Dear Friends,
Each year the marketing for Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier. This morning in the first week of November as I picked up some groceries after the school run, the supermarket had some festive music playing and there were all kinds of displays with Christmas treats and bargains on offer. We tend to get a bit sniffy about this in the church, muttering about how the secular world has hijacked our festival and is exploiting it for commercial purposes.

The truth is that Christians, in celebrating the birth of Jesus, have borrowed from many traditions around this time of year. Our current celebrations with lights, presents and Christmas trees are often an amalgamation of traditions rather than ones exclusively developed by the Christian community.

As a Christian, I always welcome the opportunity the season brings for conversations about Jesus, who He was and why He is important and why we celebrate Him.

The much-loved services and carols which we enjoy at this time of year are a terrific opportunity to invite others along to our services. In the coming weeks, each household in the parish should receive an invitation and card detailing some of our special services and events and we would love to not only invite you along, but to use it as an opportunity to invite others too. The world is full of sadness and war and if we believe we have heard and discovered Good News that can bring hope into our situation, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share that and make it available to others.

I recently had a conversation with someone who heard I did a little bit of running and cycling to keep fit. They invited me to give them a shout for a training spin some time and I loved the warmth and spontaneity of that invitation. It was just a natural part of the conversation and it was generous and opened the door to further conversation and friendship. We always have so much to learn and be enriched by in our conversations with others.

Christmas is one of those special opportunities for the church and God’s people to invite people along to things which are non-threatening and good for the soul so let’s make the most of that. As this magazine goes to print we are hopeful that the building project will soon be coming to its conclusion.

Although it has had its challenges, there has been something very powerful about worshipping together in the hall over the past few months. People have worked really hard, constantly setting up for the next service and event. Organisations and Sunday School have continued to meet and there has been a real spirit of warmth and worship and togetherness. We are grateful to everyone, not least our technology team, who have been able to broadcast those services to those who are housebound or in hospital and who tune in faithfully from other places and that is something very special.

In saying all of that it will be lovely to be back in the church again and we hope that the work will make our building accessible to those with mobility issues and will be a special place for the services of worship during the Advent and Christmas celebrations.

The Cregagh Crafters have been very busy this term. Apart from their incredibly poignant display for Remembrance Sunday, they will be hosting a special craft fair and coffee morning in the Parochial and Huston Halls on December 2nd from 10.30am -12.30pm. There will be opportunities to purchase creative Christmas gifts and enjoy some festive cheer and good company and all are welcome.

December and Christmas can be very sad and difficult seasons for those who are journeying through grief and loss and we are very mindful of those who are finding this time of year very painful. Perhaps you are aware of some one who is finding it tough and you could pop in or invite them out with you and it is the small things that can make such a big difference.

It’s also a month when we look forward to welcoming people home from other places as they spend some time with family after perhaps a spell studying overseas or working abroad. It would be wonderful to welcome you to worship if you can join us.

The midweek Advent services on three Thursdays in December at 7.30pm offer a special opportunity to press the pause button and open our hearts afresh to our Saviour and we hope that these three half hour services will be a source of hope and encouragement.

Our Curate Andy will be leading our devotions in a thoughtful and engaging way each Thursday at 7.30pm and we hope you can join us.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas and every blessing for 2024.

With very best wishes.

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone 02890 793822