Dear Friends,

We have reached that point on the calendar when many people who travel to work are leaving in darkness and returning home in darkness. We feel a drop in the temperatures and the leaves are falling at a rate when we find it hard to keep up with them.

In the gloom and darkness of winter, many people feel a heaviness in their spirit and that can lead to changes in mood and even feelings of depression. The news is full of concern about rising numbers in cases of COVID-19 and how overstretched many hospitals are at the present time. There continues to be a high level of uncertainty about restrictions and various measures that health experts are recommending in order to keep people safe. There are others involved in business who want to see restrictions being lifted in order to allow people to come out and spend and boost the economy after the challenges of the past 20 months.

Here in St. Finnian’s, we are trying to offer services that mean a lot to our parishioners at this time of year. We hope to have an Advent Carol Service, some Thursday night services during 3 Thursdays in December sharing Advent hope, and the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols on the Sunday before Christmas. We will also be sharing the First Communion of Christmas at 11pm on Christmas Eve and enjoying a Christmas Morning family celebration at 10am.

We recently had the experience of one of our household testing positive for COVID-19 and, in order to protect everyone else, we were advised to isolate for 10 days. All the best laid plans for that time had to be shelved because of the importance of stopping the potential spread of the virus. We can make the best plans we can in our current circumstances but, without warning, the goalposts can suddenly shift.

One of the tremendous encouragements of this season if you are a person of faith is that Jesus will enter our world afresh during this season of Advent and Christmas. If you engage with him and make space in your heart to receive Him, He wants to find a home with you wherever you are. That’s a beautiful thing to connect into but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. There seems to be a myriad of things that will distract us away. We get so busy at this time of year with buying presents, decorating the house, preparing food for those family members and friends we hope can join us around our table. We also feel acutely the pain of remembering those who are no longer physically with us and the weight of our burdens seems heavier to carry in this season.

We have asked people to book in to some of our popular services over this season and we recognise that, with the current restrictions, not everyone will manage to come in person. That is why we encourage those who can, to avail of the technology that allows services to be livestreamed and recorded. If you can’t come on the day, there is the opportunity to come on a day and time that works best for you. My little word of advice is to try to make that time and book it for that spiritual purpose. If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday night rather than a Sunday, let’s engage as fully as we can at the time we have allocated or designated to our spiritual preparations for this season.

If you need help with booking, please speak to one of our Churchwardens or phone Linda in the parish office on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings.

I always get excited to think about the light breaking into the darkness. I rejoice in the birth of our Saviour who has come to bring new life and hope and meaning to all who search for those things in this life.

We hope to see many in a socially distanced way in the coming weeks as we deliver cards with information about our special services and events. If there’s anyone or anything you would like us to pray for, please let us know and we would be glad to do that.

Andy and his family join us all in the Rectory to wish everyone a blessed Advent and Christmas. Thank you for all you have done throughout this past year to support the church, to phone and stay in touch with people and to take an interest in God’s work in other parts of the world.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 028 90793822