‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; ‘Behold, I am coming soon….I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’
November 9th 2020 saw the beginning of the beginning of the end. Phizer’s announcement of a potential vaccine marked a turning point in our thinking on this current pandemic. There is a lot of social distancing, hand washing and mask-wearing to go, but we have a glimpse of a brighter future.
As Christian’s we are used to waiting. The Church has been waiting for the return of Jesus for over 2000 years, and we mark the new Christian year of waiting at Advent, the days of reflection we begin this coming Sunday. As a Circuit we have waited well. All of our Church buildings are, or have been open to worship and prayer. They are safe environments which have brought glory to God through offering the hospitality of care through well-thought out risk-assessments. Our duty of care to other human beings has been carefully observed and we remain worshipping communities. Well done good and faithful servants.
So what of the future?
As a Circuit we are to be blessed by Rev. Bethany Willers of the Monmouth Hub. Bethany has produced a daily Advent Calendar of worship and devotion. This will be sent out daily by Paula Farr, and will be available on the Circuit website wonderfully maintained by Roger Simms. These are focused, punchy, thought-provoking devotions and please do share them with family, neighbours and friends to help them to start to feel ‘Christmassy’.
Blue Christmas. December 9th at 7.30 PM (by Zoom)
This has been a difficult year for everyone. A ‘Blue Christmas Service’ is a reflective Service, used widely in the United States, and has been put together by Revs Rachel Frank and Bethany Willers. It is a Service to help people who have suffered loss and/or difficulties over the past year. I recommend this Service to all in light of this past year and details on how to access will be sent out shortly.
It is happening, according to the Prime Minister. I am aware of many creative ways Churches are seeking to reach out into their communities trying to keep the ‘real’ reason for Christmas in the thoughts of their neighbours and communities. IF you have your Church building open for worship between December 22nd and 27th up to 3 whole visiting families count as one bubble and can sit together in Church. And I will get in first and say Merry Christmas to you all!
We have begun to worship in our new Missional Hubs. It is early days and strange times, but the feedback I have received, so far, has been positive.
We are grateful for the added assistance of Revs Joe Rooney and Lin Healey in the Chepstow Missional Hub, and they have both been a real, and extra, blessing to the good folk of Caldicot and Rogiet. Being the gracious and wonderful people they are, they will continue to support Rev Rachel Frank in this Hub when their current contracts draw to a close at the end of August.
Rev Rachel’s workload will, from September 2021, increase significantly with the full adoption of the Hub and she is using her gifts in becoming the Local Preachers Tutor. On the course we will have, in early 2021, seven lovely, Christian folk training to be Local Preachers. Praise God! And Rachel is a natural fit into this role and has made an excellent start. Rachel has many varied and excellent gifts, and, alongside the amazing gifts on offer in the Chepstow/Caldicot/Rogiet areas, I know that you will enable Rachel to be in tune with God, and that you will be working well together in taking the Chepstow Missional Hub forward in growing in God’s grace and love.
Rev Preben Andersen and Margaret have settled well ‘over the water’ and Rev Ruth Lownsbrough and Richard report that they have unpacked all their boxes and, in the circumstances, are happy to be in Portland. We hope to invite them back to a Circuit Celebratory Service (I am hoping for Pentecost Sunday, May 23rd but we have learnt not to make concrete plans haven’t we!)
This would also be an opportunity to welcome Rev Bethany Willers and Joel to the Circuit. They are already a blessing in Monmouth and the reports I hear are excellent; as they are of Rev Les Jones who is enjoying his new role in the Newport East Missional Hub. He has assistance of Mrs. Deb Crahart as a Family Worker between St. Julian’s and Bishpool.
Tim Crahart has been working closely with Caerphilly Council over this year in his role as Mission Developer and work has begun on the Resource Centre in the manse at Ty Sign. I am grateful for Tim’s support, as well as Rev Paula Rose Foley, and all of the lovely people in Cross Keys; Dan y Graig; Shaftesbury; St. David’s and Trinity. I am also grateful for the warmth of reception offered to me at Earlswood Hope; Valley and Penycaemwr.
We have arranged a Zoom Circuit Meeting for Wednesday February 3rd at 7.30PM, of which one job is to appoint a Circuit Invitation Committee as Rev Les and myself see our appointments due to close in 2022.
We are also trying to arrange a Zoom Local Preachers Meeting early in the new year, and there has been no Wales Synod this year. A synod is planned for April 2021.
Alison McBain and her team are leading Safeguarding Training events on Zoom and I thank Alison and her team for the diligence and care in all matters related to Safeguarding.
Church and Circuit life sees a lot of hard work by many people, often unnoticed in the background. I particularly want to thank Roger Bafico who hosts all of our Zoom Circuit events; all of the Circuit Stewards who put so much wisdom and effort into ensuring smooth working across a wide and varied geographical area; those that have prepared worship services; my colleagues who are a delight; and all who have not only ‘got churches open’ but have explored and executed varying ways of drawing worshipping communities together, ensuring corporate praise of the Living God. Thank you.
Finally. The Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Beginning and our End, is with us. Many people are exploring Christian faith on-line. Many people may have all sorts of questions now that life has been disrupted. It is said that the Church is the only organisation that exists for its non-members. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Let us thank God for walking with us, and let us be prepared, in the new that is emerging, to join in with the Blessed Trinity as we go forward in faith.