Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.  Matthew 11:28


Frances Novillo, our Lead Chaplain, writes: Who knows what 2019 will bring?  There are dates in the diary which will be meaningful to us individually, birthdays and anniversaries; dates which matter to our local and church communities; and significant dates for our whole country, the effects of which will unfold over coming months.  Perhaps this year you are expecting a baby, planning a wedding, moving house or changing job.  In the Chaplaincy we are planning a training course for all volunteers; the essential training sessions take place on Tuesdays 5th, 12th, and 26th February, and Saturday 2nd March.  These dates are in the diary; already known to us.

But there will be significant dates in 2019 as yet unknown to us, whose impacts are unpredictable and unexpected.  I was thriving in 2018 until Wednesday 14th November when I fell in the street which limited my movement for weeks to walking only slowly when absolutely necessary.  While I have found the experience very frustrating, I have also wondered if God has been inviting me to slow down, to rush less.  The Chaplain’s ministry (and our Street Angels are our night-time Chaplains) is described as a ministry of presence, of ‘loitering with intent’ somewhere where people notice us and can ask for our help, of moving in a way which appears interruptable by anyone who wants to stop us for a chat.  Striding forward purposefully can feel satisfying to us, but can actually make it difficult for people who might need chaplaincy support to access that, even as we walk right past them.  

While I’ve been struggling to move, to shop, unable to drive, finding it difficult to pick things up from the floor, I’ve also found it difficult to know who to ask for help.  If I ask, will people feel obliged to help even if they’re busy, or feel guilty for saying no?  I wouldn’t want that.  Maybe these feelings are helping me empathise with people in need who find it difficult to approach a Street Angel or Chaplain to express their need.  I hope my unexpected experience of injury and slow recovery will have a lasting positive impact helping me be more attentive to those around me who might want help but feel afraid to ask for it, and those who are reaching out for help.  Even after I’ve recovered I hope I remember to move slowly enough to notice everyone and everything God wants me to see and respond to.

Let’s make 2019 a year in which we are attentive in both times we have prepared for and events which affect us unexpectedly.  This year may we better notice the needs around us, including our own needs, and be receptive to those who want to help us and others with us.  May God bless the Chaplaincy this year with:

     - more volunteers willing to serve the town centre by day and at night, 
     - positive working relationships with local businesses, civic and statutory
     - sufficient money to meet our immediate needs and secure the future of
        the charity,
     - an ever-increasing awareness of God’s attentiveness to our needs which
        we may then emulate in serving others.

May we walk in God’s favour, and share every blessing we receive from Him with others.  Have a very happy New Year!