Dear friends

The photograph showed a young man relaxing, stretched out on a warm summers day, baseball cap shielding his eyes from the bright glare of the sun. Clearly this was his kind of day! Inscribed on the plinth on which the young man was lying were the names of those who had given their lives for their country in two world wars. They had sacrificed their freedom so that he could enjoy his. 

Each November we as a nation fulfil our pledge to remember those who have given their lives in service of their country. We recall the qualities of sacrifice, love, duty, courage and service and as we honour those who have gone before pray that we too may embody those same values for our lives today.

Jesus - our inspiration for service

Each week we find fresh inspiration as we gather together to remember Him who came ‘not to be served but to serve and to give his life as an offering for many’ (Mark 10:45). Our supreme inspiration for service and sacrifice is the life of Jesus himself, who models to us how we too should serve one another and extend that service to our community. 

The joy of serving our community

In a news article of a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary highlighted the effects of chronic loneliness within our society.

It is a source of "national shame" that as many as 800,000 people in England are "chronically lonely”. In a speech, Mr Hunt highlighted the "problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society". "Some five million people say television is their main form of company,". He said that 46% of people aged 80 or over reported feeling lonely "some of the time or often".

The church is best placed to serve the community and bring the life of God and his Kingdom to make a significant difference in the lives of others.  In different ways we help people to find a place of friendship and belonging always praying that along the way they may find in Jesus their true hope for life. 

Here are some ways in which new ideas for serving others and bringing life into our community are underway or in the process of taking shape:

1. The forthcoming Christmas lunch for the elderly and afternoon party on 30th December.   This initiative along with an ongoing ministry of care for the elderly does so much to enhance the lives of those living alone by creating a sense of community in which God is present by His Spirit. 

2. Physical fitnessis an important part of living healthy lives but for some it can be a huge obstacle just to get started. Christine Carver’s initiative recently to facilitate a coming together of ladies for exercise is tremendous (Trinity Trotters). Again it builds community, engenders fellowship and friendship along with mutual support and encouragement. Furthermore it welcomes all and any to come and share the journey. 

3. Adults with learning difficultiescan often find it difficult to be part of a small group (cell) within the church due to their specific needs and this can be a source of isolation. Liz Walker and Sue Bullochs’ initiative to provide a group in which friendship and love and care can be expressed is helping to build community where a need has been observed. 

4. Managing money and dealing with debt is a huge challenge which confronts many today, leaving them isolated and in despair. Phil Elliott and Irene Comer’s exploration into the CAP (Christians against poverty) Money Course is one way in which we can seek to serve those in our community who find themselves in dire straits for all sorts of reasons and who would value advice and help in finding a way forward. 

5. Language school. It has been on my heart for a long time to see a facility established here in which we can connect with our long term residents from overseas. Increasingly there are children starting primary school for whom English is their second language. There are an increasing number of adults in our community who may feel isolated due to poor English language skills. I would love to see a class established using our facilities providing lessons in English for those in our community who would desire to become more confident in their written and verbal language skills. 

If anyone has a TEFL qualification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or would like to get involved in this opportunity, do have a word with me. 

‘God, in whose service is perfect freedom’

There are many reasons why people may feel isolated: age, health, language, poverty, family responsibilities, but we, the church can bring the very life of God to change all of that. The Gospel is about transformation, allowing God by His Holy Spirit to bring change into a person’s life that is enriching and life enhancing. As we follow the example of Christ and serve one another, so we make way for God’s love to be known, experienced and received. ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God’ (1 John 4:7)