Encounters Jesus, connection and story: past, present and future By Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester
‘Bishop Rachel’s book reminds us that the tangle and connectedness of human lives cannot be broken, and God’s relationship with us knows no limits or barriers… even in these toughest of times… it is through worship and connection that we can participate in God’s mysterious but wonderful work here on earth.’
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
‘This book with its focus on encounter seeks to celebrate everything that the term social distancing does not. It is about community and intimacy and the discovery of self in close encounter with God and neighbour… I am deeply aware I have been significantly shaped by my experiences and encounters with people and places both past and present [and] I know that relationship, connectedness and reconciliation have been and always will be at the core of my life and ministry… It is my hope that, as you read this book, it might enable you to make new discoveries and connections in your own adventure with the God of relationship.’ Bishop Rachel
In summer 2019, Bishop Rachel took a 10 week sabbatical to focus on connection and reconnection, rest and reflection, using the theme of ‘encounters’. During this time, she reconnected with key people and places from her life and also spent 2 weeks in Tiberias by the Lake of Galilee, reflecting on Jesus’ encounters with people as detailed in the gospels. Her new book Encounters was inspired by this time. It brings together reflections on different aspects of Bishop Rachel’s personal story, calling and career – including life-shaping encounters, discussion of key issues, and discoveries she has made along the way – with exploration of gospel passages. Each chapter ends with a song or prayer, and space for the reader to record their own thoughts and reflections.
Connectedness has been a central theme in Bishop Rachel’s life and career, from her first calling as a paediatric speech and language therapist through to her current work as a Bishop, including her ministry in conflict resolution. She believes that we are created in God’s image to live in relationship with God, each other and the created world. Encounters explores Jesus’ encounters with his mother Mary, Peter and his disciples, ‘Legion’, Jairus’ daughter, the haemorrhaging woman, the Samaritan woman, Martha and Mary, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and the travellers on the road to Emmaus, as well as those at the wedding in Cana – alongside personal experiences from Rachel’s childhood through to her current ministry. Themes explored include: the gift of imagination and silence; letting go and saying ‘yes’ to God; ‘deep seeing’ which leads to transformation; acceptance, support and friendship; doing church vs being church – and nurturing everyday faith; cross-cultural groups and communities working together; the importance of names; faith being personal but not private – and our reticence to share Christ’s message; gender stereotypes and gender justice; how we perceive ourselves and are perceived; the unhelpful culture of busyness; God’s unlikely choices; grief, fear, pain and disappointment; gratitude for Jesus’ presence and the presence of others.