Bishop Stephen's New Year Message

Church News | Sunday, 8 January 2012 |

By Carolyn Tibbott

Bishop Stephen.

Bishop Stephen.

The Olympic year has arrived. The whole world is coming to the Chelmsford diocese. What does this mean for us? What will people be looking for?

Well, the lucky ones who have tickets won’t be doing much more than enjoying the games. But most of us didn’t get tickets. We want to watch what’s happening and cheer our competitors on, but I think, intuitively, we are rather hoping that it will be something more that just sitting in front of the telly with a pizza on our lap and a beer in our hand. The Olympics is a great world-wide festival of sport and culture. It is happening on our door step. We want to feel as if we’re joining in the celebrations, not just observing them. This is where the church comes in. We have an opportunity here to use the excitement and the anticipation of the Olympics to bring people together, to create in our own communities a place of celebration, where just watching the event together, with others, can make us feel part of it.

Building community is a vital ministry for the church. Many of us lead isolated lives. Often we know the names of the people who live in Albert Square, but haven’t spoken to our own next door neighbour for years. But loving your neighbour is basic to the Christian faith. It is also what people crave. We long to live in warm, supportive and cohesive communities. So drawing people together in community celebrations is good in itself: it is also the indispensible prerequisite of any Christian service or mission. Unless we know people and people know us there can be no effective witness.

So make the most of the Olympics. Enjoy them. Think how we can use this opportunity to build community and nurture friendship. From it God can do all sorts of other wonderful things; and in itself it is a sign of God’s hospitality and God’s longing for the world to live in peace. This might be a good New Year’s resolution: what can I do to get to know my neighbour and to serve my community?

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