As a new bishop of less than one month’s standing, I have been finding it impossible to escape the concept of ‘newness’ recently.
I have been adjusting to my new role, learning about new responsibilities, facing up to new challenges, meeting new people and even preparing to move into a new home.
Much of this has been very pleasant but it has had its daunting moments. Am I the right person for the job? Will I make the right decisions? Might I undo the excellent work of my predecessors?
So, as the New Year approaches, I’m on something of an emotional roller coaster: I’m filled with excitement at the possibilities in what lies ahead but unsettled, at the same time, by the awesomeness of it all.
Enough about me, though. What about you? How are you feeling as you look ahead to the New Year? Are you facing into 2020 with joy or sadness in your heart? Do you face the New Year with a sense of excitement or trepidation, optimism or dread?
None of us knows what the next twelve months will bring. We don’t even know what the next twelve hours will bring, so how can we approach the New Year with anything other than dread and fear?
The New Year chimes will scarcely have subsided when we find ourselves confronted by harsh reality. Brexit looms in all its complexity.
There will be renewed efforts to cut the Gordian knot at Stormont and restore the political institutions. Also in Northern Ireland, the less well-off are threatened by impending changes to the welfare system while, in the Republic, various crises – homelessness, a shortage of social housing and rent costs – defy resolution. Globally, the damage we’re doing to our planet is becoming more and more obvious and more and more frightening.
In the face of such challenges it would be easy – indeed entirely understandable – to become dispirited; but, as Christians, we are people of faith and people of hope. Jesus said, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Matthew 11:29)
As a follower of Jesus and in my new calling as a Bishop I know that He is right by my side. My aim is to be guided by Him every step of the way. I would encourage you to do likewise and to make Him the focal point of your 2020 vision.
The Book of Proverbs tells us: ‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ We are each of us tiny parts in God’s great plan – a plan way beyond our knowledge and comprehension – but when we put our trust in Him, committing ourselves fully and wholeheartedly, we find hope where none is obvious and discover a strength we never knew we had.
I wish each and every one of you a happy and peaceful New Year.