Dear Friends,

January can be quite a challenging month as people head back to work and school after some time away. Perhaps we have spent more than we normally do on presents and luxuries and the thoughts are anxious about the credit card bill that will be dropping its way through the letter box.

Sometimes there are determined resolutions as we buy gym memberships, put all the remaining chocolates and biscuits into the bin and declare this to be the year you are going to take yourself in hand. The days are still dark, the weather often cold and it’s not all that tempting to put on the trainers and attempt to walk or jog off the excesses of the previous month.

There may be concerns also about the year to come. What will it bring to our families, our friends and indeed the world around us? Are there things we should do to build up our resilience, to enable us to cope? Are there skills we should learn to navigate our way more competently and cost effectively through life in 2024?

All of these are important and legitimate questions as a new year dawns. As I get older I try to gain a bit more perspective. The reality is that I’m unlikely to smash all the goals and resolutions I might try to set myself. That doesn’t make me a failure or a bad person but it tells me something about the unrealistic expectations I often have of myself. Wanting to take more exercise or eat a healthier diet will not be a silver bullet for personal happiness and fulfilment but will have longer term benefits, not just for myself, but also for those who are close to me.

Very often I find myself praying at this time of year. I pray for wisdom in setting priorities for myself and the church I am privileged to lead. How can we radiate Christ’s presence to those around us? How can I equip people to bring Him into their homes and workplaces and communities. How can I follow him more intentionally myself and forgive myself when I don’t get these things right?

One of the things I have discovered is that success will not stem from my own efforts and endeavours. They can only carry me so far. What’s much more likely to lead to success is a shared journey with others. If I want to grow closer to Jesus and live more completely and effectively for Him, it’s good to have the company and companionship of a community who want the same thing. Someone else might come up with a great initiative we might all benefit from sharing in. Sometimes we need to do more. Sometimes we need to do less. Sometimes we simply need to ask for some help if our pride will allow us to take that radical step.

One of the things which I’ve been thinking about in December is how to connect with missing generations from the church. When we see fewer
children and young people or adults in their 20s 30s and 40s, what might draw them back or invite them in for the very first time? Sometimes it’s nothing more complicated than a personal invitation. Sometimes it’s
providing a venue and a safe space to talk about the things that are most important. Underlying it all is genuine heartfelt prayer that people might encounter Jesus.

We are looking at various possibilities including an in person Alpha Course in late January to explore questions about life and meaning and purpose. We’re going to hear at a clergy conference about a course called “One to One” which equips ordinary people, even shy people to come alongside others and share why faith is important to them. If you have ideas about
connecting with people and creating that safe space whether in the church or in alternative venues, please let us know.

The parish has the privilege of being invited to share our morning service on Radio Ulster on Sunday 14th January. This means the early
communion will be at 8.30am and the main morning service will be at 10.03am coming straight after the 10am news! We would ask the congregation on that Sunday to be seated by 9.40am. While it’s a lovely
opportunity and will require scripts and precise timings and all the rest, I try to encourage people on these occasions to
remember that it’s our Sunday service and we are just inviting others at home, in hospitals and nursing homes or travelling in their cars, to join with us.

May God be honoured and glorified in all we seek to do together in 2024.

With very best wishes,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822