The New Year offers an opportunity to reflect and hope for the future. Our recent experience, living through a global pandemic with endless restrictions on daily life, has left many people feeling shattered and exhausted and wondering where to find hope for the new year.
For Christians, hope is a central part of our faith. God shows us that through the life and death of Jesus, he makes good on his promise of eternal life, a hope beyond this earthly existence.
The story of St Dubricius Church, Whitchurch, part of the Wye Reaches benefice, offers an inspiring story of finding hope amidst the devastation of an environmental disaster. They recently took part in the local BBC national Sunday worship service, sharing their story of hope.
In February 2020, before covid struck, the local area was deluged by the worst floods in over 200 years. The floodwaters destroyed many homes, businesses and saw people airlifted to safety by emergency services. The church of St Dubricius on the banks of the River Wye was deluged by 1.52 metres of water, destroying the church's interior.
"The scene which greeted our eyes inside the church was horrific. The darkness and heavy, wet atmosphere added to the gloom and sadness, with no electricity.
"Damaged hymn books and mud-splattered bibles were strewn across the filthy floor. The water had swept heavy furniture across the church. And all treasured cushions and kneelers, which past members of the congregation had lovingly sewed, were reduced to a soggy, bacteria-filled mass." Explained Sue Morris, churchwarden at St Dubricius Church, Whitchurch.
The first national lockdown compounded matters and meant many restrictions affecting all aspects of everyday life led to a three-month delay before the restoration work could begin. In just 8 months, the hard work of everyone in the congregation and the community pulled together and played a part in helping to restore the church.
"The team effort reminded everyone that we are more than the building. The people who worship there regularly want to develop strength as a meaningful church family and share their Christian faith, which gave us hope for our future.
"When I saw the flood damage and thought it was the end of St Dubricius, I had wondered where God was. It tested my faith.
"There were many wonderful and generous acts of kindness and donations. The local community and the many visitors who came to this area got us through it, and we are now looking forward to a brighter future. We have a new Vicar, Tim, and are planning many community events, including working with the wider community to look at celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in June.
St. Dubricius is fully restored and is once again an integral part of the community. Revd Tim Starling, Vicar for the Wye Reaches Benefice, adds: "I am so proud of the church family here in Whitchurch; in fact, the whole village. They demonstrate such Christian care and love for each other. I am also looking forward to meeting the regular visitors who have played such a part in encouraging all of us. "