May 2013

Dear Friends,

Things will only get tougher.

We are in a time of relative austerity. I say relative as I am aware that some of you have lived through periods much tougher than this one – some will just about remember the Great Depression, more the time immediately post war, even more how hard it was for some during the nineteen seventies and eighties. But having lived through years that could be described as plenty I think this time of cut backs will come as a shock to us all. And on top of that comes uncertainty as we wait to see what the government has in store in terms of the effect on pubic services and pensions.

So what does it mean for us as Christians?
Firstly it is a reminder that the most important things in life often cost the least. That God’s generous grace is given to us freely and sometimes filling our lives with “stuff” can get in the way of that. In the 19th Century the Shaker movement in the United States was based on the principle of living a life of faith and simplicity as their most famous song has it

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
(if you want to sing along it is the same tune as Lord of the Dance).

This might be a good time to be auditing our lives. Is there anything that could be cut back or pruned? Perhaps there is a bad habit that needs avoiding or an accumulation of things that could be donated to a good cause. It is also a time to count our blessings for the things that we do have – the simple gifts of love and care and grace.

Secondly, this may be an opportunity for us to find new ways of serving our communities as statutory help is cut back. There is going to be even more need for people to volunteer and care for those in need. What a great way of doing mission and finding ways to share our faith with others. It may also be a time for the church to raise her voice if we feel that things are being cut in a way that hurts the most vulnerable. And to understand that sometimes we may be asked to make sacrifices in order that they may still be cared for. (remind me of that when I moan about having to pay more tax!). As Christians we have a burden to do all we can to help others in grateful thanks for all that God has done for us.

Jesus himself noted that sometimes you need to prune a branch in order to bear more fruit but that if we are grafted onto him we will be fruitful (John 15). My prayer is that even if times for us are tough over the coming weeks and months, the Holy Spirit will enable us to count our blessings and continue to bear fruit.

God bless,