We are writing during Lent with some updates on the work of WATCH in recent months, and our Easter greetings.

As you will know we are still without Emma’s leadership at the moment, and we miss her guiding presence. We hope she will be able to resume her duties as Chair of WATCH in due course. In the meantime Esther and Felicity, as Vice Chairs, are holding the fort. We are hugely grateful for the support of all the committee, and of Claire who works so hard as our Secretary, and to Eve our administrator.

In recent months we have welcomed two new Trustees to the committee, Rev Liz Shercliff (Director of Studies for Readers, Chester Diocese) and Roger Neill (Roger is a representative for King’s Sutton PCC on the Brackley Deanery Synod and a member of the Diocese of Peterborough Synod). At the AGM last November we said thank you and farewell to Anne Stevens as a Trustee. Anne continues to convene the General Synod WATCH group, for which we are very grateful.

For so many of us, our individual and collective lives continue to be much disrupted by Covid-19. We were grateful to be able to hold the AGM online, and in many ways that was very helpful, not least as it enabled attendance by people who might not be able to travel for a day in London. Our committee meetings too, have been held by the ubiquitous zoom, and this has helped Trustees to join in. For the second year we as a committee will have to forego our valuable residential meeting in June. We miss being in the same physical space, but at least we can meet up virtually. The adjustments for us all in the last year have been extraordinary and we hope that you are surviving the many pressures and difficulties which we face.

Our activities continue to be shaped by our strategic plan, as you will have seen from last summer’s Outlook. Since then we have published three explanatory and supporting documents on the Five Guiding Principles, which are available on our website. In normal times we would have brought these to GS WATCH last autumn. Instead we are disseminating them in a variety of ways, with a presentation to the NADAWM conference last November and a workshop evening with women clergy in Chester Diocese just this month. If you would like us to bring them to a group of interested people then please do ask. Our annual presentation of Ministry Statistics, with a gender dimension, is now published and both the 5GPs texts and the Statistics report can be found here. Do please explore them, and bring them to the attention of anyone who is interested, or ought to be interested. If you would like a hard copy of the report on Ministry Statistics please email us.

Transparency in general is an ongoing theme, and one growing in importance. We continue to explore the various ways in which we can shed light on opacity and dissimulation in church affairs.

Our work on liturgy continues to grow, and we have plans for expanding liturgy resources on the website, as well as holding the liturgy writing days which some of you have enjoyed.

We would like to remind you that postponed elections for General Synod will be held later this year. We are joining with Inclusive Church to encourage the Inclusive Synod Election Campaign which aims to encourage people to stand for election who wish our national church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic situation or sexuality. Do visit the campaign’s website. You can be involved by standing for General Synod! More locally please keep an eye on nominations at your forthcoming APCM. PCC representatives on Deanery Synods are very important people as Deanery Synod members form the electoral college for General Synod.

Another important way to be involved in church matters is in the appointment of Diocesan Bishops. The guidance for episcopal appointments requires every diocese say whether or not the diocese wishes for the appointment of a bishop who will ordain women. You can influence this by making sure you get involved in diocesan consultations, and encourage others in your congregation to do so. There are retirements this year in the following dioceses:  Rochester, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Bath and Wells.

WATCH works in partnership and in association with several other organisations, including Inclusive Church and One Body One Faith, and we are in conversation with the recently launched MoSAIC. We share with them and others the goal for a fully inclusive church which subscribes to gender equality, and is committed to achieving it sooner rather than later.

We end with our prayers for your well-being, and the hope that you will witness the blessing of the Risen Lord at Easter. After what feels like a full year of Lenten struggle, we leave you with Malcolm Guite’s An Easter Triolet [Malcolm Guite, p 37, The Singing Bowl: Collected Poems Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2013]

We won’t give up on love, it is a given
And given things can always live again.
The stone is rolled away, the rocks are riven
We won’t give up on love, it is a given
The grave is made the very gate of heaven
We sowed in tears, but here’s the golden grain:
We won’t give up on love, it is a given
And Love’s the given thing that lives again.

Esther Elliott and Felicity Cooke