Message from Bishop Rachel, 17 January 2023

Published: Tuesday January 17, 2023

Bishop RachelYesterday, I had the privilege of being present at the official opening of The Nelson Trust’s Women’s Centre in Wales. Similar to the Women’s Centre in Gloucester, this provides transforming support for women who have been involved with the criminal justice system. Staff and volunteers work with women in a holistic way, listening to each person’s story and valuing them as a unique individual as they engage with the whole person, including the building and re-shaping of healthy relationships, often including a woman’s children.

I have used the word ‘with’ several times in that first paragraph, and it is such an important word for me, not least as it says so much about the truth that we are created to live in relationship with God, neighbour and all of creation. Wherever we see brokenness in our world, whether far away or close at hand, there will always be broken relationship of one sort or another.

In recent years the public sector has paid better attention to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) in policy, planning and intervention  because we know that a number of identified adverse experiences in someone’s childhood can have a significant impact on health, relationships and behaviour in adult life. Yet we also know that there is never a linear cause and effect.

A recent piece of research by the Good Faith Partnership regarding faith and the prison system states that a 2017 survey of Anglican parishes revealed that over 80% were involved in supporting people of all ages experiencing some sort of family breakdown, whether known or unknown. Much of that support came through activities and engagement with families, children and young people. The conclusion was that such work and activity ‘is rarely done with the explicit aim of preventing crime but can contribute to this over the long-term.’ [1]

When we are truly being the Church, the body of Christ, abiding in and with our three-in-one God of relationship, we foster diverse communities of relationship both within the church and in our wider communities as we live and share the love and hope of Christ in our engagement with the people and places of our contexts. This can be transformational in ways we might never even see or understand.

Our diocesan vision of LIFE Together has ‘with’ running through it, not least in the focus on Engagement. I am continually inspired and surprised by the activities and spaces our worshipping communities organise or support. Followers of Christ in this diocese run toddler groups, after-school clubs, pensioners’ events, gardening, cafes and warm spaces, sports activities, food banks, and so much more (do read the other items in this week’s Bulletin, in particular the details of the Under 5s and flourishing conference in March). All of it is about creating spaces for relationship and community rooted in the love, forgiveness and hope we have found in Jesus Christ. We may never know how life-changing and life-shaping these spaces are for everyone who participates, including organisers and volunteers. It is good for everyone when ‘with’ is at the heart.

Of course, in all of this it is important for the Church not to always think that we must be the ones to initiate activities to engage with people’s hopes and needs. If ‘with’ truly is an important word for us then it is important to look at what is going on in the wider community and ask how we, as individuals and worshipping communities, can partner with other people. This might look like supporting a warm space in a different community building; or being involved with young people in uniformed organisations which already exist; or working with the local charity with expertise in a particular field. And in all our partnering and ‘with’ we are called to be confident in the living out of our faith as we seek to love God and neighbour, and long for people of all ages and backgrounds to encounter life in all its fulness as offered us in Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for so much that is provided in this diocese in terms of training and equipping as we seek to grow in the way we live our ‘with’ as we abide in Jesus Christ.

On that note, I am delighted that The Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar will be our new Director of Mission and Ministry after acting as the Interim Director for the past ten months.

And finally, please do encourage people in your worshipping communities to sign up for this weekly Bulletin as well as the range of newsletters and updates which are produced regarding children, young people and families; education; safeguarding and the weekly WhatsApp message. It is not about bombarding people with information, but rather ensuring that people don’t miss out on something which might resonate with their gifts, interests and experiences.

This comes with my thanks and prayers as ever.

+ Rachel




[1] A heart for justice: Faith and the prisons system 2022

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