Candlemas reflection

Bishop Rachel Inside Out West

Godly and human encounter marked by love and grace

2 February 2016: Candlemas

As we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the temple (Luke 2.22-38) we see human and Godly encounter lived out in Simeon and Anna as they greet the Holy family and then Jesus is proclaimed as the light for all people. There is prayer and wisdom; and there is encounter between people, and between people and God – as they see anew and listen afresh.

Whilst I reflect on recent weeks and look to the year ahead, I have found myself viewing the January meeting of the Anglican Primates through the lens of Simeon’s emphatic recognition of Jesus Christ as the light for all people.  Amidst the difficult and important discussions regarding doctrine (and in this case, specifically the doctrine of marriage) I am glad that the Primates acknowledged publicly that the churches of the Anglican Communion have often caused deep hurt in the way they have acted towards others on the basis of their sexual orientation.  I want to personally express my pain and sorrow when as individuals, or as a Church, now and in the past, we have acted and spoken in ways which have wounded deeply and expressed rejection. I want to wholeheartedly endorse the expression of profound sorrow and the Primates’ statement that “… God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the Church should never by its actions give any other impression”.  I am grateful that in the commitment to explore deep differences, the Primates have exhorted us that those differences should be held ‘in the love and grace of Christ’.

As I come towards the end of my initial visits to each of our deaneries, I am immensely grateful for the love and grace I have found within this Diocese.  I pray that our own striving for encounter with God, and each other, will be the hallmark of 2016, together with a strong emphasis on prayer and mutual conversation.

May I encourage each of us to make prayer a priority this Lent – as we look upwards and seek God’s wisdom just as Simeon and Anna did.  In particular, I would ask that all of us concentrate our attention on listening to God in those days between Ascension and Pentecost (5 May to 15 May).  This intentional attentiveness in prayer is needed to prepare the ground for a renewed emphasis on holy conversation: Human encounter with our eyes focused on God.  The period that follows – from Pentecost to mid-July – will be a time for as many people as possible across the Diocese to take part in the conversations through which we will discern and shape the key priorities for the next stage of our journey together.  The plan is that these shared and focused priorities will be launched in Advent 2016.

My hope is that this commitment to prayer and conversation – Godly and human encounter – will continue to permeate our journeying together in many different ways. The July sessions of General Synod will be shaped around shared conversations concerning scripture, mission and human sexuality. By that time every region in the Church of England will have participated in a national programme of shared conversation and I am extremely grateful to those delegates who attended the gathering for the South West in April 2015. Diocesan Synod will be receiving a report from them at the February meeting. Furthermore, the group is already preparing resources and information to support us as we encourage people across the Diocese to engage in our own shared conversations regarding human sexuality following General Synod in July.  Clearly, those elected to General Synod will be playing a key role with the Bishops as the Church of England discerns the way forward in the coming months and years.  Please do pray for us all.

I end by reflecting that Simeon’s words to Mary and Joseph encourage the Holy Family to live their lives within a framework of love and hope – not of fear.  So as we mark this coming Candlemas and turn from the crib to the cross, may love and grace be written on our hearts and in our minds as we commit ourselves to Godly and human encounter in 2016 – and in the years to follow.

By the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek



Is that bacon sandwich worth it?

Antibiotics – life-saving, cheap but under immense threat. The recent news that bacteria resistant to Colistin, the antibiotic of last resort, have been found in the UK brings the post-antibiotic age ever closer.

Colistin-resistant bacteria were found in three UK pig farms and others across the world. The first cases in China were thought to have been caused by overuse of antibiotics.  Factory-farmed animals are often routinely fed antibiotics to keep them healthy in over-crowded compounds. However, UK vets have now updated prescribing guidelines to restrict the use of Colistin in animals.

Pigs are believed to have the same level of intelligence as a three-year-old child. They have been found to have a complex language of grunts and squeaks and thrive in social groups, touching snouts in the same way that we would shake hands.

But their treatment when farmed intensively is not always fitting for a creature of this intelligence. Around 55 percent of sows produced in the UK have to give birth while confined in a crate and remain there until their litter is weaned. Around 9 million pigs are slaughtered each year in the UK… 9 million. To me, it seems disturbingly callous to produce meat from these mammals who are capable of love, loyalty and reasoning.

I am by no means an expert in this field and I know that there are many passionate, conscientious and ethical farmers. It still remains that scientists seem largely in agreement of the massive strain that large scale meat production places on the environment.  In this country, we have sufficient sources of nutrients to make the eating of meat a luxury rather than a necessity. Something to think about.

See the Compassion in World Farming website for more information about this issue.

By Katherine Clamp, Communications Officer.

The celebrities we know and love…

At the beginning of the week we heard of the death of David Bowie, a huge and sad celebrity news story.  Tributes poured in for this creative, gifted, albeit rather quirky individual.  It seems he made an enormous impact on more than a generation.

A number of other, much smaller, celebrity news stories also caught my eye this last week or so.  The engagement of Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch, the break up of both Gary Linekar’s and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini’s (formerly Cole) marriage and Prince George starting nursery school.  Many column inches and comment have been, and will continue to be, dedicated to these events and all of us, however interested or not we are, will probably find ourselves passing some kind of comment or judgement.

It is interesting to note that celebrities tend to do many of the things that everyone else does – starting nursery school, announcing an engagement or divorce, even dying.  These are the everyday things of human life.  Not that they are meaningless, quite the opposite, but they are things many of us will experience and yet, for those in the public eye, these normal life events are accompanied by criticism, comment, discussion, questions etc.   Although we think we know these celebrities, we actually have no idea about their lives, and yet we, and the media, feel in a position to comment.  It is all to easy to judge, to make assumptions, to comment strongly – both in favour or against – about someone or a situation we have little or no real idea about.

As I finished writing this I read a report that David Bowie was cremated quietly and privately, with no service or memorial, family or friends, shortly after his death.  I have no idea if this is true but apparently it was at his request and maybe it was his way of trying to limit the comment and speculation about him, his family, or his wishes.  Of course, it is quite possible it will have the opposite effect!

The Revd Rachel Rosborough, Rector of Bourton on the Water with Clapton and the Rissingtons

Happy New Trees

Cate Williams

Cate Williams

With the flooding in the news, articles have been circulating once more reminding us of the value of trees.   While there are many reasons for the recent flooding, as well as for others in previous years, the lack of trees in our uplands is a significant factor, often forgotten among the talk of lowland flood protection schemes.  Trees are significant in preventing both flooding and drought.  Their roots take water deep down into the aquifers, preserving water in the soil for when it is needed in the summer.  Taking the water down deep prevents it running across the surface and overloading our river systems.  It is a win-win.  All we need is trees.

Flooding on this scale reminds us that we can’t live as if we can control nature without consequences.  We are created for an interdependence with nature which is in fact a joy as well as a responsibility.  Significant research has shown an increase in human wellbeing when connected to nature.  Yet so often we act as if humanity can stand alone and as if care for nature is an optional extra as a Christian.

A good starting place is to make a point of noticing what is around us in nature.  Much of the rest follows as our thankfulness increases and so too our desire to live in a healthy relationship with God’s non-human creation.  In the meantime, our prayers are with those affected by recent flooding as well as the policy makers who will be considering options to prevent future events.

By the Revd Cate Williams, Mission and Evangelism Officer