Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn - January 2020

Post date: Jan 31, 2020 4:04:35 PM

New Year, New Beginnings

By the time you read this, we shall have a newly-elected government, which will doubtless bring joy to some and disappointment to others in our divided country. Those whom we will have elected deserve our respect and our prayers as they work to heal the nation’s divisions and get to grips with the difficult challenges that have stalled Parliament for the last three years.

The New Year also brings a new season of church life, with the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. For those of us who were in the Holy Land a few weeks ago the Epiphany, when we celebrate the revealing of Christ to the world through the coming of the Wise Men, will have a special resonance. We read that the Magi were filled with joy when they saw the star come to rest over the place where the child was. We were certainly filled with joy as we queued in a vast throng from all the nations of the world to descend into the Grotto of the Nativity. There we sang Away in a Manger.

When I stood in the ancient church of the Nativity, with Pam and Paul Daunton and others from around the diocese, we were reminded that this is the oldest standing church in the Middle East. Originally built by the Emperor Constantine after he was converted to Christ, and enlarged in the sixth century, the church survived the Arab invasion of the Holy Land because when the invaders arrived in Bethlehem they saw painted on the front of the church a huge fresco of the Magi, wearing familiar Arab dress. Out of respect for the Magi, this ancient church was preserved from damage.

This New Year will also, we pray bring a new season in the life of our united benefice. I am filled with hope by the way the churches have come more closely together and are using every opportunity to reach out to their communities. The churchwardens of the three churches are now meeting regularly to pray and to plan together. They are preparing a parish profile so that we can advertise for a new priest. This work is nearly complete, and once the profile is approved by the three PCCs we hope to be able to advertise for a new vicar early in the New Year.

I invite you to join with me in praying that this New Year will see a new beginning in the life of our three churches, that God will bring the person of His choosing to be your new priest, and that many new people, young and old, will come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (Romans 15.13)

Happy New Year!

Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn