As ever, the beginning of a new year is an invitation to both look back and look forward. It is a chance to take stock and get ready for the challenges
and joys of the future.
I want to begin by looking back. After the tremendous upheavals of 2016 – the referendum, the election of Donald Trump, the loss of some of the world’s most popular music and acting talent – 2017 has felt a little less dramatic. Just about! Internationally and nationally there remain extraordinary pressures and concerns. As I write this, the future of our nation and its relationship with Europe seems no clearer than it did a year ago, and further afield there are incredible threats to stability. It is a bewildering world.
Closer to home, I sense it has been an interesting and fruitful year at St Nick’s. I continue to see people growing in faith and service and, if we’ve said goodbye to people, we’ve also welcomed new friends. Personally, it’s been a curious and fascinating year. My sabbatical was refreshing and has helped me find fresh energy for the challenges of ministry. I feel like I have a richer sense of God’s desire for us all to flourish. I have also been appointed an honorary Canon of the Cathedral and Rector (as opposed to ‘Priest-in-Charge’) of St Nicholas.
As we enter a new year, we face on-going challenges and possibilities. Our magnificent building requires new boilers and I trust they shall soon be installed; they should help us to continue to make our community and church spaces attractive and appealing. Of course, the challenges of working with a listed building won’t end there, but as I’ve seen, again and again, we have the energy and courage to face them.
Of course, the real vocation of St Nick’s is to tell the story of Jesus Christ in mission and story. We are called to be faithful. The crowds we saw at Christmas reminded us once again that St Nick’s remains an important focus for community life. God’s story matters at the local level. 2018 will provide us with many opportunities to share the Good News. What those will look like we can’t be sure, but I suspect it will include opportunities to do so via arts and culture, as well as via our work with young people and children. Running through all our missional work is one of the great gifts of St Nick’s: our ability to share faith with humour and delight.
The Book of Ecclesiastes includes that much-quoted extraordinary passage in Chapter Three which begins, ‘For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under the earth…’ Ecclesiastes 3 has been used as a basis for a very famous pop song written by Bob Dylan and covered by the Byrds, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’. It includes the words, ‘A time to be born, A time to die […], A time to weep and a time to laugh…’ and so on. It’s a beautiful and challenging passage and one I think should keep us humble as we seek to serve God. There is a time for everything and a season too. Our challenge is to listen, discern and follow where God leads us. I’m sure that God will bless St Nicholas this coming year, though we must be prepared for challenges as well as rejoicing.
My final words I leave to an old folk song I’ve loved since I first heard as a five year old in Worcestershire:
‘Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year!’