'Rejoice in the Lord always'
May I wish everyone a very Happy New Year; or if that sounds rather trite, certainly a joyful year - 'full of joy in the Lord who gives so abundantly we can hardly believe it'. (see Eph.3.20)
Yes, I know, there's plenty of gloom about. Perhaps we face personal difficulties - financial constraints, medical problems, employment worries, family relationships not quite going to plan, not to mention the short, dark, cold days of January. We all face a fair amount of darkness, and yes, sometimes fearing that it may overwhelm us.
And in our parishes, while we continue the long quest to find a new Rector, Father Stephen is now leaving us after 5 years of faithful and devoted service. I am sure our debt of thanks to Stephen and Heather will be said and written elsewhere; sufficient to say that you would have to look far and wide to find another curate who could bring similar skills and expertise, commitment to his ministry, and vital encouragement to children and young people. At first working with Brian, and then shouldering so many extra responsibilities, we have been truly blessed by Stephen's work here, and wish him and the family great joy in their new parish.
So what's left? Dad's army, that's what! (which I should cautiously add does not include our deacon June, or reader Gill, who are both covering all kinds of extra services, school events and pastoral work.) Unfortunately Father Chris, who was to have written this letter, is not well at the moment and we pray that he will be returned to full health and strength by the time you are reading this. So a fair amount of doom and gloom, but when things a looking a bit grim I love words of the old song which says 'you have to e-lim-in-ate the negative, and ac-cen-tu-ate the positive; don't mess about with Mr in-between'. Or as Scripture says, 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' Phil.4.4
We actually have a great deal to rejoice about in our churches: Just in December - hundreds and hundreds of people coming to the Christmas Tree Festival, beautiful music in carol services and concerts, our church schools putting on moving Christingles and Nativities, the deep generosity of those who organise and those who respond to our fund-raising activities, the small army who give their time to clean and decorate our church buildings, PCC and committee members giving their time, musicians and singers, churchwardens, secretaries, treasurers, those who run our organisations or liaise with other community groups, and so much more. And most important, our fellowship in the Lord is strong and united. When that's right, it's never a case of just marking time, we can actually move forward, into the New Year, confident that whatever we really need for the Lord's work will be provided. And that is the joy of our faith.