The Big Mission Weekend, a look back

Published: Friday May 31, 2024

Friday 24 May

Farmers’ breakfast: North Cotswolds

Archbishop Justin started the weekend off tucking into breakfast with farmers in the North Cotswolds.

Over bacon rolls and croissants, they talked about managing farm lands in balance with creation and the importance of talking about wellbeing and mental health.

The Archbishop shared how depression had had an impact on his own family. He explained that community is hugely important to allow people to talk about mental health and reach out for help.

The Revd Canon Craig Bishop asked him some quickfire questions and the Archbishop picked sunrise over sunset and Clarkson over Countryfile.

School children sitting cross legged on the floor. The Archbishop is speaking at the front.Worship at St Matthew’s, Cainscross: Stroud

Next stop was a visit to a couple of our wonderful Church of England Schools, starting with St Matthew’s Cainscross where Archbishop Justin got the chance to learn some iSingPop worship song actions.

Headteacher Shelly Collins said, “It has been such a privilege for us to show how the school is making links with the local community, really living out our vision of ‘with love and faith, we aspire and achieve’.

“The Archbishop was so down to earth and clearly enjoyed taking part in the Q&A and spent time speaking to the children during the whole school picnic. This visit has given the school such a buzz, and we will remember Archbishop Justin, his openness and kindness for a very long time.”

Archbishop Justin stands with his hands clasped in front of him, in front of a screen where a scene with water is showing

Reflections on the Good Samaritan with children at Randwick School: Stroud

Archbishop Justin was invited to join children as they learned about the Good Samaritan and reflect on what the story tells us about God. This term, the children have been focusing on the value of courage.

In the year 4’s Philosophy for Children lesson, with Ms Newbold, the children studied the story of the Good Samaritan, considering whether it was the Samaritan’s responsibility to stop and help an injured man that he came across along the road.

Although they decided that there were lots of people who were in a position to help the man, the Archbishop encouraged the children to approach the story with an attitude of compassion. He suggested that you should always consider whether you yourself might be able to help and if you can’t, to think about someone who can.

The volunteer team wearing apronsThe Shop on the Common, Amberley: Stroud

A thriving community shop and café situated inside Holy Trinity Church at Amberley was officially opened by Archbishop Justin Welby. The shop has been running for 10 months, but this was the official opening day.

The Archbishop praised the work of the volunteers, saying,“Churches should not be places to be used for 2 hours a week, but for the use of the whole community.”

When Amberley Village Shop Post Office closed seven years ago, the community shop and café project began.  Archbishop Justin met with volunteers, learned how to serve a latte and named the balcony the John Spiers gallery, after the late vicar who died in January. His widow Doreen was able to be with the Archbishop as they took a moment to remember John’s service to the community in Amberley.

Archbishop Justin was also reunited with Daphne, a lady who went to school with his late mother.

Read more about the Amberley project here.

Archbishop Justin smiles at a boy wearing a Watermoor School uniformEvening Prayer at St John Baptist, Cirencester

The Archbishop and the Bishops joined the service of Evening Prayer at St John Baptist in Cirencester this evening as part of our Big Mission Weekend.

This service takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is open to everyone.

Local community partners, including Andrew Tubb, the Chief Executive of Cirencester Town Council, Bernie Harding who manages the Hope Project, Cirencester and Kim Whyard, Chair of Churches Together in Cirencester joined the worship.

The headteacher of Watermoor School, Lois Smith and the headteacher of Powells School, Helen Cooper, together with children from the schools also attended.

Enjoying the Long Table hospitalityThe team with flourescent jackets in the sunshineThe Grace Network: Stroud

The first day of the Big Mission Weekend finished with around 400 supporters and staff of the Grace Network at a party at Brimscombe Mill, Stroud.

The Archbishop had the chance to meet staff from The Bike Drop and to sample the fantastic Long Table food. He also had a tour of the Grace Network’s new venue which is a work in progress, but the vision for the project is phenomenal. A new economy based on Christian justice and inclusion.

Bishop Rachel led a Q&A on ‘Radical hospitality’ with Archbishop Justin.

Read more about the Grace Network here.

Saturday 25 May

The Archbishop puts orange segments onto a fruit kebabMessy Church at St Paul and St Stephen Church: Gloucester

Messy Church has been meeting at St Paul and St Stephen’s Church in Gloucester for more than 10 years and is a thriving part of the community’s worship.

Families turned out in force for an action packed time of crafts, singing, prayer, food and friendship which they invited the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Rachel along to as part of the Big Mission Weekend.

There were 7 crafts on the theme of ‘Telling the good news’ and Archbishop Justin was even able to make himself a new mitre (hat) to wear as he went around the activities.

The children took the chance to pray for the Archbishop as he set off on a prayer walk around Gloucester, using the worship song I am walking for the Lord.

A group of people take selfies with the Archbishop in front of the Robert Raikes statuePrayer walk: Gloucester

Archbishop Justin and Bishop Rachel went on a prayer walk around Gloucester, meeting PCSOs in Gloucester Park, chatting to volunteers and skaters at Gloucester Skate Project and praying over all the relationships and community work happening.

Each year, the Skate Project volunteers try to do one thing to make the park a better place.

There was a stop at Wholly Gelato, a Christian family run ice cream business with a shop in the Gloucester Food Dock, where Archbishop Justin was hugely impressed with the quality of both the ice cream and the coffee, as well as the welcome.

The Wholly Gelato familyThe final stop was at The Clean Plate, a community café which has been set up by a group of people in recovery from addiction to create an alcohol- free space for those who want to socialise away from alcohol. The group shared stories of their history and the support of the Nelson Trust.

“Trauma can be overwhelming, but the Nelson Trust have the heart to hold hope. People who experience trauma shroud it in shame and silence. The Nelson Trust dilutes that shame and helps to build self esteem again.”

Bishop Rachel defiantly raises her dunked biscuit to the ArchbishopSmall Ships Steampunk Pirate Festival: Gloucester

Archbishop Justin and Bishop Rachel had a ball at the Small Ships Festival. It’s the little sister of the iconic Gloucester Tall Ships Festival, where steam punk aficionados gather in bright and colourful costumes to celebrate.

It was a celebration of early 19th century science fiction, “pure imagination, mixing the sublime and the ridiculous”.

Bishop Rachel and Archbishop Justin got quite competitive with the biscuit dunk off during the traditional tea duelling and teapot racing and the small boat race.

The Steampunks of Gloucester are working with Lightspeed Photography, supporting mental health and Art Shape, supporting adults with disabilities, across all their events for the year.

Watching the footballSportily community fun day: Gloucester

Big crowds turned out with the sun for the Sportily community fun day at Innsworth Community Junior School.

“Fluff it. Duff it. Score it. Smash it. Whatever you do, just give it a go,” is the Sportily moto and people were living that out all over the field.

From axe throwing and sumo wrestling, to bouncy castles and rounders, there were loads of activities to try out. Families had to track down the volunteers wearing sparkly lanyards and speak to them about what they enjoyed in their role.

Volunteers handed out free cakes and drinks and a big football session happened at one end of the field.

Sportily works in 14 locations across the Diocese of Gloucester, with around 1,100 people taking part in their activities each week. Research shows that sports ministry can act as a context for faith exploration, discovery and worship and this is something that is growing locally.

Church Housing Association visit: Gloucester

Hearing about the housing association's work

The Diocese of Gloucester has worked closely with the Church Housing Association in a bid to make good the recommendations in the Coming Home Report. At present the Church Housing Association is working with Bromford to buy 7 affordable 3-4 bed homes which should be ready for occupation in summer 2025.

The Archbishop was shown around the plots and looked at some completed homes in the same style.

He also met some of Bromford’s Neighbourhood coaches – Bromford employs a Neighbourhood Coach for every 175 homes who in Innsworth will work closely with Sportily workers.

Meeting housing need for the poorest and most marginalised is integral to the mission of the church. The Church Housing Foundation is a key part of the Church of England’s response to the housing crisis.

You can find out more about the Church Housing Association here.

You can see more about the Diocese of Gloucester’s work on providing suitable housing here.

A man in a cap sits and stares into spaceWorship at The Rock, Cheltenham

A quiet and reflective evening service took us into Saturday evening with young people from The Rock and Fabric, two youth mission networks in West Cheltenham.

Fabric is a youth minister project, coordinated by Trinity Cheltenham, to plant and support youth work in churches without any provision and encourage others through worship gatherings and training.

The Rock works to bring God’s hope, purpose and connection to young people, especially those impacted by exclusion, disadvantage or vulnerability.

The prayer spaces used for worship are regular features of the local ministry to local schools and to the young people who attend The Rock.

Bishop Robert chats to guests

Partners’ dinner at St Philip and St James, Leckhampton: Cheltenham

Some of the church and community people and organisations that we work with across the diocese and beyond were invited to a partnership dinner on Saturday evening.
Bishop Rachel interviewed Archbishop Justin about his faith and about working in partnership.

Sunday 26 May

Archbishop meeting lots of young peopleWorship at Tutshill: Forest of Dean

The Archbishop joined the worshipping community at Tutshill for a service that included many personal stories of the transformation that faith can make in lives.

From Rosalind who found comfort in her church community when she was left as a single parent to young triplets, to Guy and Karyna, a Ukrainian and a British person who met at a Ukrainian Support Hub, the community bears witness to the power of God’s love.

The gathered worshippers heard about the Wellbeing Project which seeks to support people’s physical, emotional, psychological, relation and spiritual needs.

Lots of people from community groups also turned out for this exciting day, from the Rainbows, St John’s Ambulance, the Police, GPs and health professionals, young people who have recently been confirmed and representatives from the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA).

Lunch and conversation in Blakeney: Forest of Dean

Archbishop Justin and Bishop Rachel met with the worshipping community in Blakeney and some friends to pray over the village as the church considers and listens to what God might have in store for them in the coming years.

Archbishop Justin joined in with a listening process to try to discern their next steps, prayed a blessing over them and enjoyed fellowship and company.



Big smiles 2Celebration Diocesan Cathedral Eucharist: Whole diocese

The Cathedral was full for a joyful service as we came to the end of our Diocesan Big Mission Weekend.

The Archbishop spoke from the heart, without notes, telling of the people and places that he had encountered over this spirit-filled Bank Holiday weekend in the Diocese of Gloucester.

He talked of people finding their hope and their strength in times of trouble through faith and through the love God seen through the people around them.

You can read his sermon here Archbishop of Canterbury transcript or watch the video of the service below.


You can find more stories and photos on our social media posts and also on the News pages of the diocesan website.

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