Message from Bishop Rachel, 31 January 2023

Published: Tuesday January 31, 2023

Bishop RachelOn Thursday of this week it will be 40 days since Christmas and we mark the Feast of the Presentation, often referred to as Candlemas, when we recall Christ being presented in the Temple in Jerusalem and proclaimed by Simeon as the light for all nations (Luke 2:22-40).

That seems particularly poignant as once more we see scenes of violence, unrest, hatred and division in Israel Palestine, not least in Jerusalem, and we cry out for the light to shine in the darkness. We particularly pray for our Christian brothers and sisters to be strengthened in their faith and lives as they seek to share the love and light of Jesus Christ.

Closer to home, this week sees the installation outside the Cathedral of the Knife Angel – an enormous sculpture created from over 100,000 seized blades, and which aims to raise awareness of all aspects of violence.

I’m sure it will have a big impact on those who come to see it as it starkly confronts us with the shocking reality of knife crime and violence, not only far away but within our local communities. I also hope that rather than people simply decrying crime and violence, it will urge us to look upstream at what contributes to the struggles and breakdown of relationship in people’s lives, and that we will continue to reflect on how we, as individuals, chaplaincies, parish churches, pioneers etc, live the light of Christ.

I celebrate the way people across the Diocese are endeavouring to engage with children, young people, adults and families in ways which offer places of justice, support and  loving relationship, connecting with people’s joys and struggles, and I was glad to be able to reflect on this a little when I met with the Prisons’ Minister last week. It was then a privilege on Friday to host a small lunch for our wonderful Honorary Assistant Bishops, which was planned, prepared and served by young adults in recovery from addiction, and to hear stories of transformation in their lives.

Tomorrow morning I will be hosting a breakfast gathering of community and statutory leaders from across the Diocese to reflect on how we use our power and influence to be people of hope. There will be people there of faith and no faith, yet, for me, central to any conversation about hope is the light of Christ and my desire for every child, young person and adult to encounter Christ for themselves, just as the elderly Simeon and Anna did amid struggle, longing and bereavement.

The breakfast gathering is being held at The Music Works in Gloucester. The charity works with hundreds of young people each year to enable them to develop confidence and self-worth and improve their life-chances by engaging them through music. Indeed, it is one of the charities which will benefit from our Episcopal collections this year.

Alongside the Knife Angel, The Music Works has been working with young people whose lives have been impacted by the issues raised by the sculpture, and visitors to the latter can also visit a stunning installation in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral called ‘Lights Out’. It involves light and powerful audio content from the young people.

As the Knife Angel comes to Gloucester, I am reminded of Simeon’s words to Mary that one day a sword will pierce her soul. There would come that day of Christ’s crucifixion, and the mother would see her son cruelly tortured to death. Yet three days later came the day of Christ’s resurrection, powerfully and mysteriously revealing that the darkness can never put out the light of Christ.

It is my hope that the huge sad figure of the Knife Angel will not only raise questions around light and darkness; hope and despair; and life and death, but that it might also inspire people to join in with God’s work of transformation in our local contexts.

With my thanks and prayers,

+ Rachel



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