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Well, after having had ourselves a “wary little Christmas”… we now find ourselves wishing each other a “Happy new tier“(!).
But whether Christmas felt like an endurance test, or whether you were able to secretly enjoy having something of a quieter, calmer celebration, we’re now in 2021. A brand new year. As with every other year, we don’t know yet what it holds for us – but I do pray it brings with it a renewed sense of hope for a new season ahead.
I’d really love to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all their commitment last year, we were all thrown head first into a strange (and ever changing) new normal. But the way you all, as a fellowship together, responded with a huge amount of grit and grace was massively encouraging and inspiring. People pulling together, picking up the phone, finding practical ways to express concern and support… Learning to worship and study together on youtube, zoom, blogs, podcasts and more opened up new possibilities and seemingly felt inviting, inclusive and open to people who didn’t usually attending our “in-person services” (which has become another new phrase for us!).
I particularly want to thank my fellow colleagues (Tim, Lorraine and Janet) and leaders (Ruth, Tim, Steve B, Steve P, Steve V, Richard, Sue, Mel, Allan, Ken, Juraj) for their relentless work over this past year. Special mention to must go to Liz for her role she takes in Pastoral Care, and to both Helen and Anne for the way they have maintained contact with so many from Bethel’s Luncheon Club too!
As I look back at the early days of live-streaming, and how much we have learnt over the past year, it’s been quite a journey. I remember the very first Sunday (Mother’s Day 2020) sat there nervously, with a TV monitor balanced behind me on the sofa, staring at a wobbly web cam (and a very frantic Tim behind it!) wondering if anyone was hearing any of it! The two of us were just hoping and praying that we could provide some kind of encouragement and normality at a time of huge uncertainty and stress.
But encouragement is a two way process and we were hugely bolstered by everyone’s commitment and support – which has remained so strong and vitally important to the two of us!
At one recent meeting I heard an experienced Church leader say it feels like we’ve made ten years worth of progress in the last ten months – and I agree that in terms of technology and our online presence it certainly does feel that way!
Over the year, there were many highlights; the Easter Windows, the first online communion together, the Day of Prayer, the “How Can I Pray?” interviews, Tim’s Sofa Apart Together series, Be:creative!, the bethel:kids virtual nativity, the youtube Carol Service, Online Alpha, and so much more!
In a recent magazine from the Evangelical Alliance, there was a great article about online ministry from leaders who had been engaged in it long before coronavirus hit. There was one insight which I found really helpful: “Faithfulness trumps viewing figures”; that ‘success’ in terms of online ministry lies not in the numbers of hits, views, likes or shares – but it the calling to be faithful to share what you feel the Lord has laid on your heart to share. Bethel has always been the kind of the church that has given those of us privileged to share in teaching and preaching that kind of encouragement and freedom – a church hungry to hear from God’s heart, and to learn more from His Word and grow deeper in Him. Despite having to learn new ways to share God’s Word, I’m hugely encouraged that that appetite has not changed. So thank you to all of you for your faithfulness over this past year, it means more than you will ever know!
We continue to miss you all so much, and long for the day when we can all meet up safely in person. In the meantime; can I encourage you to keep on praying, keep on supporting, keep on encouraging, and above all else – to keep your eyes on Jesus, our only Saviour and our only hope.
With loads of love, and every blessing for the coming year!
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