May you all have a Peaceful and Happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Again this year we are sending our Christmas news and greetings by email and internet.
What a year has just passed. In the wider world a new government was elected to Westminster whilst we are celebrating the one on whose shoulders the eternal government rests. So as we remember that Jesus Christ is the Wonderful Counsellor, and the Prince of Peace, may the 20th year of the new millennium give us the time, space and generosity to reflect His qualities to those in the world around us through acts of kindness and goodwill.
There follows a summary of some of the things we have been up to in the past year, anticipating more good things to come in the future.
Standing within your gates O Jerusalem …. Having lived in the pages of the Bible all of our lives there was something very special about our pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. We visited dozens of sites linked to the life of Jesus and many other biblical scenes over ten days with friends from The Belfrey and some new friends from other churches across York and Yorkshire.
The first 6 days we were based in Jerusalem in a hotel that overlooked the city walls. Daily trips, mostly by coach, took us to Bethlehem, Hebron, River Jordan, The Dead Sea, Masada and Q’mran. Each with a fascinating story to link the present with events thousands of years ago.
We took hundreds of photographs. This one was taken in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; a shaft of sunlight burst through a window and dramatically landed on a carefully positioned Joan.
This southern part of the tour was marked by evidence of the present day tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Police and guards with guns on street corners; restrictions on movement; baggage checks and a general tension in the air. Israel expands its territories at the expense of Palestinian people who are uprooted and herded together in refugee camps along the west bank. It’s not pretty and cries out for justice.
Heading north we arrive at a hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at Tiberias. It was the start of a fascinating journey through the country where Jesus chose his disciples and began his ministry. Sunrise over the Golan Heights, visible from our bedroom, was both glorious and moving.
The pilgrimage concluded with communion on a beach at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. I was challenged. Was this just another holiday or would I be changed by the experience to live for Jesus more intentionally when I arrived home? It was no ordinary trip – it was extraordinary.
It was 1949. Barrie was born into a homeless family in Elterwater. His parents were living in cramped conditions with friends after being forced to leave their flat in Ambleside. Is it any coincidence that 70 years later he is a founding director of a charity that serves people who are homeless in York? This was the year he had decided he would retire as Chairman of Restore (York) , standing down in July after ten years during which the charity had grown from nothing to be housing 35 people who are homeless in 9 houses in York. He spent the last year, along with other directors, preparing the board for his departure by recruiting new board members and filling the key role of chairman. It coincided with some restructuring of the staff team and the creation of a Chief Execs post. Restore is now a well established housing provider for single people who are homeless in the city, an expression of the love of Christ in a broken world.
2020 will be the year that Barrie’s term as a churchwarden of St Michael le Belfrey (often now known as The Belfrey – belfrey.org) comes to an end. Will it be the year that retirement really kicks in? Joan is still working as a facilitator for school workshops at the York Museums Trust and she’s not yet ready to give it up completely, although she may reduce the number of days she works.
Where does the time go? Alex turned 12, Emily 10 and Anna clocked up her 2nd birthday.
One of Alex’s passions (apart from Lego) is cricket. He’s a dedicated cricketer, playing for a team in a local league. He attends regular training and specialises in being a right handed spin bowler and a left handed batsman. It means grandparents can enjoy a summers day on the boundary drinking tea, chatting and occasionally applauding the success of Alex’s team; now and then getting up to help Alex warm up with a few well meaning attempts to bowl him a few balls away from play, outside the boundary.
The curtain rises; dancers fill the stage. It’s Emily’s annual show at the Central Theatre in Chelmsford. The climax of a year of classes at her dance school. Her performance is graceful, creative and faultless as scene after scene unfolds. Next year Emily has won a part in a new production; weekly rehearsals start in January. This means there will be another show for grandparents to attend as well as the annual dance school show. It’s also the year Emily goes up to the big school to join her brother. O dear, time has flown.
In Cambridge, Anna started nursery this summer when Matthew went back to work after his stint as stay at home Dad. How would she cope? How would the nursery cope? The answer is: both managed extremely well as it turns out. She seemed to take to it like a duck to water. Even when Matthew or Laura are at home she still wants to go to school. We really enjoyed our holiday in Wales with her and the rest of her family including her other grandparents. She is a delight. Next year will be an exciting one for Anna; a new addition to the family is expected in March.
“We’ll take the plaster off the walls up to one metre above the floor, treat the wall and then re-plaster .…”
If that sounds messy – it was. In January we moved out for a week and stayed with Wesley in Chelmsford as the damp proofers got to work on the ground floor of our home in York. Arriving back, we were prepared for the worst – it was worse! Enough to say that it was August before we were straight and ready to live normally in our now dry home.
The work was overdue – we knew it had to be done and finally decided to bite the bullet, obtain estimates and apprehensively give the go ahead. We knew there would be dust, damage and decorating – enough to fill the next 8 months. Thankfully it’s done.