Happy New Year

Yesterday (3rd Dec) we celebrated the first day of Advent, and the beginning of the church’s year. We lit the first of the advent candles and began to listen to the Gospel of Mark which is the mainstay of the Bible readings we will be learning from in 2024.

What are you hoping for in the year to come?

As the Vicar of Marsden and Slaithwaite, I have many hopes for our community, for our churches, and for my own relationship with God. I thought you might like an insight.

I am thankful that I live among the people of Marsden and Slaithwaite: I feel blessed to be here, immersed in the beauty of the South Pennines and dwelling among people who “love their neighbours”. Our schools, businesses, homes, cafes, farms, and creative spaces are just fabulous: there is a cooperative and entrepreneurial spirit amongst us. Honestly, there are towns and cities that long for what we have here in the Colne Valley.

…and yet, I’m not stupid or ignorant of the pain and suffering that exists here too. Within our community are people who are so hurt by life, and by others, that the idea we live in a wonderful place is ridiculous. So I pray every day. Sometimes I feel like I’m praying into the void… that God is a God far off, who doesn’t care for my prayers and supplications, but then something will happen that reminds me that God is not a God far off and that the Christmas shout of “Emmanuel, God is with us” is a deeper truth than I ever imagined.

So I have a persistence in prayer. I witness to God the hopes and fears that have been shared with me. I witness to the yearning for justice or righteousness. I witness before God the systematic injustice that oppresses people. I witness before God the domestic violence and abuse. I cry out to God – enough! Make our paths straight and guide this community back to love. Heal the hurt. Bind up the broken-hearted. Stop the hand of violence. Act, dear God, act. Here in this valley.

And this is what I pray, every day:

For our communities…
I pray for the people of Marsden, Slaithwaite, and the homes in the surrounding homes hillsides. I pray that every person who lives here shine like stars for all eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven; that every person will know that God is, and they are loved. I pray for those who are trapped by patterns of violence, deceit, addiction, and pain. I pray that those who hurt others, who deceive others, who feed addiction, and cause pain; will turn away from their behaviour and save their souls while they are alive. I pray that those who are oppressed and imprisoned by evil are liberated; set free from the abuse of others. I pray that God will speak into our hearts, souls, and minds; and that we might hear the soft call of divine love. I pray that God will draw close to Marsden and Slaithwaite and that heaven may, today, be seen on earth.

For our churches…
I pray for all Christians in the Colne Valley who give their time, financial support, and love; that they may be blessed by God in all things. I pray for all church leaders: the committee at Shred, the PCC and Churchwardens of St James, Slaithwaite, and St Bartholomew’s, Marsden. I pray for Sue, Roz and the Methodist Church in Slaithwaite. I pray for Jo, Andrew and the United Church in Marsden. I pray for Andrew and the Roman Catholic Church here. I pray for Karen and Dan as they lead the Arc Church in Slaithwaite. I pray for the free churches and for all those Christians who travel to worship elsewhere. I give thanks that we are surrounded by a great cloud of faith-filled witnesses and that all our church groups will grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in the number of people who worship together.

For myself…
I give thanks to God for the privilege of holding you all in my prayers. I pray that God will hear me, come quickly – not delay – and answer my prayers for Marsden and Slaithwaite. I pray for the physical and spiritual strength to minister here. As it says in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

What are you hoping for in the year to come?

Graeme (Interim Vicar of Marsden and Slaithwaite)