Firstly, may I wish you all a happy New Year from all at your local parish church. No doubt many of you have made resolutions as indeed I have. This is the time of year when vicar’s letters often waffle on about resolutions and new beginnings. I have asked a number of trusted friends to serve on what I call ‘waffle watch’, instructed to tell me if I lapse into this sort of tedious twaddle. I am therefore risking their disapproval with mention of resolutions and new starts, but I trust they will understand there is at least a point to it.
Change is unavoidable and actually quite a good thing in many ways although it is often hard for us to accept. The Church of England is facing changes nationally and indeed more locally in the coming years, and I believe that the wind of change is blowing through St Richard’s at this time as we seek to be the kind of church that can be most effective in proclaiming Christ. Our work with young people and families will, under God, continue to see developments and growth this year and we are praying for the right people to step forward and help us lead this. Alongside this we need to decide what other priorities we have to face with things like the Parish Room and sound systems. I am sure that however this works out, it will be end up being different from anything done before. We will all need to be open to strip away the things that ‘have always been done’ and embrace the ‘new’.
Sometimes in life it is good to strip away what we accumulate over the years and declutter our existence. New Year is an obvious time for this. It may be psychological ‘baggage’ or painful memories and resentments which drag us down, or things which cause us to be wary of trying something new and stepping out in faith.
At this time of year, I often remind myself why I spend my days doing this sort of work. I think all Christians would benefit from this. For some people, their faith is too caught up with the activities they ‘do’ in the church and however good they are at doing that role/job sometimes these activities take over and we lose sight of the original purpose of loving and praising God. If that happens, we need to change and refocus.
If we strip away all those accumulations and de-clutter, at the heart of what we do we have Jesus of Nazareth. All the things that can obsess the church, are ultimately unimportant when we remind ourselves that we are His disciples. Our task is to make a difference in the world in His name. We are called to roll our sleeves up and get involved in our community to spread Christ’s message, not just through words, but far more effectively, through deeds. When a group of Christians is serious about this and are truly committed to serving Jesus in this way, things begin to happen, and communities are transformed.
So, as we prepare for all that God has in store for us here in Three Bridges and Northgate in 2019 and beyond and for inevitable changes in our church, and indeed as we all ponder the events taking place around world, I suggest we remember some words from the poem ‘God knows’ by Minnie Louise Haskins.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
With every blessing for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year