Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 4 February

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

So much of our news is all about how Britain is doing in the Covid crisis. How are the figures looking, what do the graphs show? This is quite natural, indeed as I said a couple of weeks ago, it dominates our conversation. The other topic to get space in the news is Brexit and the challenges facing exporters. With our local fishing industry, we are rightly concerned.

However, a quick look at the international news reveals a vast range of things that are happening around the world, most of them bad. There is a brutal war in Ethiopia, with many destitute refugees, rising tensions between China and Taiwan with some very warlike threats, the military coup to end democracy in Myanmar, terrible bush fires in Australia destroying people’s homes around Perth, massive demonstrations by Indian farmers who fear for their livelihoods… and so the list goes on. It strikes me, as someone who is interested in foreign news, that I still view it as someone else’s news. It is the kind of news I might mention in the intercessory prayers in church, but without passion or understanding. It is not just that it is news from far-away places but rather news impacting other people whom I do not know. When one of our families has relations on the other side of the world who are caught up in some overseas crisis, it becomes ‘our news’.

I’m afraid this applies to issues far nearer to home; people whose houses have been recently flooded, or people living in tower blocks waiting for them to be made safe from fire, or fatal road accidents outside of Cornwall.

It is absolutely natural that we prioritise news that directly affects us, but it may be helpful to do a re-think about other people’s news. It seems to me that Jesus spent His life dealing with other people and their news. He would ask “what do you want me to do for you?”. He gave people time and space to tell Him ‘all their news’. I need to start thinking that other people’s news is also my news. I am part of the human family, but mere human solidarity will leave you swamped and overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. What can I do about people suffering in Russia or Hong Kong or Somalia? Who are those faces that appear fleetingly on the news? If, however, I realise that I am part of God’s creation, then I acknowledge that He has overall charge and calls me to make small interventions into other people’s news where they need help. I might take a nation or a person pictured in the news as a topic for focused prayer this week, I might learn more detail, I might even find a relevant charity to channel some aid through. If I take on too much I will get discouraged and revert to doing nothing, but if I can see someone hurting, some traumatised face bereft of hope and make them part of my news, then the Lord Jesus will welcome my participation in His care for them.

And what a blessing to feel that your news may be of concern to someone you will never meet!

When we lived in London suburbia, at busy railway level crossings I would be confronted with signs warning ‘Beware of trains going in both directions at once’. Hey ho! Let’s keep our sense of direction, following Jesus day by day.

With warm regards to you all,

Alastair's signature

Published at 16:45 on 4 February 2021

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