Pastoral Letter: 2nd January 2021

Dear Friend from Bridport United Church, Uploders Methodist Church or Hope and Radipole United Reformed Churches,

A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) 

I once at Primary School did a project on Janus (the Roman god after whom the month of January is named) and am wondering if it’s mildly heretical to talk of a pagan god in a pastoral letter? 
He had two faces, one looking backwards and the other one forwards, much as I have been doing in my reflections this year.   And as we approach a new year I find myself doing it again, but somehow more poignantly?

When I started 2020 I could never have imagined the tumultuous year that was about to come!  I was looking forward to a trip to visit the son and grandchildren in Australia and Oxford United were pretty much bottom of the Table.  I remember thinking that the next 9 months were likely to be quite long ones as we awaited the arrival of our Ministerial Team additions and thinking it was a jolly good thing we had Deb’s Brazier sharing the workload at Dorchester and Gwyneth Owen offering tremendous leadership and vision across the Circuit.

The shadows of events in Wuhan did not seem too threatening, although by the time we returned it seemed as if we had returned to a very different place from the one we’d left scant weeks before!  And what a journey we have all been on since then, eh?  

Restrictions, queues for shops, shut shops indeed, masks, sanitiser etc. etc. 2020 has definitely been quite a year.    Indeed I have heard it said by folk that they are staying up to midnight this year just to make sure it leaves!!! 

You may have noticed that throughout 2020 I have insisted that we are the ‘People of Hope’ and will get through this, just as we have so far.  I am encouraged by every sign of hope (the one today as I write is the news that the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine has been approved - Hurrah!) and I have spent my year saying on the one hand, “Here’s hopeful news ..” and on the other “… but of course, as the People of Hope, we have other hopeful, hope-filled news …!” 

But as we sit on the cusp, with 2021 just around the corner, it dawns on me that we are actually also the ‘People of the Cusp.’  We are also the ‘Now-and-not-yet People’ and are who we are, no doubt because of what happened in the past (not least the Incarnation that we have just celebrated!) but our focus is much more on the future.  We have much to keep us looking forwards and not worrying too much about the past.  

So let us not worry too much about the bad side of 2020 (where incidentally, Oxford Utd even ended up in the Play-Off Finals!) and move forwards in hope, expectation and delight at what 2021 has to offer?  

Your Minister,

Peter Clarke

PS Oxford lost that final but I still love them, probably confirming my personality as a persistent optimist!


So … our Service options this week:


1)  As I write Dorset has moved into Tier 3 restrictions which do allow continuing live worship services under the same conditions as previously.  After a consultation with the Church Council, we have agreed that we will continue to offer a live service at 10:30am on Sunday 3rd January, led by our Bridport-based Lay Preacher, Peter Kershaw.  Should we move into Tier 4 later on, we will review again.  


2)  This week’s Video Service on YouTube is led by Rev'd John Yarrien, and will go live at 5pm on Saturday. Here’s the Link:


3)  The Audio Service  from the United Reformed Church this week from the Daily Devotions Team continues with the Advent/Christmas pattern of reflections/meditations from Nick Fawcett, will be focusing, of course, on Epiphany! We couldn't let the Sunday pass without singing We Three Kings, also included in Sunday's hymn choices are a triumphant rendition of Gaudete, The First Noel and James Montgomery's Hail to the Lord's Anointed.

Here’s the link: