The end of July saw the first anniversary of my ordination here at Hall Gate. As I write this letter the rain is lashing against my window and I’m comfortable in a jumper. It’s a very different day from that sweltering Saturday in July 2008.
The last year has been a wonderful first year of ministry for me. It has been a great privilege to serve you in so many ways. I look forward to sharing the coming years with you.
The past year has given me a real sense of God’s providence in my life. The past year has not been perfect. I have made mistakes for which I am truly sorry. But I have also experienced the joy of reconciliation and grace.
It is this sense of God’s providence that we are seeing as we continue our series through the Bible. God’s patience towards his people is awe-inspiring, especially considering their ingratitude and inability to be faithful. That patience is seen in God’s breaking into history in the person of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. As we continue through the Bible toward the coming of Jesus and the benefits that brings we shall see God’s providence at work in times of national defeat and exile.
God’s providence is still at work in his church today and still, like the people of Israel and those in the early church, the church is struggling to be faithful. All around us we’re being told that Christianity is false. Or we’re being told that people are increasingly “spiritual” and the church is failing to connect with that. As a result of this we’re seeing churches trying to come up with new ideas to attract people and the URC hasn’t been immune to that.
It all seems like bad news, doesn’t it? And if it does it’s because we’ve fallen into the trap that God’s people have fallen in time and time again. We think we know better than God. We don’t think that God can truly revive his church. We have to come up with new ideas because the old ways aren’t doing the business anymore.
The good news is that God’s ways are not our ways. For “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). The church should be a place that is different. It speaks a unique language. It brings together people that would never be together outside of it. It is a picture of heaven in a world that is against everything that means.
I did not accept the call to be your minister because I thought this was a dying church. I accepted the call to Hall Gate because I saw that God has not finished with us yet. God is gracious. He has secured our salvation in Jesus Christ. Do we truly believe that the Holy Spirit can work in this church? I say to you that he can. Through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments God will grow this church.
I pray that we will we be faithful to our great God to the glory of his name.