It is the 1st January 2009 and the New Year holds so much promise for us all. For many around the world it will continue to be one of survival in the midst of war, poverty, struggling for justice and peace, rebuilding lives and communities after recent disasters as well as trying to cope wuth the economic downturn affecting us all. Some of you may well have made new year's resolutions or shared a deep hope with God for the coming months. Over these next Sundays many of us will renew our covenant with God asd we once again seek to be in the centre of God's will for our lives as individuals, as a nation as well as part of all he has created.
So Happy New Year.
I think particularly of some of the people I met on a visit in December to Germany. My main purpose was to spend time with the some of the army who are based there and went to Rheindahlen, Gutersloh, Herford and then Church House at Lubbecke. I met some great people and commend to especially the chaplains who are sharing a vital ministry at this particular time with the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. It was a particular joy to meet the Rev Josefe Mairara and his wife. They had literally just arrived as the first Fijian (Methodist) chaplain to the British Army. Please remember them in your prayers at this time of tremendous transition.
Whilst in germany I was able to spend a couple of days visiting with the United Methodist Church there. On one of the evening I preached at a special English speaking service in Dusseldorf where there were people from the English speaking congregation, the Ghanaian fellowship and the regular UMC.
The following day I went by train to Frankfurt and spent the day with Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (pictured on the right)
and we shared how we can continue developing the relationship between our two Churches.
Also just before Christmas I had a short visit to the Leeds District and was impressed with the ministry being offered from Oxford Place in the city centre. More and more of our city centre churches are offering a really dynamic and diverse ministry which we need to cherish, develop and resource. We visited the newest MHA home in Harrogate and just happened to be there when it was carol singing so we added to the choir of angels.
It was impressive and encouraging to hear of ther work here which is more and more focusing on work with people suffering dementia and much of the pastoral work is amongst the relatives who are trying to cope with what is ahppening to their loved ones.Les, Angela, Mandy and Shaun look on as I take another lady on my arm!
Whilst in Leeds I wanted to visit the office of the Yorkshire & Humberside Faith Forum whose Director is the Rev Inderjit Bhogal. We should be proud of all that Inderjit is doing not only here but in the much wider area of inter-faith relationships.
It also gave me time to chat to him about the developing work of Sanctuary as more and more cities follow the lead of Sheffield to become communities of Sanctuary.
...and what better way to begin the new year. ... than with stories of the wider world and the role that the Christian community can play - of hospitality and challenge - whether this be among the elderly, the asylum seekers and refugees, those of other faiths, those who are engaged in seeking peace in a war torn world andf all of this in a wrold and a world church context.
A Happy New Year to you and may you be aware of God's presence in your life in all that lies ahead