Dear Friends,

Could I begin by saying thank you to all those who worked so hard to make our Advent and Christmas celebrations so special. Thank you to Mark and the choir, to all our visiting speakers and those who worked so hard on the technology team and behind the scenes to make sure services took place smoothly and safely. Barbara and Greg and Catherine our wardens all worked away to ensure this was possible. We don’t take for granted anymore the privilege of being able to meet together in person and as 2022 dawns we seem to be continuously responding to the uncertainty of these times.

The news continues to inform us of new variants and potential restrictions and there remains a great deal of uncertainty around any plans we make for the coming months. On one level you would think we should be getting used to all this uncertainty by now as it has been going on for just shy of 2 years. There remains however the hope that things will settle down and return to some form of what we call normality.

I spoke with a friend recently who told me about a WhatsApp group he is part of with a group of friends. They had the intention of travelling abroad for a short break in 2020 when they set up this group. They called the group “Trip Away 2020”, it became “Trip Away 2021” and is about to become “Trip Away 2022”. Every time they think they can begin to make their plans there seems to be a new regulation to contend with or a spike in the numbers of infections and they need to reconsider.

We can feel frustrated by this inability to make plans in church life too. Already during the Autumn there have been discussions with some of our organisations about good ways forward to restart some in-person meetings. We’re very aware that these discussions have to be revisited in the light of the ever-changing circumstances we are dealing with. In the next couple of months we are hoping to restart our Wednesday Holy Communion service with prayers for the sick. We will be watching the numbers and following the guidelines if this is something parishioners would like to see happening. In the meantime we want to continue to reach out to people online with our Thursday night prayer meeting and our online Alpha course which will begin on Wednesday 12th January at 8pm.

The Psalms speak very powerfully about God’s faithfulness even in the midst of uncertainty and challenging circumstances and we take great strength from those words. One of the things I have been trying to learn during these times is to lean in more to trusting God even when things don’t work out as we plan. We can put a lot of planning and effort and prayer into certain events and organisations and despite our best efforts they don’t work out as we had hoped. Does that mean that God doesn’t care or didn’t hear our prayers, I don’t think so. What I think it does tell us is to hang in there and keep trusting as what He has in mind is better than what we had planned. As a stubborn and independent human being I can sometimes rage against that and wrestle with it.

I was very struck by a guest blog one of our Advent speakers, Melanie Grimsley shared before Christmas when she spoke about resting in the Father’s love rather than fighting against those things we can’t control. She spoke from her own personal and very challenging experience but had discovered this was a much better way.

It takes a lifetime to learn and we won’t always get it right but it’s something worth returning to over and over again. New Year is often a time for resolutions and aspirations. Maybe this is the month I try to shed a few pounds, restart an exercise programme, take up a new activity or hobby.
All of these are good and noble goals to pursue but maybe the one we often choose to ignore is the most important. It’s that little voice in our head that says what about your spiritual life?

What about revisiting the faith you gave up on after something happened all those years ago? What about looking to the future and the coming year with hope and expectation rather than fear and pessimism. What about believing, no matter what happens in 2022, that Jesus promises to walk alongside you and uphold you in it? We take this opportunity to wish you a happy and healthy 2022.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 028 90793822