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Dear Rose

My husband thinks you’re great. I think for him, you are someone who represents the Church of England at its very best. And given that you both work the same place – the Diocese of London – I think he’s entitled to his view!

So recently when I had 48 hours of not really being able to read, following laser surgery on my right eye, there was nothing better than listening to BBC Desert Island Discs from the comfort of bed. It seems that not only does my husband think you’re great, others do too – you are one of the most listened to recordings of 2014.

I came alive when I listened to you, Rose. I felt “yes”. There were so many points of agreement with you, and so much warmth, I feel brave enough to point out where I think we differ too.

Your Gift of Acknowledgement

I loved the range of things you acknowledged, and did so in such a great way, not as a big deal, and not as a victim.

Your realism about your faith, the certainty it gave your life as a teenager – and almost the attitude of (my words now) “whether it’s a crutch or not – if it’s useful, use it!”

The way you acknowledged difficulty too was impressive. Returning to your mother aged 10, was not easy and then to be sent away again two years later. It can be so helpful to hear someone speak about difficulty in such a normal way, and as you say, you see yourself as a well rounded human being, and give God thanks for that.

Your common sense about immigration made me laugh – about who went where first in the world – and again acknowledgment that people do like to better themselves – and so the question becomes, how can we work with this.

Prejudice was another one you acknowledged well. That it exists, has impact on people, hurts, and we could do well without it.

Your Ability to Give Permission

I loved the range of things you gave permission for. Vitality, energy, enthusiasm, warmth, touch, making the most of things, making the best of things, permission to organise our lives both to work and to parent… these are just a few.

I particularly loved your combination of clarity, courage and action. Stopping your car to break up two young men fighting – seeing only dreadful outcomes for each otherwise (murder and imprisonment). Answering the doorbell in the middle of the night (telling your husband “this is my vicarage, darling”).


Most of all though, it was about permission for each of us to embrace our own identity and for living life to the full. I loved how you gave yourself full permission to be from Barbados and British, to be a woman and of colour. Each time you spoke I had the feeling that the sentence would end with an “and” – “and so I did that”. Never a feeling of, “that was difficult so I didn’t do it”.

Where we have difference

And now we come to the rub. A place where I just can’t square the circle. Here’s a little bit about me.

My teenage years featured Elim Pentecostal Church – a great place for finding more rules to give security, which was my requirement at the time.

At university, I then engaged with the Anglican Chaplaincy Service, which gave me a platform for broadening my views.

Perhaps starting at university, although accelerating more in recent years, I can see that I have been on a journey of shifting from self criticism to self acceptance. Moving towards loving the good, bad and ugly bits and allowing them all as part of me. Acknowledging both my strengths and vulnerabilities. I now want to place my focus on where I can make the most positive impact, learning about where I can be the most “me”.

As this journey progressed, I reached the stage where I couldn’t go to church anymore and say the words “I am not worthy” as part of the Eucharistic prayer. It was just too painful. It seemed to say that everything about me was bad, and that good things only came from God.

I felt like saying, isn’t there even the tiniest little thing that is good about me? Just one tiny little thing?


Of course I have talked with many people about my dilemma. People have been kind. The book “Sin, Pride and Self Acceptance” helped a little. But as yet no-one seems able to square the circle for me, or to help me do it for myself.  On the one hand, I am OK, loveable, acceptable, and God sees me this way (I am a child of God), and yet – God needed to send his Son to die and atone for my sins. So which is it – am I “OK” or am I a sinner? Or somehow both? For me, there are mixed messages here and they confuse me.

If I move away from theology and turn to my felt experience, it is this. When I see my strong points, my good points – it’s so much more likely I make choices from a good, kind and loving place towards other people. It’s a better place for them and me. Conversely when I believe myself to be broken, a sinner, bad, wrong – I get miserable, hate myself and am less likely to engage well with others. In this way I miss my chance to live my life to the full.

We were born in the same year, Rose. (It was a good year wasn’t it!). My attention is turning to the final third (hopefully more) of my life and how I want it to be. Which makes my choice a no brainer. For me, self acceptance is good for the soul. From a place of self acceptance, I am happier, with myself and others, more able to live life to the full, more often bringing my strengths and talents, making a positive difference to the world.

Thank you for hearing me out, Rose.

It’s been good to get this out loud.  Liberating. Freeing. Your warmth, your enthusiasm, helped me with the courage to say what I did. Isolation comes from thinking you are the only one with a problem or point of view. My hope is that your story and mine, can help many more people connect with their own experiences, to make the positive choices they want, for how they lead their lives too.

And to finish on a lighter note, and also to bring it back to you – talking of positive choices, now that it is possible with the Reverend Libby Lane already leading the way, should you find yourself being offered the role, whatever you said on Desert Island Disks, please say yes to being a Bishop. We need vibrant, “can do” role models in every position of leadership…we need your contribution!


Do say Yes!

With the kindest of regards,


Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results


  • gillhow says:

    A friend kindly emailed her thoughts which ask some great questions too:

    One of the finest points of this next, third, phase of life is the time to allow one to read and consider ideas and viewpoints from others. Too often it was a matter of listening, collating with other information and promptly responding; I enjoy the peace, serenity, of less busy days and less pressure to be decisive.

    This self, not external, tempo links, I find, to Self Acceptance. I too found religion, in my case Christianity, to create negative feeling about myself. What was it I needed to do/become to not to be a ‘sinner’. I find, hopefully not naïvely, that I don’t (rarely?) have ‘bad’ thoughts, I like people, I like our world, why would I not wish all well? What was I trying to atone for? Where did the guilt, a painful feeling for me, come from?

    I am currently in a phase of contentment, rather enjoying time and not being efficient; of being able to talk/day dream without rushing off to the next ‘thing’. Is it age or perhaps maturity? I’m OK with myself. That doesn’t stop me questioning/exploring/challenging, it just makes me a whole lot happier!

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