Southwell Minster, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, UK, December 2018, West Front of Southwell Minster

The Bishop of Sherwood’s new year message

The Bishop of Sherwood’s new year message – A New Day Dawning

Just before Christmas my daughter, who is in year 6 at school, came home singing the Matt Redman song 10,000 reasons (Bless the Lord). She was learning it in her school choir and then performed it to the school (suitably socially distanced of course) and so I heard it repeatedly for a few weeks! It is a brilliant worship song but the line that I kept hearing her hum to herself and that struck a chord with me was: “The sun comes up, It’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again”.

2020 was an unprecedented year. One that we will not quickly forget. It was dominated by Covid-19 and all the tragic ramifications of that. Untimely death, economic woe and perhaps hardest of all for many of us, significant restrictions on our lives. We all, in our own ways, experienced levels of loneliness and painful loss, having to face up to not being able to pursue our usual routines or engage in life as we are used to doing.

It was also a hugely challenging year for the Church. Our buildings were closed to public worship for extended periods of time, we had to accelerate our development of online worship and face the complex question of how to maintain missional engagement, especially with the vital demographics of children, young people and families. We weren’t able to ‘Bless the Lord’ in ways that many find strengthen faith, raise hope, and bring joy. Our sacramental worship was limited to partaking in one kind, and our sung worship, whether traditional or contemporary, was off limits for all but the professional musicians, restricted by face masks and lacking the opportunity to engage in building relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And yet we are still to worship: “The sun comes up, It’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again, Whatever may pass, And whatever lies before me, Let me be singing, When the evening comes”.

Back in September I was walking past Southwell Minster early one morning.  I had recently started my new role as the Bishop of Sherwood. We were in the midst of a global pandemic, my family of three teenage children were dealing with the challenges of moving half-way across the country and I was wondering quite what I had done. Then I saw the beauty of the sun rising through the mist behind the Minster, a new day dawning, and I sensed the Spirit stir hope in my heart. Christ was very present. The One who entered darkness, his glory veiled, and yet the One whose light shines in that darkness, the risen One who the darkness cannot overcome. I found 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing: “to worship His Holy name, To sing like never before”.

As we enter this New Year let’s remember that a New Day has Dawned. Let’s celebrate all that was achieved by the Church in 2020. The people that were supported by innumerable food banks, community projects and love your neighbour initiatives. Those that came to faith in Christ through the witness and reach of online worship, services and evangelistic courses. Let’s give thanks for all the scientists, researchers, administrators, technicians, logisticians who have brought these vital vaccines into existence in record time. Let’s look forward to being able to sing our song again. To be able to come together as the Body of Christ, to open our mouths, to raise our voices: “To worship his holy name”.

“For the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Revelation 21:23

Andy Emerton
Bishop of Sherwood

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