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Minister’s October Letter

Dear Friends,

           Thursday 8th September started out for us as a perfectly normal day. But by 6:30pm we were looking at a nation and even at a world which would never look quite the same again. Our Queen, after 70 years of reigning our country, had died.

Our first emotion was probably disbelief. Although we knew that the Queen, at the age of 96, could not expect to live many more years, we still could not believe that someone who had been at the head of our nation for as long as most of us could remember, was now gone.  Our second emotion was most likely to have been sadness. As we have seen from the outpouring of grief at national and international level, the Queen was held in the deepest respect and affection.  And after that there was quite possibly an element of fear. One of the key figures symbolising continuity and security in a fast-changing world, had gone  – what will happen to us now?

On the evening of 8th we had an Elders’ Meeting scheduled, for which I was grateful, as it gave us a swift opportunity to discuss what we should do as a church to mark the Queen’s passing.  But I found myself even more grateful for the Opening Devotions, led by Steve Bebbington. Strangely enough (or perhaps not so strangely….) he had already chosen to speak about change and, with his permission, I share with you his remarking on the changes to our nation brought about by Covid, economic crisis, a change of Prime Minister and now a change of monarch both in the same week. He spoke of the changes facing us as a church as two new Church Officers take up their position and two stand down; the appointment of new Elders; the seeking of a new Youth Pastor and preparation for a Ministerial Vacancy. And yes, this is all very unsettling and challenging.

But he then shared two scriptures with us: the first from James 1:  Consider it joy, my friends, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously, without finding fault…..

The second was from Philippians 3, verses 13&14: Friends, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of that (for which Christ Jesus took hold of me) but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal, to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

It is inexpressibly comforting and inspiring to hear such words from the Bible. They remind us, firstly, that we are not alone in living through times of huge change and challenge. The people who wrote these texts two thousand years ago, knew all about it and set down their thoughts and beliefs in the hope of reaching out to those around them and those who would come after them. Whether they expected Christian believers two thousand years later to be quoting them is uncertain but what a legacy to leave behind you!

Secondly, and even more important, is our belief that the Bible is not just a book of human philosophy or self-help but the inspired and living word of God. St James and St Paul were writing of their personal experiences of God and of Jesus Christ in their lives.  If we live for God and in God, then every experience in life will bring us closer to God; through every challenge we shall be given the strength and wisdom of God; we may look forward in hope for God has called us and has plans for us.

Earlier this year, as we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we were reminded of her own deep and lifelong faith in God and of her trust in Jesus Christ to keep her faithful in her role as Queen through seventy long and often highly challenging years.

So let us, as the URC celebrates its’ Golden Jubilee this month, take heart and renew our faith, our hope and our love for God, for our world and for our church.

God Bless and Keep you all,


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