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


Solidarity in the face of malevolence

mattThis week has been so sad with the terrible, unnecessary loss of lives, and great pain brought about in Paris by those who wish to impose their will upon others through intimidation and violence.  A friend of mine, a Parisian now living in Somerset, summed it up in a simple text when I asked how her and her family were – “I’m heart sick”.

 But this tragedy has also shown the goodness, and caring side of this world, with many more people from around the globe rallying in their support for the people of Paris than those few who inflicted it.  In a world that so often seems full of hatred, it’s easy to miss the acts of kindness that happen every day. 

There is little more that can be said which hasn’t already been written by others, and I fear that this will not be the end of the terrorism that has plagued the world during the beginning of this century.  But what we can do is show solidarity for each other, treating our neighbours, friends, work colleagues and even strangers in the street with the respect and kindness that we would want shown to ourselves.  Showing those who want to bully and threaten us, either through physical or subversive means that love is ultimately stronger than hate.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.  It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13

Matthew Brunt, Diocesan Management Accountant



Love in a Time of Terror

Robbin ClarkIn the wake of the horrific shootings in Tunisia and Charleston, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dynamics of hate and fear and how they are related to violence. Two driven individuals gunned down numbers of their fellow human beings in the name of a perverted ideology, one of race and one of religion/culture. Many of us identify with those folks who were gunned down randomly while they were simply enjoying a holiday or attending a bible study group. We feel vulnerable and afraid.

Scripture (1 John 4.18) teaches that “Perfect love casts out fear.” As Christians, we are commanded to love others with the same love that Jesus has for us. It’s hard enough to love in that open and self-giving way when we are feeling safe and appreciated, much less when we feel uncertain or threatened and afraid. That’s why it is so striking that St John says that love is the best weapon to drive fears away. That means loving while we’re afraid on order not to be ruled by that fear.

Fear all too easily casts out love and replaces it with a dehumanising hatred that soon leads to violence.  Ideologies built on such hatred can never lead to the peaceful bridging of differences. Jesus’ kind of love reaches out in care and concern to the “other”, the one who is different, the one we may even have been taught to hate or fear. We must avoid and oppose hate-based ideologies, but never by adopting their tactics. Our aim must always be to become perfected in love and thus freed from fear.

The Revd Canon Robbin Clark, Dean of Women Clergy