My dear friends, it’s the Eve of Advent, a season I love. I love the strong liturgical backdrop we will enjoy for the next four weeks; I love the Advent hymns; I love the sense of anticipation and expectation. I love the sustained and deliberate focus, in this season of Joyful Hope, on the assurance of God’s coming kingdom.
But today, I want to look back and not forward, and I want to offer you a Presidential Address with a difference. This morning I want to speak very personally – to tell you about a particular health challenge I have had to face over the past five years. It’s basically a good news story, though I realise the new information may be a bit unsettling for some of you.
To cut to the chase: about four weeks ago, at the start of the month, I was, thank God, signed off by the colorectal department at the Northern General Hospital, because it is five years since I went through treatment for cancer of the colon, and I am no longer meaningfully at risk of a recurrence of the disease. This morning, I’d like to tell you about the diagnosis and treatment I experienced in 2017, and about the impact it has had on me as a person and as a bishop.
I realise this raises questions. Some of you may be wondering why I did not tell you about this at the time, in 2017? It’s a fair point. I do know that you would have been only too keen to pray for me and to care for me pastorally if you had known what I was going through back then. So why didn’t I tell you? Well, partly, I was simply protecting myself. I’m an extreme introvert and in that situation I needed some privacy. But in addition, in mid 2017, this Diocese had just emerged from a torrid Vacancy in See. By then, though I myself was pretty confident, on medical advice, that the prognosis was good, though I was pretty confident of being Bishop of Sheffield long-term, given what many of you had recently gone through, I was concerned that news of my illness might create additional instability and I thought that was the last thing this Diocese needed. So I chose not to go public.
Read it all.