WHILE this book would not have been written without the ten weeks of sabbatical that the author enjoyed in summer 2019, it could not have been written without the decades of life experience and ministry which preceded it. Framed as a series of reflections on encounters between Jesus and others in the Gospels, it has a strong autobiographical element.
Rachel Treweek illustrates her points by recalling events and encounters in her own life which have deepened her relationship with Christ. It is gently and beautifully crafted. We encounter her not only as a bishop, but as a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and mentor to others. Those who believe that our bishops have become no more than bureaucratic middle managers should read this book. These are not the jottings of a senior executive in Church of England plc, but the teaching of a mature disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ.
Treweek was consecrated on the feast of St Mary Magdalene, in 2015, and four years on visited Magdala on the anniversary. This book was already in her mind, as was the title Encounter, when she found herself in the basement chapel (called, by strange coincidence — or providence — the Encounter Chapel) within the new church on the site. That chapel has a huge painting of the feet of Christ and those of the people around him when the woman with the haemorrhage touches him (Mark 5.25-29).
In the book, Treweek describes what it was like to have size 8 feet as a 14-year-old female. Little wonder that chapel meant so much as a place where heaven and earth met, and where so many threads in her life connected. This book explains how some of the projects in the author’s ministry, e.g. the Liedentity campaign, which challenges the message given to the young, especially young women, that their worth is all about physical appearance, derive from her own experience, recalled vividly but without sentimentality.
There were moments when I stopped reading to reflect on my own encounters with Christ through others. Grace Wyatt, a woman described as having “left wet footprints of her baptism” wherever she went, is credited in retrospect with shaping Treweek more than she knew at the time, and died before the author could tell her. I’ve got a little list of Grace Wyatts in my life, and I thank the Bishop of Gloucester for enabling me to recall them and giving me so much else besides.
The Rt Revd Graham James is a former Bishop of Norwich.
Encounters: Jesus, connection and story: Past, present and future
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