And I said to the man
who stood at the gate of the year: "Give me a light that
I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied: "Go out into the darkness and put your hand
into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way." So I went forth, and finding
the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards
the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East."
Spoken by George VI in his Christmas 1939 broadcast to the Empire
these words struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainly
of war. They were the preamble to an obscure poem, God Knows,
written in 1908, but nobody was able to identify the poet. Finally
at midnight on Boxing Day the BBC announced that the author was
Minnie Louise Haskins, a retired academic from the London School
of Economics - LSE. The poem was just a small part of a career
which had encompassed working in India and the East End, industrial
welfare and academia.
2016 turned out to be a shocker of a year in many ways. Think
of the many celebrities who died - Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman,
David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Carla Lane and Caroline Aherne to
name just six of my personal favourites - gone but not forgotten.
Then of course there was Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Whatever your political persuasion these have to rank of two
of the most significant votes of recent history. The end of David
Cameron's career as Prime Minister and that of George Osborne's
too. The coming to power of our second woman PM.
So what will 2017 hold?
Well the point is that at this time (writing in December) none
of us knows. All we can see is the darkness ahead - for which
we need the hand of God (however you interpret that meaning).
But although the longest night is yet to come as I sit in my
study at the end of another long and murky December day, we do
know that already in January the nights will be just a little
shorter and maybe before the end of the month we will even feel
the first stirrings of life returning to garden and hedgerow.
And 2016 wasn't all bad you know.... There were the Olympics
to enjoy (let's leave to one side for now the questions about
drug taking and trust that our own athletes are, for the most
part, honestly seeking to be the best they can be). In church
our new Audio Visual System was finally installed and has made
a real difference to many of our services already. And even if
the heating has proved a big headache for St Chad's this winter,
I have been so grateful for the way everyone has set to and organised
temporary heaters, cheerfully donned another jumper, and ensured
that it is 'business as usual' in church.
So my guess is that 2017 will prove to be another mixed sort
of year. Some good - some bad, but let's thank God that we are
still here to see it!
PS. Many thanks to those who have written to me concerning the
right of access to St Mary, Patshull. Over 20 letters have now
gone in to the Churches Conservation Trust, so I think we have
proved pretty conclusively that approaching the church via the
Hall drive is by far and away the established means of access.
Let's hope it can remain so for the future.