In place of the usual Rector’s Letter a reflection on the New Year by George Day. As the current newsletter is for both January and February this letter will be unchanged until the end of February.

For all that has been, thanks. For all that is to come, yes!

Dag Hammarskjöld was the highly respected Secretary-General of the United Nations, from April 1953 until his tragic death in a plane crash in September 1961.

Amongst his speeches, writings, etc. he left this very simple prayer, which reminds us of the need to look back with thanksgiving to God, and to look ahead with openness to whatever the future holds. Obviously, this prayer does not attempt to wrestle with the hurts that life can deliver, but in calling for thanksgiving for the past, Hammarskjöld’s prayer encourages us to value all that is good in life, and more particularly for those who are committed Christians, it encourages us to give thanks to God for what he has done for us. That can include individual thanksgiving, and also shared thanksgiving – as a church we at St Luke’s have much to give thanks for as we reflect on God’s blessing over the last year.

Then as we look ahead to the new year, this prayer encourages us to avoid the mealy-mouthed approach of never committing ourselves to anything until we have a copper-bottomed guarantee as to how it will turn out. It avoids “I’ll think about it” (an expression that surely every child quickly learns probably means “No”!!) Rather, that little word “yes” encourages a sense of expectation, looking forward to see what God will do, and committing ourselves joyfully, fully and openly to be part of his work.

For all that has been, thanks. For all that is to come, yes!

So, thinking about particular things, what should we note, in our church and in our nation, as we end 2019 and start on 2020?

For 2019 in our church and the mission community we particularly give thanks for the work amongst families, and pray for Helen and the team as they continue into the new year.

We give thanks for a number of discipleship groups that have run in the last few months.

We give thanks for all the contacts made with people through Christmas services, Foodbank, weddings, etc.

We give thanks for the ministry leadership team, with the arrival this year of Gina Radford at South Brent and Laura McAdam as our curate here at St Luke’s. We give thanks for Tom’s ministry of care and of clear witness to the Gospel.

As we look back we remember those who have died, in particular Mike Tolchard and Medora Downie, and give thanks for their lives, rejoicing in the hope of eternal life.

For 2020 we look ahead with trust and faith in God. We know that problems do face us - St Luke’s building seems to leak increasingly and there is concern about the ruin of Holy Trinity, where we have very recently had to place notices saying the structure is unsafe and should not be entered, as mentioned above. Finance is, as ever, a pressure. And many of us are conscious of not getting any younger - many churches find themselves with aging congregations.

But we trust in the Lord, and walk into the New Year with him, committing ourselves to his service and praying for the work of his
Holy Spirit in and through our church.

And what of things in our nation? We end 2019 with a new Government that is able after several years of uncertainty to press ahead with Brexit. Some will be glad, some will be sad about that. And we all know there will be much on-going debate about trade agreements, both with Europe and with nations in other parts of the world.

In this new year we need to see:

# a healing of the divisions and hatreds, and lack of trust that have arisen during the Brexit debate; this is not healthy and
indicates something deeply amiss in our society

# a concern for truth, both in the utterances of politicians and in social media

# a willingness by Government to seriously look at difficult issues - how the NHS is run, how we provide for social care for the
elderly, how we tackle climate change, etc. And the media need to avoid preventing such debate by the way they often unfairly
pounce on politicians who say something that can be used for headlines

# we need to see a parliamentary opposition that is able to hold Government to account - a very weak or divided opposition is
not good for democracy

# we need Government that cares for all, and responds to the needs of those who are poor and the needs of deprived areas of
the country, (as well as seeing the need to make the economy flourish)

# while leaving the institution of the EU we need to avoid any sense of isolationism - we are part of the wider world and must play
our part as a nation in that world.

And in each of these there is an important role for the Church, (both the local church and the wider national Church), bearing witness in our country to God’s ways:

# as an agent of healing, bringing people together

# as a champion of honesty and truth

# stimulating and encouraging honest debate, and avoiding cheap put-downs

# holding the Government to account, particularly if the parliamentary opposition cannot do so

# practical care through such things as the Foodbank

# stressing the importance of our links with Europe, with the US, with the Commonwealth, and with other nations, and by
resisting the pressure that comes from some to severely curtail the foreign aid budget.

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