A word from the vicar (2022)

Traffic Light

Get Ready (December 2022)

If there’s a single most important message to take away from the season of Advent it’s this: Jesus is coming soon, so make sure that you’re ready! And just to be clear, I don’t mean that the baby Jesus is coming soon, he arrived over two thousand years ago, I mean that our Lord Jesus, the crucified, risen, and ascended King is returning soon to judge the whole earth and to reign here forever. Don’t take my word for it, it’s there in the Bible time and time again.

Now getting ready for this event is not at all about putting up the decorations, stocking up on nibbles and buying a load of presents. It’s not even about ensuring that we give generously to charity and go to church a bit more regularly. Being ready for Christ’s return is about ensuring that our lives are centred upon Him and characterised by the good fruit that comes from truly knowing ourselves to be forgiven through His death and resurrection.

That last sentence may well have left you a little perplexed. It’s a far cry from the popular belief that ‘all good people go to heaven’. The Bible doesn’t teach this and thank God that it doesn’t! If we had to be good to go to heaven I’m afraid that not one of us would make it! No, it’s not about being good, it’s about believing in and accepting the goodness of God.

If all of this is a bit of a theology lesson for you, perhaps you might consider joining our Christianity Explored course that begins in January. CE is a seven week course that explores the basics of the Christian Faith through studying the Gospel of Mark, the shortest and most straightforward account of the life of Jesus in our Bibles.

We’ll be meeting at Church on Thursday evenings beginning on 19th January (with an on-line alternative (or catch-up) session happening on Tuesday evenings from 24th). At the in-person meetings we’ll share a meal each week, watch a video, and chat informally about God and faith and the meaning of life.

CE is ideal for those seeking God, for those new to faith, and for those simply wanting to reconnect with Jesus. At the end of the course we’ll be offering the opportunity for any unbaptised adults to be dunked into our baptismal pool, but the course is not only for those who have not been baptised.

In my job I meet lots of people who have great intentions about taking their faith seriously, but whose busy lives end up getting in the way. That’s a serious problem if Jesus returns whilst they’re delaying. So take this opportunity to prepare for Christ’s return. He’s definitely coming so hadn’t we better get ready. Ian

Life on the Front Line (October 2022)Kneeling Soldier

At morning prayer recently, we read again the familiar story of David’s affair with Bathsheba. If you know that story well, you’ll recall how David eventually ensured that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, never discovered the truth by ordering him to be placed on the front line in Israel’s war with the Ammonites. There he perished. Needless to say, God was not pleased.

The front line is a dangerous place to be, ask the millions of soldiers who served there in the trenches during World War I, or the Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who find themselves there at this very moment.

In recent times the expression “front line” has been adopted to describe those, like our health workers, who are most at risk from Covid infections. It’s also commonly used now to describe those at the sharp end of anything; many families and individuals are now on the “front-line” of the cost-of-living crisis.

But where is the front line in a Church? Is it at the front of Church where the clergy and other lay-leaders conduct our worship? Or is it at PCC meetings where the Church leadership meet to make big decisions? Or is it where we meet the community, in events like our Sausage Sizzle and our involvement with the Bread-and-Butter Thing?

Well, these might be front-lines of sorts (and they’re certainly all important) but I think that the real front-line in any Church is it’s communal and personal prayer life. Think about what Paul wrote in Ephesians 6.12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I believe that the more faithfully and fervently we pray, the stronger our Front-Line will be. Many of you know (but perhaps some of you don’t) that on Monday to Thursdays at 9.30am, a group of us meet on Zoom to pray for our churches, our community, our nation and our world. We pray for you!

But – as I say – being on the front-line is a dangerous place to be. In these last few weeks when we have had planned a parish weekend, a significant Harvest outreach, and a service at which fourteen people will be confirmed by the bishop, no fewer than SEVEN on the regular morning prayer team have been struck by Covid. That’s well over half of us – and remember we don’t meet in person. What’s more, other very prayerful members of our Church have also been struck down.

Now I know that Covid rates are rising again and that this could just be an untimely coincidence. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. Because God is doing so much good in our Church at the moment, I’m convinced that the devil is upping his efforts to undermine us. And he knows that our prayer life is the front-line that he needs to break through if he’s got any chance. This month he hasn’t succeeded – thank God and thank the many people who have stepped in to cover those of us who’ve been ill - but we must not let down our guard.

9.30am on Zoom will not suit everyone, but if you could join us – even infrequently – then ask me for an invite. Of course, our personal praying is just as vital. If you don’t already, please pray regularly for those things the devil hates most of all; for outreach events, for our children and young people, for new Christians, for invitational services, for our Life Groups, and for our lay and ordained leaders. Join the front-line; but don’t expect it to be an easy place to be! Ian

A picture of a river

Water, Water... (September 2022)

Water — or the lack of it — has been on all our minds lately. As I write this, our lawns look like beaches, and the leaves on the trees are . turning prematurely brown.

Scientifically, water is extremely unusual: all other chemical compounds of a similar molecular size are gases at our normal temperatures rather than liquid; water is the only known non-metallic substance which expands when it freezes; and the hydrogen bonds which make those two things happen also mean that water is an amazing solvent, able to dissolve more different substances than any other liquid.

These properties mean that life on our planet is entirely dependent on water, so it’s no wonder that water has become such a potent symbol of life. This is especially true in places where water is more limited than in our (normally) green and pleasant land, such as Israel.

The Bible is full of images of rain, streams, and rivers as blessings from God, and uses the idea of ‘thirst’ as a symbol of being cut off from God: Psalm 42, for example, begins ”As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, 0 God.” The drought which has baked our gardens, leaving soil like rock, is mirrored by a spiritual drought in our social, cultural, and political lives. We are suffering from increasing levels of loneliness, anxiety, and lack of care for the poor and the outsider — a drought of friendship, peace, and compassion.

You may have seen on the Internet the video showing how dry soil actually takes longer than wet soil to absorb water (which is why too much rain now will cause flooding). The longer we go without spiritual water, the harder our soul gets, and the harder we find it to undo the damage.

So when Jesus claims that he can give ”a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4.13) to those who ask him, we need to pay attention: this living water is the cure for our dried up souls. And once water has softened the earth around the spring, it flows on to bring fresh life further afield, and so Jesus’ spiritual water will flow out to restore our cracked communities. Let’s start asking for that water, as well as rain for our gardens, and we will see our lives as well as our lawns growing green again.

(We ”borrowed” this month’s article, with permission, from a clergy colleague, the Revd. Steven Day, Team Vicar of the Papworth Team Ministry in Cambridgeshire).

Kites flyingLet’s go fly a kite! (August 2022)

As a family, we’ve bought or been gifted many different kites over the years. But other than a couple of fleeting successes, we’ve usually struggled to get them off the ground. Most of our “kite-flying” has involved me running up and down a beach hoping desperately that a gust of wind will take a hold and send our kite soaring into the air. But instead, I’ve been left to feel a bit of a failure as I’ve sat alone untangling string whilst my children have moved on to paddling in the sea or building sandcastles. If we never buy another kite, I’ll be a happy man!

But having said all that, when I encounter an expert flyer, whose kite is dancing in the sky at their complete behest, I so desperately want to take the reins and join in. It’s an amazing sight to see a kite doing precisely what it’s been created to do. Now clearly, some kites are better than others, and – very obviously – the skill of the flyer varies too; but more important than even these factors, is the wind. Without the right wind, it wouldn’t only be me sat frustrated on the beach.

In the Bible, Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. He says “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.(John 3.8). And in one of the Creeds we use on Sundays, we declare that it’s the Holy Spirit who “gives life to the Church.” I have a strong sense that the Holy Spirit is moving very powerfully at St Thomas’ at this time. We’ve seen lots of new people come through our doors and many of the events and services we’ve held recently have been unmistakably spirit-filled.

I’m really grateful to everyone who’s helping to ‘fly the kite’ that is our Church. So many of you are praying, serving, visiting, welcoming and working to help our Church soar and to become all that we were created to be. But the real credit has to go to the Holy Spirit, without whom we’d all be exhausted but disappointed; just as I am after each of my kite-flying failures on the beach.

A Church that is “flying” in the power of the Holy Spirit is as beautiful and attractive as an expertly flown kite in the right sort of wind. It’s a time of awe and wonder and it causes others to want to play their part in steering it. It should also be a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving as we acknowledge God’s predominant role in all that is happening.

But it’s not a time for pride, or complacency, or for “easing-off”. Just as such attitudes would be a recipe for kite crash-landing; so they will be for a Church too. We must join in with what the Spirit is doing and go where he is leading. We must proceed humbly and prayerfully. Remembering, above all, that we are not the reason behind anything wonderful that happens. And we must be prepared for opposition: we can be sure that the devil will be doing all he can to tangle our cords and cut our strings.

But for now, let’s rejoice. Keep doing what you’re doing and join in with the Spirit. And remember, the Holy Spirit is not only all around us like the wind, he also dwells within every believer, and - if we allow him to - he’ll cause our own spirits to soar like a kite! Ian

Moses and the burning bush

Are you ready for summer? “I am” (July 2022)

This summer, from July 24th through to September 4th, our Bible readings at Bradley will be from John’s gospel and include the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus.  Our Lord boldly claimed: “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the gate”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, and “I am the true vine”. 
We’ll explore what he meant by each of these claims in the summer, but for now a question: Why did Jesus say begin each of these sayings with the words “I am”? Wouldn’t it have been more natural for him to say, for some of them at least, “I’m like a gate”, “I’m like a good shepherd”, “I’m like a vine”? After all Jesus wasn’t really a hinged wooden structure with a catch, was he?

Jesus said “I am” because he was identifying with his Father in heaven. Even more boldly than claiming he was “the way”, “the truth”, “the light”, and “the life”, Jesus was claiming to be God himself! And he does this by alluding to an event we find in the book of Exodus, chapter 3, when God reveals his name to Moses. 
There was no shortage of gods in the ancient world. Moses had grown up with the many gods of Egypt; the Canaanites, Babylonians, and Romans had their gods too. All these gods (with a little ‘g’) had statues built in their honour and smaller replicas for people to keep at home; and they all had names: Baal, Asherah, Dagon, Chemosh, Marduk, and the rest.

But until Exodus chapter 3, the God who is revealed as the creator of the universe and who promised Abraham that one day his descendants would bless every nation, had no name! He had been given names to describe him such as Adonai meaning “the supreme and ultimate being” and El Shaddai meaning “God Almighty.” But these weren’t really personal names.

But in Exodus 3, God appears to Moses from within a bush that is on fire, but does not burn up. He calls him to lead his Hebrew people out of Egypt; and when Moses asks him “who shall I say sent me?” God replied “say I am has sent me to you.”

In the Hebrew language (which has no vowels!) “I am” is written YHWH. From this we have taken God’s name to be Yahweh or Jehovah. That name occurs hundreds of times in the rest of the Bible. Wherever we find LORD in capital letters, that’s where the name “I am” is meant. But what a strange name our God has! 
What might he have meant by calling himself “I am”?  I think he means that he is eternal, he is the ultimate reality, he is unchanging, he is without equal, and he is alive. We worship this same Living God, revealed to us not through a burning bush – though that would be cool! – but through his Son Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit.  Try to get to as many of these summer services as you can!                        Ian

A Preacher

This is the Word of the Lord? (June 2022)

Last month we held the first of what I hope will become regular meetings of those who preach regularly at our Churches. Our hope is that through our prayerful discussions we might - with God’s help - develop our preaching ministry at Bradley, Fixby and Cowcliffe. I think the standard of preaching in our churches is good but there is, as they say, always room for improvement.

Some of the things we discussed last month were choosing sermon topics that are more relevant to people’s everyday lives and how we might better preach to congregations that are made up of people of different ages, experience of church, and familiarity with the Bible. This is no easy task, but we will try!

We also wondered about whether we, the congregation, were getting as much out of the sermons as we might. Do we come to Church prepared and expecting to hear God speak to us? Do we spend time reflecting on the Bible readings and the sermon we’ve just heard? Do we discuss them with others or ask the preacher about questions that occurred to us during their talk? It’s quite sad really that I’m more likely to be grabbed for a chat about football than I am about the word I’ve just preached!!

This is not meant as a criticism but I do feel that both preachers and congregations can go through the motions a little when it comes to the sermon. If we don’t approach sermons by expecting God to speak through us and to us then it’s unlikely that he will.

I wonder what you think about the Bible and those who try to preach it faithfully? Do you believe that scripture is truly the Word of God and that it’s as relevant today as it ever was? Do you believe that God can – and does – speak through the words of those who prayerfully prepare and preach at our services on Sundays?

If we’ve answered “yes” to these questions – and I hope that we have – shouldn’t we be earnestly looking forward to the sermon each week? Shouldn’t we be waiting excitedly (and perhaps even a little nervously) for what God might want to say to us each Sunday? I think we should.

There are good sermons and there are not-so-good sermons because we preachers are human and we don’t always get it right. But even through the most humdrum of talks, God can speak to us. Next week He might be speaking directly to you. You don’t want to miss that do you?

One practical change that I’ll make is to list the monthly readings on this sheet so that you can prepare for each weeks’ sermon by having a look at the passages beforehand. Sometimes we’ll use both of the listed readings, at other times just one. Just sometimes we might have reason to change the readings completely – but don’t fret, that pre-reading will never go to waste!

So, let’s pledge shall we – preachers and hearers alike – to take God’s Word as seriously as we should. To listen and to question and to respond. And above all, let’s expect to hear from our God. After all, this is the Word of the Lord, isn’t it? Ian


Queen Elizabeth

 Long to Reign Over Us (May 2022)

This month communities up and down the country – and around the world – will be making their final plans for celebrating our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Throughout the seventy years of her record-breaking reign, Queen Elizabeth II has served the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth with grace, integrity and wisdom. She has remained upright and dignified despite experiencing many personal and national tragedies. But what stands out more than anything during her reign is her deep personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

At her coronation, Elizabeth spoke these humble words: “I have chosen this position for myself: God has appointed me to it. Because He leads, I can follow in complete trust.” As she has grown older, our Queen has become even bolder in her proclamation of Jesus. Her Christmas speeches have not only referenced the birth of Christ but have also offered a gentle evangelistic message. Consider this quote from her 2019 speech: …through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.”

Or, what about this from her 2014 Christmas speech: For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.”

I’m not really the biggest ‘flag-waver’ on occasions like jubilees or at royal weddings and births. But I genuinely give thanks to God for our Queen, Elizabeth. I fear that we may never again possess a monarch with such a faith in Jesus as she has. Although the British monarchy is less powerful than once it was, I am sure that our present Queen will be remembered as not only one of our finest monarchs, but also on of our most influential.

I’m sure that in the next few weeks I’ll be asked often whether there’s a special service for our Queen during the long jubilee weekend of 2nd to 5th June. The short answer to that question is, “no”. The 5th June is also Pentecost Sunday and I’m convinced that her majesty would not want a celebration of her reign to trump the celebration of God’s Holy Spirit being poured out on all believers! That said; there will, of course, be prayers of thanksgiving for our Queen and – go on then – we’ll even sing our National Anthem!

St Hilda’s Church will be serving coffee and cakes during the Saturday of the Jubilee weekend (4th June, 10am-4pm). This will be outside should weather permit. Do go along and support them and celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee there.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the life and reign of our Queen, Elizabeth II. We thank you for her integrity, humility, wisdom and resolve. Above all, we thank you for her faith in you, and in your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Three CrossesWere you there? (April 2022)

I’m sure you’ve all heard the spiritual song ”Were you there (when they crucified my Lord)?” It almost certainly originates with enslaved African Americans and was written to make a conne-ction between the injustice they were suffering through slavery and that experienced by Jesus.

There’s another hymn with a similar title: ”When I needed a neighbour, where you there?” which is loosely based on the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 : 31-46.

”Where you there?” is an important question to ask ourselves as we reflect on the account of Christ’s Passion. It’s one that most of his disciples would not have been able to answer in the affirmative. After his arrest at Gethsemane, most of the disciples fled and hid. Peter did stick close for a while but then famously denied Jesus three times when he was identified as a follower. Only John, Mary, his mother, and some female disciples stayed with Jesus until the end.

What about us? Are we going to stay with Jesus. right to the end? Are we prepared to ”take up our cross” and follow him as he has called us all to do? (Mark 8 : 34) Although the disciples fled during Christ’s Passion. they later took up his challenge and in so far as we know, each of them really did deny themselves and take up their cross for the truth of the Christ crucified and resurrected; most gave up their own lives for him, but by doing so helped to give birth to a Church than now spans the earth. At their ends, each of them could now truly affirm: ”I was there.”

For us, denying ourselves and taking up our cross is unlikely to result in our death; but it should be sacrificial in just about every other way. ”Being there” for Jesus in twenty-first century Britain means standing up for his Word in a society that is abandoning it verse by verse. Doing this will place us in a most uncomfortable position and expose us to criticism and ridicule.

And ”Being there” for Jesus means responding to the great need we see around us at this present time; helping, in whatever way we’re able, the refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere; supporting the rapidly increasing number of people who are unable to meet the rising cost of living; standing up for justice, peace, and mercy wherever we find the opposite: ”When I needed a shelter, where you there?”

But in addition to these most practical of responses to Christ’s question ”Were you there?” there is another one. Are we going to be ”there” this year as we walk with Jesus through Holy Week? Are we going to share in his experience by reflecting day by day on his Passion and the Cross? You can, and should, do this at home of course. The passion narratives are in each of the gospels and are listed below. But you can also do it with us at Bradley, Fixby, and Cowcliffe. We have Holy Week reflections or services each day from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and then celebrations of his resurrection on Saturday and Sunday. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Let our answer be "yes" this year; during Holy Week and beyond. Ian
** The Passion Narratives can be found in Matthew 26 and 27, Mark 14 and 15, Luke 22 and 23, and John 12 to 19. **

Pray for Ukraine

Pray, pray, and pray again (March 2022)

As I write this, the Russian armies are sweeping through the sovereign state of Ukraine and taking its capital city, Kiev. Words escape me really. Part of me is shocked by Putin’s complete disregard for international law and human life; another part of me is not really surprised at all. if history has taught us anything it’s that every generation throws up a tyrant or two who view reality through a very different lens than the rest of us. The fact that this war is geographically closer to home than any since World War Two adds to our sense of horror and fear. But sadly, what we‘re watching this week is happening elsewhere in the world month by month and year by year.

I guess, like me, you're not only gripped by grief and sorrow but also by a deep sense of helplessness. What, practically, can we do for the Ukrainian people and for the many Christians who live there? We heard many Ukrainians — and indeed many secular and Church leaders here — suggesting that we ought to put pressure on our government to impose greater sanctions on Russia. Others are calling for immediate military intervention. But do we really know what the best course of action should be? With either of these moves, my sense is that it will be the Russian people who are hit hardest; and some of these have been the most fervent and courageous protestors of the invasion.

There will, I'm sure, soon be appeals for financial aid for the casualties of this war. I hope that those of you who can, might prayerfully consider what you might be able to give to this cause. But above even this, I believe that we are called to pray. Not just on a Sunday or before we go to bed; but every time we watch the news, every time the conflict crosses our minds, and every time we experience a hardship of our own.

When we pray, we are petitioning the One who has complete sovereignty over the universe. He is the One who raises up empires and brings them down. He more powerful than any sanction, any tank, any missile, and any warmongering dictator. We might ask why he simply doesn’t click his fingers and end this war right now. I believe He could, but for reasons that only He fully understands he usually chooses to intervene less obviously and desires our joining in with His longing for a ceasefire, and his quest for peace.

We must pray for the Ukrainian people and those of the other former Soviet states who must be fearful of Putin’s next move. We must pray for the world leaders who have to make the sorts of decisions I mentioned earlier, decisions which will inevitably cost the lives of civilians and soldiers alike. We must pray for those who are caring for the injured and the displaced. And we must pray for the Russian people who, perhaps above any other, have the potential to force an end to the conflict... but in attempting to do they put themselves in great danger.

Praying is not a pointless exercise; the Bible repeatedly assures us of this. Prayer has toppled dictators; prayer has vanquished mighty armies; prayer has achieved things that no sanctions or military invention could. We must pray... with faith and confidence and hope. Ian

Choose Life book - daily readingsWhat way will you choose? (February 2022)

Many of us have begun to read the daily reflections in the Choose Life book I was plugging before Christmas. For those of you who haven't, each day offers a verse or two of scripture and them presents us with a binary choice springing from it: "success or significance?", "forgiveness or bitterness?", "hope or despair?" It's really good and not too late to start!

Now it might be argued that life is far more complex than a series of binary choices. Surely there are "grey areas" and room for a "middle way" between polar opposites. Well, it is true that many of the day-to-day decisions we have to make are not quite so simple; just determining whether to change our energy provider and which company we might change it to is a tortuous and agonising process with lots of different options. But in the really big decisions in life there really are only two choices; one right and one wrong.

Think about the teaching of Jesus. He almost always presents us with two options. Are we like the wise or foolish builder? Will we help the victim on the roadside or walk on by? Is our master God or money? Will we enter the through the narrow or wide gate? Will we choose life or death? Light or darkness? Heaven, or hell? Will we be like the wise or the foolish virgins when our Lord returns?

Our society today has moved so far away from the Bible's constant teaching that there is a right and a wrong way. We hear advice like "do what's right for you" or "if it doesn't hurt anyone it must be ok." This sort of a philosophy makes an idol of self. It basically insists that we are our own gods.

Do you ever wonder how Jesus would be received if he made a bodily visit in our day? I suspect he would be as reviled now as he was first time around. I even think that many in the Church would deny that he was Christ because his teaching would be so far removed from their own. Just as in the first century when Jesus "came to that which was his own and his own did not receive him" so I think it would be again.

One of the most difficult - and even troubling - sayings of Jesus is this: "Do not suppose that I came to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10.34). But it makes a lot of sense in relation to the message he came to bring. Our society does not like being told that there is a right and a wrong, even when the somebody that tells them happens to be the Son of God. "if the world hates you" Jesus told his disciples "keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15.18).

Let's not be sucked into thinking the way the world does; let's make the right choices. And not just because we want to slavishly obey a ‘killjoy' God, but because we believe that he knows what's best for us. Choosing right over wrong is not the sensible thing to do to win God's favour, it's the sensible thing to do if we want to find peace, contentment and joy in our lives. He wants the very best for us and that's why his Word presents us with such stark binary choices. So what will you choose?               Choose Jesus. THE way, THE truth, and THE Life.               Ian



Happy New Year (January 2022)

If you're anything like me, New Years' resolutions are often short-lived. Whether it's a commitment to cut out cake or a pledge to banish biscuits I've usually failed miserably before Epiphany! And it's not just with efforts to live more healthily that I miss the mark; my determination to give more time to God often flounders when the busyness of work and family life takes over. My end-of-year report always seems to read: “must do better!" 

It occurs to me that many church mission plans can often
  fail to fully materialise too. We know what we ought to be doing but somehow we don't ever quite manage to do it. Perhaps its because, like many of our New Years' resolutions, we're a little too ambitious with our plans. We aim to do three or four things when we'd be better focusing on one or two.

Now you might argue, "how can we be too ambitious with the Holy Spirit on our side?" and I'd have to concede that - theologically speaking - you're right. Nothing is impossible for God and we shouldn't be aiming to do only the things that we could reasonably manage in our own strength. But that said, experience tells us that when we set out with a shopping list of goals, we often end up with an empty basket! 

Last year at St Thomas', we had the major focus of funding and accomplishing a major building project that would extend the life of our church and greatly improve its appearance. Although we've still to find a few thousand pounds for this, I'm sure you'd agree that we've very successfully achieved last years' aim. 

This year I'd like us to turn our attention to actively seeking to live the way Jesus is calling us to live. I don't want to prescribe how this might manifest itself, but if we do the right things then I am certain that this time next year we'll be able to look back on something that's even more impressive than a shiny new building and an illuminated cross. 

With this in mind I've been encouraging as many of us as possible to make the small commitment of buying one of the "Choose Life" books that I've been plugging, and spending just a few minutes each day reading and reflecting upon that day's passage. The subtitle of the book is "365 readings for radical disciples" which seems to me to be very apt indeed. 

We'll also, from Sunday 9th January, be beginning a twelve week sermon series on the book of James. James is a very practical book which encourages us to get back to basics in our Christian living. It's not a difficult book to understand but its teachings, drawing upon those of Jesus, are very challenging indeed. Again, it seems to fit perfectly with our goal for this year. 

There remains a lot of uncertainty in the world as we enter 2022, but nothing will prevent us from striving to become more radical disciples of Jesus. Nothing will stop us from praying or reading scripture or living our lives in a more Christlike way. We may not open a food bank or a community café in Bradley this year; but if we each resolve to live our lives as Jesus has called us to do then what we may achieve through Him is truly limitless. I'm so excited about the prospect I might celebrate with a piece of cake... Oops! 

Happy New Year! lan