20th December

Andy’s Christmas/New Year Update

It’s traditional at this time of year to share news with distant friends and family by writing Christmas letters, so I’d like to use this space to write one of my own to you, my church family.  Our year couldn’t have begun any worse, with the news of Brian Bailey’s sudden death, and soon after his funeral there was the announcement that John and Frances were moving on.  Additionally, over the next few months we lost further members of our church community – Diane Weale, Stephanie Summers and Betty Jones. I think this contributed to there being a lack of hope around our church community in the early part of the year. We were also coming to terms with changes in our Sunday services. Such changes bring an element of grief with them and it take times to adjust to a new way of worshipping together and being a community. But we haveadjusted and there’s a new air of hope when we gather.  Through these trials we’ve become closer, and the “loving each other” part of our vision has become more of a reality. We’ve also continued to be a welcoming community, where people find acceptance and love, and become part of the family.  And, though we may take it for granted, it is truly remarkable that when we gather to worship, we’re a community of all ages and every decade of life from 0 - 90.

What I’ve come to love about this church family is that far from allowing the various bereavements and challenges to defeat us, we’ve become more resilient, and have refused to let go of hope.  As much as we’ve grieved together, we’ve celebrated together – it was lovely to share the joy of the birth of Ben with you in March, and to welcome George Hicks, who starred as baby Jesus in last Sunday’s nativity! Also, the service we had in October of confirmation and renewal of baptism vows was simply glorious! We’ve played together, including celebrating the World Cup final; laughed together – at the Strictly social among other occasions; eaten together, at the Easter breakfast and many other times; worked together –so many came together to make the Christmas Fair so special.

Above all, our church community is a testimony of the reality of “Immanuel” – “God with us”.  We’ve known his presence with us as we’ve grieved, as celebrated and been together. He’s held us through our trials, refined us, sustained us and given us renewed hope.  

I pray that we’d individually and together enter fully into the plans God has for us in the coming year. They may not be what we expect, but we can trust that they will be good. Thank you for your love and support. Thanks to all of you who do so much to make the church community what it is. 

May God bless us now and throughout the year! 

Prayer Guide – New Year Examen

Looking back on this year …

What am I especially grateful for?

- An event that took place?

- Courage that I mustered?

- Love and support I received?

I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.

Where have I felt true joy this year?

What troubled me this year?

What has challenged me?

Where and when did I find an opportunity for renewal and pause?

Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?

In light of my review, what is my response to the God of my life?

As I look ahead, to the coming months what comes to mind?

With what spirit do I want to enter the next few months?, the next year?

I ask for God’s presence and grace, for this spirit, as I enter the next year.

Bible Verse of the Week

The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

(Luke 2:10-12)