A Church equipped for support

helen 2I am currently involved in helping to coordinate the vision process for the Diocese of Gloucester and have been thinking a lot about one of the three questions Bishop Rachel is asking the Diocese: What is my dream or vision for the Church in this Diocese in five years’ time? It’s a tough but thought-provoking question, however an encounter I had last Sunday helped me to focus more clearly on what an answer might be.

A kind lady who I know quite well told me that she has recently been diagnosed with dementia. It came as a real shock and I was disappointed in the inadequate way I responded. The look in her eyes is one I will never forget.  I was left feeling anxious and wanting to know and learn more about the condition so that it didn’t become a barrier when I meet her or others in a similar situation again.

This encounter struck a chord with me in helping me to glimpse my hope for the Church, where we are made aware of and are equipped to embrace and support those whom we know and those whom we encounter in our daily lives. Areas of the Church of England are already working in this area. A good friend of mine is a Dementia Support Worker serving in the Diocese of Lichfield. Lichfield Diocese is encouraging people to become ‘dementia friends’ helping to change the lives of those suffering dementia to begin ‘living well’ with dementia.

For where I am on my faith journey this ‘equipping’ element is about faith in action, enabling me to encounter well with all who I meet both inside and outside of church. I have a hope to belong to a Church where we are deeply committed to people at all stages of life, so that as we face both joy and adversity together, we each grow richer for the shared experience.

By Helen Richardson, Assistant Diocesan Secretary


Reigning and Serving

Andrew BraddockThe nation has offered its congratulations to the Queen as she celebrates her 90th birthday. Staunch republican and labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was glad to add his good wishes, while not being drawn on his views on the monarchy.

For the Church of England the relationship with the Queen is twofold as both head of state and supreme governor of the Church. In Elizabeth II we have a sovereign whose own personal faith in God and commitment to following the way of Christ has been, by her own admission, a guide and inspiration throughout her life. Consequently her strong sense of duty and service is not only a response to her role as head of state, but a recognition that she is called to serve God as well as the nation and Commonwealth.

The Queen therefore provides a very particular understanding of responsibility. At one level, as critics of the monarchy will highlight, she has not had to earn her position. It is an accident of birth and history. The basis of her authority is royal succession not popular mandate.

Yet the Queen is also aware, not least through the times of crisis in her reign, that while her responsibilities are inherited, loyalty, affection and trust have to be won and cannot be assumed.

The Queen therefore carries three inter-locking responsibilities – to the nation, to God, and to the institution of the monarchy itself. The hidden strength of the Queen’s life is that she has woven together this trinity of responsibilities at the heart of her own sense of vocation throughout the last ninety years.

Andrew Braddock, Director of Mission and Ministry, Diocese of Gloucester

Little changes, bigger picture

FullSizeRenderThis week I’ve been watching the BBC One programme, How to Stay Young. The programme began with a physical test you can do to get an estimate of how long you will live – you have to sit down on the floor and get up again. Each time you touch the floor, with a knee, elbow etc, you lose one of an initial ten points. The test can be used to predict when you might die. The programme went on to explore various ways to reduce your ‘body age’, the health of your physical body: dancing, a vegetarian/vegan diet, reducing stress and a positive attitude are all suggested as ways to improve longevity.

None of these things seems like a particularly onerous task, so is it such a struggle to take the simple steps that we all know will make us healthier? Instead of taking the time to cycle to work, dancing with our children and cooking simple and wholesome food, we rush around, cramming in more and more activities; shopping trips, cinema visits, meals out…

Many changes that are truly better for our well-being as an individual end up being better for society and better for our planet:

  • Cutting your meat intake is better for your body, for animal welfare and cuts down on deforestation, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reducing your car use means more exercise, improves local social interaction and burns less fossil fuel.
  • Buying fewer things is better for our pockets, means we do less housework to take care of our possessions and means we throw away less.

The list goes on.

The fast pace of life can be fun and entertaining, but do we need to slow down a little? What if we chose to spend more time at home with friends or family? Chose to stop loading on stress by chasing the promotion and enjoy the job we have? Chose to walk, listening to birdsong and spotting the spring flowers instead of whizzing past in the car? Chose to swap the meat-heavy takeaway for a simple homemade lentil soup?

What choice could you make today that can help the bigger picture?

Domestic abuse, an every day story?

Judith KnightEverybody knows that after months away from The Archers – Radio 4’s daily soap – re-entry is accomplished within a couple of episodes because nothing ever happens. That is, everybody except the devotees.

The committed listener can tell you that the storyline has been littered with fatal fires, tragic accidents, floods, Bovine TB, bankruptcies, new ventures, love triangles, gambling husbands, problem teenagers, rape, racism, dementia, breast cancer, civil partnership and even the media’s first woman vicar. And now, domestic abuse.

Over the past two years, the chilling story of Helen Titchener’s emotional and physical abuse by her husband Rob, has been slow and consistent. He is manipulative, and controlling. He has succeeded in isolating Helen, honing in on her weaknesses; making her question her own ability to cope; criticising her; bullying her young son.

We have listened to a strong-willed woman being broken down to an anxious shell of her former self; a frozen woman who can only make phone calls to her best friend in secret; who has to buy clothes from a charity shop; who is not allowed to drive, chose her own food, or even chose where her baby will be born.

Its been disturbing and claustrophobic. We are left yelling at the radio for Helen to leave, can’t she see what is happening to her ?

Women’s Aid and Refuge charities that have encouraged and advised on this story line, with experiences from survivors of domestic abuse, will say that stories like Helen and Rob are all too common – and from all walks of life and communities.

For the thousands of Helen’s out there, the outcomes of their stories are hugely complex. For Helen Titchener, her story line has prompted discussions on TV and Radio, on Twitter and Facebook; in offices, and in churches – people are really talking about the issue and being made more aware.

An every day story? For many this is their every day story. But for those of us still yelling at the radio, the Archers has helped us understand that domestic abuse is very complex.


Judith Knight
Head of HR and Safeguarding
Diocese of Gloucester


The Art of Conversation

Ruth FitterIn a week where the government warned about the lack of language skills in our children and an experiment by Microsoft to see how an artificial intelligence called ‘Tay’ could learn how to tweet from the comments that were posted by others came to prominence, the art of conversation has been upper most in my mind.

Or rather, should I say, the lack of it.

Our children are losing out in developing their language skills as less time is taken to talk face-to-face with one another. Language development needs not only aural skills but visual cues too.

As for Tay, ‘she’ began with a handful of innocuous tweets but has now had to be taken ‘off-line’ for a stream of anti-Semitic, racist and sexist invective as it repeated back insults hurled its way by other Twitter users.

What has happened to conversation? The art of telling story? The wonder of developing language that we might attempt to describe the deepest mysteries of life with one another?

On Easter Sunday Mary is charged by the risen Christ to run and tell the good news to the disciples. Nowadays, Mary might have posted it on Facebook or tweeted to let them know, but there is nothing that will ever beat a face-to-face conversation. Christ calls Mary by name. God wants us to be in personal relationship with him and others. ‘Tweets’, ‘posts’ and ‘likes’ have their place in our world but only when used for positive good. If you do one thing this week make sure you sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with someone. Please.