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Parish Magazine Article - January 2023

Archdeacon of Hereford, Derek Chedzey with Hereford Cathedral in background

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied,

‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!’

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

These words have become well known because King George VI used them in his Christmas message in December 1939 as the country found itself once more at war.  They were actually written by Minnie Haskell who was a Bristolian by birth and who had travelled to India as a mission partner with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. She went on to work as a tutor at the London School of Economics where she was a pioneer of Industrial relations and was committed to a spirit of cooperation between worker and employer.

The words seemed rather apt as we stand at the beginning of a New Year with the war in Ukraine still raging, COVID still causing problems, rising heating costs, strikes and economic turbulence all impacting our lives.  If 2022 seemed to be to quote the late Queen an ‘annus horribilis’ it might seem that 2023 feels all rather uncertain and unpredictable. As humans, we struggle with change and uncertainty and the last year has added to a sense that we are no longer in control of our world.  Interestingly, as Christians, we know that we are not in control, so we approach things from a different perspective. The poem captures something of God’s promises to us that we will never be left on our own and that God will walk with us through the difficult moments of life. 

The Message Bible puts it rather well:

“Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, ‘God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?’”

Hebrews 13:5-6 Message

Alongside the sense that we will never be on our own is that we have a God who cares and listens.  One of the positive things in our Diocese this year will be our Year of Prayer which if nothing else reminds us that at the heart of our faith is our relationship with God who longs to hear our prayers and who loves us without measure. As we begin a New Year, the one thing we can all do is pray and bring to God our communities, our concerns, doubts and fears knowing that whatever comes our way in 2023 can never overwhelm us or separate us from Jesus. 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.:

Romans 8:38-9

As we begin the New Year let us pause to give thanks for what has been a momentous year and offer to God all the possibilities that the unknown future holds, knowing that as Minnie Haskell put it there is a safe path:

Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!’

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