Yesterday’s gospel reading for Holy Communion was Matthew 13: 31-35 in which Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed that is sown in a field and grows into an enormous tree.
It is a powerful image and led me to reflect on how these past few months have in many ways been a season of small things which have grown large. A tiny virus has grown into something huge, which has had a devastating impact across the world. Yet we have also seen small acts of love, justice and kindness which have grown into something beautiful and life-giving.
Jesus’ parable speaks of something small growing into something enormous and yet it is not primarily about celebrating size, but rather celebrating what that growth enables as the birds of the air find their home in the tree’s branches. When the Kingdom of God is experienced there is generous hospitality, inclusivity and belonging. Here is community.
As we move into August, Bishop Robert and I want to say thank you for all the small seeds of the Kingdom that have been planted in many different ways and places across this diocese and indeed the world, not least in relationships with our partner dioceses. We continue to pray for God to water that seed in the weeks and months ahead.
Rest and relaxation is also frequently made up of small things. This August may we take time to notice the small things of beauty and life, and take time to enjoy what we too often dismiss as insignificant. The goodness of small things can lead to new growth in our lives as we find ourselves discovering more of what it means to enter into life in all its fullness, and as we go on becoming the people God has called us to be individually and together.
This comes with continued thanks and prayers.
New Chair of Gloucester Diocesan Board of Finance
Karen Czapiewski has been elected as the new Chair of the Gloucester DBF. Many of you will know and have worked with Karen in her role as Diocesan Lay Chair or her various roles in Cirencester deanery, including her home parish of Kemble. She lectures in Business and Enterprise at the RAU and is also a local magistrate.
Ben Preece Smith, Diocesan Secretary said, "We are delighted she has agreed to share some of her many talents and gifts in this important diocesan role."
Relevant FAQs have been added and updated to reflect these documents.
Bishop Rachel’s advice on face coverings in worship.
The House of Bishops’ Recovery Group has published advice on face coverings which reflects Government guidance encouraging the wearing of face masks "in enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet".
It is important to note that it is advice and not mandatory and, as at all times, worshipping communities will be aiming to make gatherings as safe as possible whilst also ensuring that they are places of welcome and inclusivity. People need to be encouraged to be as responsible as possible in protecting those around them so that confidence can be strengthened, whilst also bearing in mind that people covering their faces can make communication difficult and heighten anxiety for some people. There will also be people who do not wish to cover their faces for personal and health-related reasons.
When considering who should or should not be wearing a face covering when participating in the leading of worship, I would encourage careful consideration of the 2 Ds: Droplets and Distance. Visors/face shields will only prevent forward droplet projection and if used when presiding it will be important that the elements are kept covered. When distributing communion (and thus being in close proximity to people) only a face mask which fits tightly over nose and mouth will prevent droplets.
If people are presiding, preaching, leading intercessions or reading, they need to be aware that droplet projection will go at least 2m. In a large building such as Gloucester Cathedral or Tewkesbury Abbey the congregation can be seated some distance from those leading worship at the front, therefore those leading intercessions or reading may not need to cover their mouths and this will aid communication and audibility. When considering droplet transmission it might be helpful to keep in mind the 3m distancing advice for singing, wind and brass in the performing arts guidance. However, if those presiding, preaching, reading and praying are in close proximity to people, then it is advisable to tightly cover the nose and mouth. Clear and accentuated articulation will be a necessity.
In all of this it is helpful if people leading and those present, understand what face coverings are and are not doing. This will also help people engage with good mask hygiene. This is where the 2 Fs come in: Faces and Fingers. Whenever fingers go near a face they need to be washed or sanitised.
The Church of England advice regarding mask hygiene is here.
It is important that people are not touching face coverings with fingers that have not been washed or sanitised immediately prior to putting on the covering. Likewise, people should not be touching anything after removing a face covering without washing or sanitising hands first.
If people simply get fixated on whether or not the nose and mouth is covered there will potentially be lots of poor hygiene - which is what can be seen every day in shops and on streets. The basic rule is that people should not be touching their face coverings after they have touched other things, or touching other things after they have been touching their face covering, without first washing or sanitising hands.
In summary: local context is key, and the main things to be bearing in mind are distance, droplets, fingers and faces.
Community support and working together
Fair Share and Friendship
Volunteers at Gloucester's Friendship Cafe, have produced this lovely video about the power of community and how they have been helping neighbours to access food during lockdown. Click on the picture to watch the video and you can see what else has been happening in their newsletter.
Through the Foundation grant programme the National Churches Trust can fund small works to your church building that cost up to £10,000 (excluding VAT) with grants of up to 50% of the cost (up to £5,000). Works would need to have two quotes in place and permissions, if required. The majority of the Trust’s grantees require funds to repair rainwater goods, drainage repairs, to carry out small re-pointing and stone repairs, and small roof repairs. Decisions are made on a monthly basis. The deadline for 2020 funding through this programme will be 30 October 2020.
Warneford Ecclesiastical Charity
This charity assists with the preservation and repair of church buildings in the Diocese of Gloucester, subject to the restrictions and provisions of the Foundation Deed. The Trustees meet annually in December to consider applications. Application forms and further information can be obtained from the Secretary to the Trustees, Michael Eliot at Ampney Cottage, Ampney St Mary, Cirencester, GL7 5SN or by email to email@example.com. Completed application forms must be sent to the Secretary by 31 October 2020.
Warneford Clerical Trust
The Trust assists clergy, retired clergy and their families with modest means and widowed and divorced spouses, subject to the restrictions and provisions of the Foundation Deed. Assistance is by means of a single grant. Application forms and further information can be obtained from the Secretary to the Trustees, Michael Eliot at Ampney Cottage, Ampney St Mary, Cirencester, GL7 5SN or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for grants can be made at any time but for consideration at the Trustees Meeting in December they must be sent to the Secretary by 31 October 2020.
In this one-hour webinar, the national communications team will take you through the steps to making the most of your A Church Near You page, including simple updates to keep your community connected during social distancing.
Last year, A Church Near You received more than 38 million page views, as people were searching for their local church service or event to attend. Click here to register.
What possibilities can outdoor spaces offer us for intergenerational worship – especially while indoor opportunities are limited? Join environmentalist Petra Crofton, Forest Church leader Cate Williams and Children and Families Advisor Jo Wetherall as we share our experiences of Explore Creation, Forest Church and Welly Church, and explore the potential and guidelines for outdoor worship.
Spaces are limited for each session so booking is essential. Click here to book your place.
An invitation from Bishop Robert to a Zoom conference on Living with Beauty, the report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (published Feb 2020). Find out more and book your space.
As many of us take time out over the summer months for a break or a change of pace, let us hold our fellow Christians in this diocese and across the world in our prayers. From those of us who are shielding, to those who are carers and plumbers and waiting staff, or however we spend our days, we pray that we all are able to live out our everyday faith, in whatever situation we find ourselves. Let us be a sign of God's love working in the world and keep us firm in our faith and our hope in you.
Cathedral clergy are continuing to pray for our communities every day. Please do send your prayer requests to email@example.com they will say them on your behalf or send in your prayers to Katherine Clamp at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a need for people to offer prayer support, so please do contact us if you are able to offer this ministry.
WELCOME to Bishop Rachel's new chaplain, the Revd Jason Taylor, who had his licencing service last night (27.07) in Gloucester Cathedral.
You can now contact Jason on email@example.com
Bishop John Neale, Bishop of Ramsbury 1974-88, died on July 17th 2020 aged 93. He was Bishop of Ramsbury and Archdeacon of Wilts 1974-80 and continued as Bishop of Ramsbury until 1988.
Bishop John (pictured left) served in retirement as an Assistant Bishop in this Diocese as well as Assistant Bishop in the dioceses of Bath and Wells, Bristol and Gloucester. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.