“A church is not just for Christmas, a church is open to everybody all year round, in good times and bad,” says Canon Tony Kaunhoven, acting Archdeacon of Chesterfield.
When meeting somebody in those first few days of a new year it is traditional to offer a greeting wishing them happiness for the year ahead.
We all wonder, at the beginning of something new, what we might expect or hope for and what change or improvement we might see in our situation.
Sadly, for some people, 2017 won’t be any different to the “same old, same old” lives they live with year in year out - facing the same challenging situations, routines and demands.
The Christmas message about peace and hope through the birth of Jesus that is sung about in carols and celebrated in crib services can quickly disappear. The credit card statement arrives and we find ourselves worrying about debt - an important relationship breaks up or the winter blues strike and the tough reality of everyday life replaces the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Fortunately, many more of us will enter 2017 with personal pledges to do some things differently, to make positive changes to our lives that - with encouragement, planning and resolve - may be achievable and gain us a real sense of self satisfaction. To do this we need to be open to the possibility that there may be pleasant surprises ahead, new and positive challenges or perhaps new relationships and opportunities to experience and enjoy and that will bring change and renewed hope.
We may have our own support networks among family and friends or places that we go to in a time of need, or we may not. It is worth remembering that both in good times and not so good, parish churches across Derbyshire seek to be quiet, safe spaces for people at anytime of the year. Many try to be open outside Sundays, to be welcoming and inclusive places where people can meet for activities, call in to light a candle, sit quietly, or draw strength, comfort, peace and practical help.
A local parish church seeks to identify with its local community and to provide comfort and support. The church may be a centre for a local food bank, it may help people to cope with debt, offer support at a time of bereavement, provide a sympathetic ear or direct people towards the help they need. Churches exist for everybody, not just for those who may use it for worship.
May 2017 be a time of hope, flourishing, opportunity and peace for yourself and those you love and whatever it holds, please remember that you don’t have to cope or face the new year alone. Our churches are for each and every one of us.