New Year Message from Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn
I am writing this New Year Message before Christmas, which is a real risk, because I don't know what tomorrow or the end of the year will bring.
Guidance and regulations are changing almost by the hour. And to look into 2022 with any kind of certainty would be foolish. Yes, uncertainty and reluctance to plan is the name of the game.
In one sense, that has always been the case. None of us quite know what is round the corner. Accident or illness often bang on the door unexpectedly, but the feeling of uncertainty had been heightened by the current pandemic; with work, health, family meetings and travel arrangements liable to sudden change.
But this has also made us appreciate those people and things which give certainty. It is remarkable that Her Majesty the Queen has reigned for so long; kept so well; given continuity and stability, even in her own personal bereavement this past year and has offered a clear Christian lead to the nation. Long may she reign! But that is not in our hands or hers.
The established church, freedom of speech and belief, our justice system, our NHS healthcare and welfare provision, our schools and academies, are all part of the backbone of our culture that give that measure of security in uncertain times.
However, I fear we have wandered from some of those anchors for a stable society, by not resourcing them, or giving them the priority they deserve. Those we most depend upon for our wellbeing are often the most poorly paid and supported. Yes, the structures are there, but the environment to attract people to take on those crucial roles is often off-putting.
So, out of the tragedy of the pandemic, I believe there is an opportunity to reset the compass. What are we to learn and so do differently in 2022?
It's an opportunity to reset our economy, so that it and jobs and livelihoods are based on essentials rather than luxuries and non-essentials. We have become over reliant on industries and trade that provide pleasure and fun, rather than the basic ingredients of life.
And the economy also has to be reset, so that it is not resting on unsustainable and increasing debt, leaving future generations to pick up the tab.
We have begun to reset the value we give to those who work as NHS staff, care home workers, teachers, drivers, retailers, and manufacturers, all without whom many of the basic ingredients of daily life come crashing to a halt. But more needs to be done to increase the culture change.
It's also an opportunity to reset the compass on to truth telling, in our political life, in our media. The trend to talk of ‘my truth’ and to use deliberate diversion tactics to turn attention away from the truth never play out well.
It's an opportunity to reset the basis for our moral and ethical decisions, in the controversial areas of life and death and human flourishing, on how we reach a view and on what authority that view is founded.
The start of a New Year traditionally is accompanied by resolutions to be and do better in the year ahead.
The uncertainty engendered by the pandemic calls us to reset the compass on how we live our lives. To focus on what really matters, knowing none of us are here forever and by so doing, finding the One who has made this extraordinary world and to whom we are all accountable one day.
He is the one real certainty: Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
And that's why Christians make such a fuss about Him, as the One who brings life in all its fullness.
Let me finish with some of the verses of a well-known traditional hymn, as they put it far better than I ever could …
Through all the changing scenes of life
In trouble and in joy
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ
O make but trial of His love
Experience will decide
How blest are they and only they
Who in His truth confide.
Fear Him ye saints and you will then
Have nothing else to fear,
Make you His service your delight,
Your wants shall be His care.
To Father Son and Holy Spirit,
The God whom we adore
Be glory as it was, is now
And shall be evermore.
I send my best wishes for a 2022 in which our resets deliver a better way.
Rt Rev. Julian Henderson
Bishop of Blackburn