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New beginnings (September 2020)

Dear Friends

My first letter for the monthly magazine!

Wow! How wonderful it is to be writing to you all like this after the many months of waiting. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you to all who have done so much over these months to sustain, encourage, develop and enhance the life of the congregation. It has been a profoundly testing time in so many ways. It has been a time of great loss and suffering and has brought much heartache. I have experienced aspects of that as Westminster College fell silent and almost everything we had planned and ready evaporated before our stunned sight in a matter of days.

You will have had overlapping experiences as things changed, ended, were postponed and cancelled across church and community, in schools and at work, for family and for friends. You will have shared in the suffering of others and will have many griefs to bear.

I simply offer my thoughts and prayers into all that you have in your hearts, and assure you of my sense of tremendous privilege in being able to come to walk alongside you in it all now. I know that we are going to travel through continuing evolution and experiment as we discover what aspects of congregational life can rapidly return to something that feels more “normal”.

Equally, there will be some things that take time to get right and some things that we have to keep avoiding until the pandemic has moved on and we are safer. All of this is demanding and, for many of us, gruelling and frustrating. Now, as much as ever, we need to be kind and gentle with each other and very aware of the needs of others so that we continue to bring the light of God’s love into the darkest corners of this context.

I’m conscious that this marks the start of a new ministry in this joint pastorate. Even without the pandemic that would demand much trial and error, exploration and experiment, trust and patience. Please bear with me as I discover what ministry can be amongst you all and within the two congregations.

Please uphold everyone in your prayers as we enjoy this new chapter. I think, for all its challenges, that it offers the most wonderful and exciting prospects for worship, service, love and life. I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to discover, hand in hand with all of you, what God intends in these settings.

Jenny and I, along with Samuel and Thomas, are feeling very at home already and look forward to the times when, in all the proper ways, we can begin to welcome you into the home you have created for us here. And I look forward to meeting you all as is best for each of you.

There will be disappointment, of course, that the virus has curtailed much that we might have done to mark this new chapter of ministry and mission. But please know that the depth of your love and care is clear even if we cannot do some of the gatherings we would have hoped to do.

Yours in Christ,