Monthly Letter to the Parish - June 2019
What's most important? Wealth? Holidays? Latest phone, car? How we look?
Surely not. Three years ago the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, embarked on a campaign to raise awareness of body image anxiety in young people and the pressures they face though social media, TV and advertising to look a certain way.
Bishop Rachel said, "Over the last few years I have been speaking publicly about this issue and promoting the message that who you are, is more than how you look. I launched a social media campaign challenging negative body image and encouraging young people to look within to discover true value and beauty. This has given me a great opportunity to speak with young people about my own identity in Christ and my desire for every person to discover their worth and potential as a unique individual created in the image of God."
She has described one experience at a 'Messy Church' event:
"The previous week, the suicide of a popular young woman in the wider community - apparently as a result of low self-worth - had rocked the community. Leaders were counselled to use the activity sessions to simply listen to what people needed to say. Before the session was over, one woman had confessed to living with abuse for years and asked for help. Anonymous prayer requests collected for leaders to intercede over in the coming week were dominated with cries for help about mistreatment at work. An emergency meeting of the core team was called to plan how to respond pastorally to this unprecedented outpouring."
"We're asking for action! 'Say1thing' is an initiative as part of the #Liedentity campaign, which asks the simple question: What do you value about your best mate?"
Bishop Rachel has for some time been encouraging people, especially youngsters, to tell a friend why it is they like them. Now she is encouraging the same on social media: "We are living in a society where our value is being determined by what we look like, rather than who we are from the inside out. So we are encouraging all people on social media to change this message by posting a picture of their friends or family and sharing one thing they value about that person with the hashtag #Say1Thing."
Few things can be more important than ensuring that all members of a community can live out their lives free from undue stress and unnecessary challenges to their mental health. Let's do all we can to ensure this is so.