they will give to this. Seek help from trust funds. We’re exploring whether we should invest more here as a Diocese.
How do you address the bishop?
Print out a label and stick it on his forehead with a stamp.
More seriously – I answer to anything polite and don’t really mind.
Do you feel free?
Most of the time.
How many hours do you work a week?
50-60 most weeks
How are you?
I’m very well thank you.
Do you think God wants us to wear clothes and if so what’s your favourite company?
Undoubtedly yes especially in February. Fat Face.
What is your opinion on the circles of hell?
The best quotation about hell I know is from C.S. Lewis: “If the gates of hell are locked, they are locked from the inside”.
Why are you called a bishop?
It’s from the Greek word “episkopos” which means to watch over and to visit.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
When things go wrong in people and in churches.
Have you ever had to go to a different country?
Yes: most recently South Africa to visit one of our link dioceses. I’m visiting another in Sweden in April.
Do you feel the Church is being inclusive when not everyone understands the words contemplative, compassionate and courageous?
I think so. I think most people do understand compassionate and courageous. Contemplative takes a bit longer to explain but it’s worth the trouble on both sides.
How did you become a bishop?
I believe God called me. Humanly speaking, you get a letter from the Prime Minister.
Do you believe in re-incarnation?
No. Christians believe in resurrection. They are very different.
Why does God let suffering happen?
There are no short answers to this one. I don’t know but I do believe God is with us in our suffering and offers strength and hope
What do you think is most important about being a bishop?
Loving God and loving my neighbour like every other Christian – and helping the church tell the story of Jesus with joy.
Can I quote you in my ethics exam?
By all means.
What is the best reason for God to exist?
I think you mean the best reason to believe God exists. That would be the wonder of creation, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, and that sense we all have of right and wrong and that there must be something more.
If you wouldn’t be a bishop what job would you have?
Probably a Vicar but if you mean not a vicar, I love to write.
Are you going to try to convert us today?
No. That’s God’s job. But I am going to listen to you.
Why are we here?
At this event: so that young people can have a bigger say in the life of the Diocese of Oxford
In life: to know God and enjoy God for ever
Why do you wear a long gown?
Clergy wear robes as a sign of our office. Some people find it helpful. Others not so much.
How long have you been a bishop for?
9 years – over 7 as Bishop of Sheffield and nearly 2 as Bishop of Oxford
What denomination of Christian are you?
Church of England. That’s the Church I grew up in but I’m also an Anglican by conviction.
Were you clever at school?
I did OK but was blessed to have a parents who encouraged me, two very good schools and some great teachers.
Do you ride a bike everywhere?
No. Hardly ever these days.
What is your opinion on the Bible? Is it a metaphor?
The Bible is the inspired word of God and needs to be listened to and interpreted well by the Church with Jesus at the centre.
Do you get paid? How much?
Clergy receive a stipend and housing not a wage. If you really want to know how much the link is here
Is the suit comfy?
It’s a suit
If you could change one thing about the Church what would it be?
To make us more contemplative, compassionate and courageous.
Why did you want to become a bishop?
I wanted to do what God was calling me to do – whatever that was
How did you know you wanted to be a bishop?
You have to test a call through lots of prayer and conversation and really listen…
What are we to you?
A great gift. People loved by God. The Church of the present and the future.
Were you always a Christian?
I can’t remember not believing in God. I became a committed Christian when I was about 16 through a local church youth group which started with just 3 members.
Have you ever questioned your faith?
Yes – especially when I was younger and still today when life is difficult.
Do you enjoy your job?
Most of the time yes, enormously. I get to work with some great people.
Can God change his mind?
According to the Bible, yes. Read the story of Jonah. Prayer is very important.
How do you lovingly tell someone what they do is sinful?
I love the quotation from Billy Graham, a great Christian who died last week: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love”.
What do you do with your free time?
My two favourite things are baking and spending time with Josiah, Judah and Joshua, my three grandsons.
Have you ever put your hat on backwards?
Yes but it’s embarrassing. The tippets hang down over the eyes.
* Peter Lucas tweeted me to let me know that Halifax Town won the FA Trophy at Wembley in May 2016, and won the Vauxhall Conference in 1998. I stand corrected!