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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Salisbury Sermons, articles, and speeches Bishop's New Year Message, January 2019

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Bishop's New Year Message, January 2019

by Michael Ford last modified 07 May, 2019 03:15 PM

Given on 1 January 2019, BBC Radio Wilts.

All over the world, from Yekaterinburg to Moscow Idaho, New Year’s quizzes are likely to include, ‘Where is the oldest working mechanical clock in the world?’ and ‘How high is the spire of Salisbury cathedral?’ For Salisbury, 2018 was a difficult year. Novichok and the poisoning of the Skripals dominated our year.

The response of Police, Fire and Ambulance services was magnificent, and so was the hospital and the military and the staff at Porton Down. Salisbury really pulled together. The lowest point was when Dawn Sturgess died after she and Charlie Rowley got caught up in events they had nothing to do with. None of us really knew what to say about such a calamity. May she rest in peace and may her family and friends know the blessings of God’s love and of the love we have for one another.

Salisbury has been at the centre of world events. We know our connectedness and shared vulnerability. The County Council developed a recovery strategy, and that was important, but there was an opportunity to do more than just recover. We needed to make sure we didn’t waste a good crisis. What sort of city does Salisbury want to be? What sort of people are we and what do we want to say to the wider world?

I found myself writing a Salisbury Declaration. To start with it was only for me but I put it in my Christmas card and got a lot of positive responses. When bad things happen most people want good to come out of them. As we waited at the end of the year in what for the churches is Advent, waiting in darkness to celebrate the light of Christ, we committed ourselves to promoting justice, truth and trust, to live in peace and renew our hope here and throughout the world.

I am not sure 2019 looks any easier that 2018 was for Salisbury. After 10 years of austerity the strains show. Divisions have opened up in our society and much of the public sector no longer works properly. We are not sure how we belong with each other. Many people seem to have lost confidence in the political process. Brexit or no Brexit we are in the midst of the most difficult peacetime politics for decades. We need to build trust and confidence.

A friend in the Management School at Bath says that what builds trust in organisations in difficult circumstances is that they are led by people with ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability so that you know where you stand even when you disagree, perhaps particularly when you disagree.

I find this really useful but it is hardly rocket science. What we learn locally in our homes and families, in the local community, in churches and schools is pretty much the sort of thing that we need as a country and as a world. The uncertainty about whether Brexit is going to be good for us, the lack of predictability about what is going to happen in a world where politicians see disruption as a good thing makes us anxious about how the year ahead is going to pan out. In these circumstances we need to take great care of each other and secure our values so that at least we know the benevolence of one to another.

We can be fairly sure that the sun will set today and rise again tomorrow and life will go on one way or another. But at the start of 2019 my hopes and prayers are that in all the difficulties that are so evident we will root ourselves in the God who made us, loves us and renews us in Jesus Christ so that we rebuild trust and confidence through using our abilities, by being kind to one another and having one another’s interest at heart.

In this way I hope we will all have a Happy New Year.

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