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New Year, New Terrain

I’ve said before on this blog that September continues to feel like a New Year long after we have stopped attending school.  In part, this is because the habits are deeply engrained in us because of our own educational pattern, but of course when we have our own children, we are quickly caught up in that cycle again.  September, it seems, is forever a time for new beginnings, and hopefully we face those beginnings refreshed after a holiday and with eager anticipation.

I trust that in your churches there will be opportunity for celebration and joy over the coming weeks.  Perhaps you will have services of commissioning for your Sunday School leaders, or there will be real progress on your MAPs, taking you closer towards realising your parish vision.  God willing, there will be new faces at your services of worship, and a renewed enthusiasm among your congregation for participating together in the mission of the church.

At Deanery level, I am hoping to see our new Task Groups taking shape and taking steps so that there is wisdom available locally that is not only accessible, but also contextually appropriate.  Please pray for all who have joined the groups and their facilitators as they plan out the coming year’s activity, and make sure you keep up to date with the progress reports on the Deanery website.

As I write, I want, of course, to be encouraging and positive, but I am aware that for many, the immediate future looks bleak, with inflation running high, utility bills skyrocketing – both for homes and businesses (including churches).  The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and its impact globally continues to be a source of great concern to us all.  The hopes we may have had of emerging finally from the coronavirus pandemic into a brighter future may be in retreat at the moment (and I am mindful, of course, that the virus hasn’t actually gone away).

Maybe, then, our task is not so much to start new things at the beginning of this new year, but to give our attention to being steadfast in faith for the journey through the valley ahead.  We can remember with gladness that when we follow Christ, we will never walk in darkness (John 8:12), and that God’s word is both a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:105).  And just maybe our mission right now is to accompany others who are perhaps in deeper shadows; a call of God which may lead us where we had neither planned nor particularly want to go; a call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

May the Lord Jesus grant you deep joy and lasting peace as you seek to heed his call.

Revd Mark Dunstan