Happy New Year

1st January 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

What a busy, exciting, if different time we have had over the Christmas season. It seems ages since we enjoyed the Drive-In Carols and Crib Service at West Stoke Farm on 20th December and I hope you were able to spot yourselves in the edited highlights that we were able to show on our Christmas Eve YouTube Service.  It seems we had one of the driest days in December! It was good to gather on a cold but sunny Christmas Morning on Church Green for a joint parishes service to celebrate, sing and reflect about the birth of Jesus.

One the persistent comments that I have heard folk say is that they are looking forward to saying goodbye and good riddance to 2020 – it is, for many, a year to forget.  And I suppose in some ways it is – we have witnessed challenge and change in so many areas of our lives. The death toll from Covid-19 has been staggering, especially at the outset of the pandemic when it was suggested we would do well to get away with less than 20,000 deaths.  In addition, there is pressure in homes and families through loss of work, folk living with long-Covid and an NHS still grappling to cope as the vaccination programme gets deployed.  We have missed so much – holidays, hugs, holding hands – yes, in some ways it is a year we do want to say goodbye to and move onto 2021 when things will hopefully and  gradually get back to normal.

But, let’s not be too hasty to say our goodbyes and forget too easily or quickly. . 2020 has a given us glimpses of goodness, love, sacrifice and devotion that has enriched our lives and given us courage for the future.  A few come to mind – the ‘Clap for Carers’ that happened in March and went on for many weeks will be something I shall always remember.  I also think Captain Sir Tom Moore has represented an indominable spirit this past year – his example of apparent weakness turned into strength has been inspiring to so many.  I think of the random acts of kindness that we have seen in our villages and further afield where needs have been met in unexpected ways. We have learned new skills, appreciated nature more, got to know folk in church or neighbours better than any point in the past.   Yes, there are things to give thanks for – it has been a difficult and challenging year, but we have grown personally and corporately in ways that have enriched us if we but take the time to recognise and appreciate it. 

And in all this we have a God who continues to be with us and for us – the same yesterday, today and forever. Whatever this year brings we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us in the ways of Christ and I hope that you will join me in committing yourselves to be people who do just that. 

I look forward to welcoming you to our service at St Mary’s on 3rd January and throughout the year.  I am hopeful that there will come a time when we can worship without social distancing, reverting to some things we have missed from the past, whilst retaining some of the good and new things we have discovered and embraced for the future.

With prayers and blessings for all that lies before us all. Revd Paul