Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends.

I can't believe that we are already through January. For some reason I say something like that every year. What did I expect, time passes and it seems to pass more quickly the older I get. Since Lent is only just around the corner I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year and on what the New Year might hold.
For Christians, Lent is a time of reflection. In the past, and indeed now in many circles, it has been a time to reflect on our lives and be penitent. Lots of people give things up for Lent and it sometimes has a rather dour, restrictive feel. However this year I want to celebrate the good things that have happened and consider how we might develop them in the future.

I feel very blessed and privileged to have been part of our communities over the last year or so, especially during my illness and recovery. I have felt the support and love of many people in both the villages and on Sherfield Park and I am struck by how strong and cohesive our communities are. I hope that it isn’t a rather rosy-eyed view of things. I know there are challenges, and I know that there are problems, but challenges can be met and problems solved. The overarching picture I get, though, is one of cohesiveness and strength. Just the sheer volume of events and the amount of work that goes into making them possible is testament to this. I am aware too of the huge amount of money that we have raised for charity over the year. It would be interesting to put the figures together for our encouragement.
So, firstly, I invite everyone to take time to look around them; to look past the familiarity of every day, to look past the problems and challenges for the future, and celebrate what is really good, wholesome and effective about our communities.

Secondly, if I have a longing for the New Year, it would be that more people from our communities take time to get involved and feel the benefits of a vibrant community. I am conscious that those who do the bulk of the work are getting older and that in every organisation we need new blood and new ideas. Equally important is that the older generation let go of old agendas to make room for the new. It is the only way that we can build and grow for the future.
My hope is that our communities will grow stronger and more cohesive and that we will have a huge amount of fun and enjoyment as we do it. Critically, my experience has been that the more we choose to take risks and step away from the things that we feel prevent us from getting involved, the more we gain from being part of our community, as opposed to just simply living here. Communities are supposed to be places of cooperation and support, where friendships and mutually beneficial relationships develop, where gifts and talents are offered and real needs met. We celebrate the fact that a lot of that is happening now; but, we also want more people and families to feel that they belong and really get something out of living here. Remember, if our community thrives then so do we.

I will be thinking a lot about this during Lent and praying that God will bless every good thing that is happening in our lives and families. May our Lenten reflections enable our growth.
Stephen

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