Luke 8:43-48.

“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”


Think how that woman must have felt: fearful, shamed, in pain and rejected. And think how much courage it must have taken for her to reach out and touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment. But think what difference too that made: she was immediately healed, and hears Jesus saying to her: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’ And he wants nothing less than that for us and for those amongst whom we minister.

Jesus is always there for us: always there for us to reach out to, and be strengthened by. I want to cover over these next few minutes a number of areas of ministry I’ve been engaged in over the last few months. In some ways I tell you about these things as part of my accountability to you. But even more I want to share them as a testimony to you: to testify that Jesus is always there for us: always there for us to reach out to, and be strengthened by – for I have seen that so clearly over the last few months.

One particular way I’ve seen that has been through the Review into the Persecuted Church I undertook at the invitation of former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. It was one of the hardest pieces of work I’ve ever been engaged in and if we delivered something of significance – as I believe we did – then I know it’s only because many people were praying for our work: and if you were one of them then thank you! I really do appreciate it. And I also want to thank my colleagues on Episcopal College for bearing me with as we did that work. I’m so grateful for that. To my surprise not just the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but the Government as a whole accepted all the recommendations: and that they did so is I think testimony to the Lord’s help and guidance. In some desperation we reached out and touched the fringe of his garment and found the strength and blessing we needed.

Another way in which the Lord has blessed us as we have reached out to him is through our new deacons and priests who it was my joy to ordain earlier this summer in two wonderful services in our cathedral. And the joy was not only in ordaining them but in hearing their wonderfully varied stories in the time I spent with each of them beforehand. The stories were varied, as varied as the people I ordained, but each told a tale of reaching out in their own way, and in their own need, and finding strength in the fringe of Jesus’ garment.

But ministry is not just about ordination – emphatically not – and another joy of the summer was commissioning the focal ministers for the Bodmin team ministry: people who will take responsibility for the various churches of the team, and be a focus for ministry there: not of course doing all the ministry themselves, but drawing others into that ministry. And as with all ministry, at its heart that will all be about reaching out and touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment and finding in him the strength we all need to serve him as we should.

How else has the Lord blessed us? Well he’s sent us a new archdeacon in the form of Paul Bryer. And it is indeed a blessing to have a new archdeacon who both knows what being an archdeacon is all about, and who loves Cornwall. I’m not going to file losing Bishop Chris under the heading of ‘blessing’ but nonetheless we should be proud that the outstanding work he’s done here in Truro has been recognised by the wider church, and I’ve not doubt he will be a great blessing to the Church of England as a whole. And we trust that we too will be blessed by a new Bishop of St. Germans in due course, now that the Diocese Commission has given us the green light to go ahead with an appointment. I’m still hoping we might have someone consecrated in January to start shortly afterwards although the timetable is rather out of our hands and we might need to wait until later in the year. But the process is unfolding as it should and I’m very grateful for the members of the Bishop’s Advisory group, or BAG for short, who’ve been working with me on the appointment.

Essential to the focus of the work of a new Bishop of St. Germans is that he or she should be an agent of hope, encouragement and change for us all across the diocese, and that he or she should continue the ministry-focused work Bishop Chris began in encouraging and nurturing the developing ministries of both churches and individuals. Specifically, I’ve articulated the priorities for a new bishop under three headings:

  • To be a confident, hopeful and inspiring episcopal presence and voice for the people and churches of Cornwall
  • To take the lead in enabling churches, their people and leaders, to be more confident, as disciples, in engaging in the mission of God;
  • To take the lead in the continuing development of appropriate patterns of ministry, lay and ordained, for the Cornish context.

I look forward very much to making this appointment and getting our senior team up to full strength after a very long time. And can I just remind you, in case this is needed, that this post is fully funded by the Church Commissioners, so costs us nothing as a diocese.

To move on – the blessing that there is for us in Jesus has in many ways been central to the work a number of people have been undertaking for me on the five priorities I outlined for us as a diocese at our last diocesan synod, and to remind you they are that we should be:

  • A church that conspicuously celebrates children and young people at its heart;
  • A church that unashamedly embraces an innovative and pioneering culture;
  • A church that is increasingly confident in its calling;
  • A church that rejoices in strong, warm and mutually encouraging international links; and
  • A church that rejoices in the generosity of God.

I had a good meeting with those people in late August to begin the process and now a number of different groups are working on different ways that as parishes, deaneries and as a diocese we can be creative in these five areas, and find the blessing that God has for us in each. At the heart of my conviction about the church is that our God has not short-changed us. He really has blessed us; the challenge is often to identify just how he has done that. I hope we’ll be finding out more and more just how he has done in the months to come as those groups report back.

And all I say about how God has not short-changed us certainly applies to our approach to money as well. It’s not just a metaphor. He has blessed us with so much of value – our money included: the challenge to us is to believe that he has blessed us and to respond to his generosity with ours – and as the agenda today testifies, that is a major challenge for us. But let us never fail in our faith that, as the Psalmist says, ‘God our God has blessed us.’ For he has indeed. And those words indeed were the title of the revising MMF paper this synod approved in May last year. We have to hold on to that conviction in faith, and respond with our own generosity. That is an absolutely fundamental component of our discipleship – and therefore it also ought to be a fundamental component of our teaching in our churches too.

There have been many other ways I’ve witnessed the blessing of God these last few months since last we met. I’ve taken many joyful services, licensings of new clergy included, across the diocese; I compered a wonderful fundraising evening at All Saints Highertown; I visited the outstanding outreach programme at St. Michael’s Newquay working with people on the margins – and it’s from that visit and that I took away this powerful image of reaching out to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment – because whether clients or counsellors, that is exactly what the ministry exercised there is all about. I confirmed 16 pupils at Bishop Cornish School in Saltash and in Archbishop Benson school here in Truro I was encouraged to turn into a giraffe – it’s good to have an ambition. I’ve taken an AMD session; taught at St. Mellitus SW; taken a prayer day in Stratton Deanery; finished this year’s round of roadshows; commissioned new Way2Community interns; taken part in an uplifting Vocations Day in our cathedral; and led the clergy of Pydar Deanery in renewing their baptismal vows in the sea at Perranporth.

I tell you all these things not just to demonstrate that I’ve been busy – though I have been! The point I want to make that our God is at work amongst us as we reach out to touch the fringe of his garment. There is blessing for us; there is healing for us; there is hope for us, because he is indeed at work amongst us.

And he’s not just at work amongst us: he’s also at work beyond us. I’ve often said that what I like about our corporate commitment to ‘Discovering God’s Kingdom; Growing the Church’ is that it presupposes that the Kingdom is greater than the Church: which indeed it is. And a wonderful feature for me in the last few months has been to see the work of the Kingdom, whether or not it’s recognised as such, in so many different places and contexts across Cornwall, whether that’s through St. Petroc’s Society, Coastline Housing, Cosgarne Hall, Truro College, The Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske, Marjon, the Gorsedh, Cornwall Hugs, the Royal Cornwall Show and the work of Cornwall Council. Indeed one of the things I love about Cornwall is the way that often you can’t see the join between church and community – which is just as it should be: indeed one conversation I’ve been involved recently has been all about revitalising the connections between civil and ecclesiastical parishes, which is potentially very positive.

Of course there are situations where it is harder to see blessing. In some personal situations of course. In our national context, too, if I’m honest. Many of you will know that tomorrow we will say goodbye to a number of members of Fowey Parish Church who are leaving to set up an independent congregation. That is sad, but my text for tomorrow is this: ‘we know that in all things God works for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purposes.’ And I do believe that: in all things God works for good for those who love him. There is no situation from which our God cannot draw blessing.

There is power in the fringe of Jesus’ garment, if we will but reach out and touch it. Think how that woman must have felt: fearful, shamed, in pain and rejected. And think how much courage it must have taken for her to reach out and touch the fringe of his garment. But think what difference too that made too: she was healed straight away and hears Jesus saying to her: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’ And he wants nothing less than that for us and for those amongst whom we minister. That we too may be made well, and be the instruments of others being made well, so that together we may find peace.

Jesus is always there for us: always there for us to reach out to, and be strengthened by. So together as we share in Communion now may we reach out, touch the fringe of his garment, and find in Jesus all the strength and the blessing that we need for the work to which he calls us. Amen.