The Great British Bake Off – our mission field?

Rachel Howie - square.jpgWatching contestants checking for soggy bottoms and sitting on the floor peering anxiously into ovens is not everyone’s idea of gripping television entertainment – but in our house it is. Absolutely, totally, utterly! Each Wednesday for an hour we rejoice together at successful signature bakes, anxiously await the outcome of technical challenges and celebrate spectacular show stoppers. It brings us together as a family from behind our respective screens and into a shared experience where we have a common vocabulary – not always the case in a household with two teenagers. We talk together about the bakes we’d each like to try and have high hopes for having a go at some of them in the coming week. It leads us into conversations about all sorts of things that at any other time would usually elicit disinterest at best. Food definitely brings us together.

Meals are a powerful expression of welcome and friendship in every culture. Meals are more than food – they’re social occasions that represent friendship, community, welcome. As well as preaching, teaching and healing, Jesus did a lot of eating. It’s not an accident that at the heart of what it means to be the church, the way Jesus told us to remember Him, is a meal.

A friend of mine talks about wearing her ‘God goggles’ wherever she is to spot opportunities to meet people where they are and engage with them, build relationships and share her faith.  She’s bold and gregarious in her evangelism. For those of us a little more reserved the kitchen table or picnic blanket may be a great place to start.

By Rachel Howie, Director of Education & CEO of DGAT


Romantic Meetings

stephen-bowen-square-for-webI’m retiring soon, so I’m in reflective mode. And I had a thought. How much of my life in business and the church have I spent in meetings?  Weeks, months, years! I shuddered. Having lived through a technology revolution, you’d assume we spend less time in meetings. I’m sure in the future someone will write a book about why we spent so much of our lives in meetings, just like we wonder how our forebears spent long hours working in factories.

So my heart warmed to revelations in ‘The Times’ about the late French President Mitterrand’s conduct at meetings. While his fellow European leaders were discussing budgets, he had more important matters on his mind – love. He wrote to his beloved, recalling her phone call that morning. ‘Your voice on the phone was so clear, so light, so winged, that joy entered in gusts through the window’. The next day he wrote, ‘I am writing during the council meeting. Mrs Thatcher is getting ready for the fray, tension reigns behind the friendly atmosphere.’ And at midnight after a 10 hour meeting, ‘It does me so good to write to you. I would like to love you so much better’.

Penning love letters during a meeting? Without the chair noticing? How romantic and mischievous!

It’s good to know that our leaders are as human as we are. And it just goes to show that as the Beatles sang and Jesus taught, there’s something more important than meetings, to love and know we are loved.

By the Revd Canon Stephen Bowen, Community Canon, Gloucester Cathedral

What impact does wildlife tourism have?

FullSizeRenderThe drama around the gorilla that escaped from its enclosure at London Zoo left visitors shocked this week. And it is one of a number of recent close encounters with wild animals which has worried the public. Think back to the child photographed in the rhino enclosure at Dublin Zoo and the Cincinnati gorilla who was shot when a boy fell into his pen.  When wild animals come into close contact with humans, there will always be an element of risk.

Advocates of zoos argue that they save endangered species and educate the public, and indeed some do amazing work in rehabilitation of animals and caring for unwanted pets. However, they inevitably have limitations. In 2014, a healthy two-year-old giraffe living at Copenhagen Zoo was killed and fed to the lions because the zoo could not find a suitable place for him to live.

Earlier this week, the world’s largest travel review site, Tripadvisor, took the decision to no longer sell tickets to attractions where travellers come into physical contact with captive, wild or endangered animals. They are also going to introduce an education portal with information on animal welfare practices and advice and opinion from conservation charities.

Some tourists might be surprised to learn about the stress animals experience when they are forced to take part in being ridden, swimming with humans or being photographed. Our misconceptions about animals often lead us to believe our actions are without consequence. For many years, it was thought that goldfish only had a three second memory and they were therefore suited to being kept in tiny bowls as pets. In recent research at St Andrew’s University, fish were able to recall information for up to five months.

The more that we learn about other species, the more we discover about their social networks, their language, their culture… the more our responsibility to our fellow creatures becomes clear.

By Katherine Clamp, Senior Communications Officer for the Diocese of Gloucester

What Libraries can do for Churches


In this season of Beckyconferences, I thought I would share a key message from a conference I went to last week.  This was the triennial conference of the Cathedral Libraries and Archives Association.  We were studying how the Cathedrals can help and support the mission and worship of Cathedrals, and this could be relevant to parishes too.  How do you use the heritage of your building to provide a new way to start conversations about the Christian message and the life and work of the Church?

As Cathedral Archivist I have in my care some wonderful items from the past of the Cathedral, for example a Victorian copy of Piers Plowman, Archbishop Laud’s backgammon set and a relic of the stake at which Bishop Hooper was burnt. These items bring to life the humans who were involved in major historical changes in our church.  Whenever we open the library for tours, items such as these and our historic books bring new people into our wonderful Cathedral, and help them to connect with the story of our faith’s past.  I am looking forward to working more on this use of the historic collection of the Cathedral in future.  What have you got within your Church that could be used in this way to bring the non-religious and the non-believing into your building on their own terms?

If you would like to visit the Library, there are still a few tickets available here for our last public tours this year – Saturday 8 October at 11am, 12noon, 2pm and 3pm.

By Rebecca Phillips, Trust & Pastoral Officer