CAUTION - this may be a bit preachy. For once, I make no apologies.
I've just had a lovely three day, stay at home break by combining the two bank hols from this week with a 'transferred' day off. Much sleep has been had, several mince pies have been munched, many kitty cuddles have been experienced (Sasha has come and sat next to me daily for ten days now!), quite a lot of knitting and a little bit of jigsaw puzzling has been done. It's been good.
At the same time the New Year - and new decade as the media love to keep reminding us - brings lots of cause for concern.
Social media is a mixed blessing, at its worst it is angry, aggressive and self-indulgent, but at its best, it's real community.
Over the past few days, along with other 'cats of twitter' the world over, my two have been watching and waiting with an online friend in Australia as the wild fires draw closer and closer to their home - and they are now essentially trapped as all roads have been closed. The concern, support and desire to help has been staggering - donations to charities, petitions signed and many more. OK, so this is middle class, mostly white, people with cats responding to one of their own, but it has really stirred people to the consequences of the climate changes being faced, and how close it comes to 'people like us'. Yes, it should have prompted this level of concern when it was people in smaller, less dominant nations, but perhaps better late than never. Climate issues are going to be incredibly significant this decade - whether it's floods in Derbyshire or fires Down Under. We need to act now to save our planet.
Social media also brought me news of the death of one of my longest standing cancer friends. We weren't close, and we only met twice in real life, but we, along with too many others, shared a world that - like any world - is only understandable from within. S was French and had made her home in the south of England where she raised a family. She was clever, funny, kind and generous - everything that is good about being European. Now the dye is cast, 'Brexit' will happen, legally or illegally, it seems, on 31st January. The relationships of the UK with Europe and the other nations, and indeed the relationship between the 'home nations' will all be renegotiated in the coming years, for good or for ill. International - and intranational - relations are going to be hugely important this decade and, whatever our politics, we need to recognise our shared humanity and interdependence. We need to act together for the good of all - there is no 'them' any more than a Plan(et) B.
It's been a bit of a season for deaths of people I know, it seems, as today has brought me news of the deaths of hymnwriter Graham Maule and Baptist minister and historian the Revd Douglas Sparkes. History and hymnody are, in my view, two vital strands in our self understanding and self expression. Each of these men has been hugely significant in his own sphere and in his own unique way. We are poorer, I fear, for their loss, because we have lost two fine thinkers and practitioners. A while back I preached a sermon on 'Poets, Prophets and Pragmatists' (to which I subsequently added 'Pastors') and I am reminded of its import again today. It is the poets (including song writers) who epxress what prose, however skilful and accurate, cannot. It is the prophets who call out what is wrong - yes, they are 'preachy', annoying, unsettling and often grumpy - as well as daring to dream what might yet be. It is the pragmatists who get on and get things done - as the scriptures tell us, faith proves itself in deeds... For me, the challenge is discerning not what I am called to (I know that's sort of prophetic-pragmatic-pastoral-preachy) it's working out just what that looks like in so complex and confusing a context as we now face.
So is there hope? Yes, there is.
The knitting project is a baby blanket for one of 'my' GB girls from Warrington who is now expecting her first baby. She has been through a lot over the years, and known much sadness, so I am delighted that now she has the joy of motherhood ahead of her. And it gives me great hope that, even in thise battered and broken world, thinking people still choose to bring new life into opur world. I hope and pray that when H's baby grows up they will be able to enjoy life to the full, in a wolrd that is kinder and safer than our worst fears might lead us to expect.
If you've read this far, thank you - it means a lot that you would choose to do so.