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Bishop's New Year Message, 2016

by Gerry Lynch last modified 06 Jan, 2016 05:55 PM

Bishop Nicholas recorded this New Year message for BBC Wiltshire, broadcast on 1 January 2016

Happy New Year. 

I like the hopefulness of a new year. It feels like there’s a lot to look forward to, without knowing today exactly what that will mean. 

At the turn of the years we look back as well as forwards. This last year, my own highlights as bishop included the Salisbury celebrations for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with their focus on justice and human rights; the ordinations of the Church of England’s first women bishops, including 2 from Salisbury to be Bishops of Taunton and Crediton; and the agreement about climate change made in Paris by 195 countries working together. This was all the more striking and hopeful after the terrorism which seeks to divide us and which creates fear between people.

In Salisbury I also ordained 23 new clergy, confirmed more than 600 people making their commitment to Jesus Christ and visited dozens of schools and parishes where people renewed hope by getting on with life in ways that cared for others not just for self.

Whether 2016 is a good year will depend on a mix of what happens  -  to us, our family and friends as well as in the wider world – as well as how we cope with it. Life is a gift and everything can be a blessing. Christianity encourages us to give thanks for everything.

That’s not the same as saying, I hope that only good things will happen to you in the coming year. It is much more hopeful because  I hope you will be able to turn whatever happens to you for good.

In truth last year was mixed: every year is. 

For many of us in Western Europe, last year was framed by terrorism in Paris – the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the terrorism on Friday 13th November.  Terrosim seeks to create fear and divide people but this brought us together – “Je suis Charlie” and we are all Parisians now.

How can we extend that sense of solidarity in a war-torn and fragile world? That’s going to be one of the tasks facing us in 2016 as we continue to work out what to do about the largest movement of refugees in post War Europe.

Sometimes it is the very personal that helps us to see how we can cope with the difficult. Just before Christmas I had a letter from the wife of someone who had died. He had been ill for 3 months. She said throughout that difficult time he “shone as a light throughout his difficulties”.  It’s striking when someone carries themselves in a way that helps everyone around then to face up to what is happening and deal with sad and difficult events well.

We can see some of what is coming towards us in 2016.  As a family we’re looking forward to some celebrations. As a country, the Queen’s 90th birthday is likely to be a celebration for the whole country.

There are going to be some big political decisions including a referendum about staying in Europe.

And I hope there will be plenty in 2016 that will surprise us.

Our responses to whatever happens in the coming year will be worked out at different levels.
Every year brings downs as well as ups. Give thanks for everything. Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.

At the personal level we need to love in small particulars.

More broadly, see everyone as your neighbour and give thanks for them. 

Happy New Year, whatever it brings, and let’s make it a good one.

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