The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church offers a message as we head into 2021.
I offer you a Happy New Year at the end of a very peculiar and difficult old year.
I started to think about this message by looking back to my last New Year message and I read about all the things I thought we would be doing in 2020. I found myself becoming sad at the things that could have been, the people I could have met and the places I could have visited. That became a sense of unfairness and frustration which when mixed with sadness and loss can become very dark and uncomfortable. I know we need to look forward and to do so in the knowledge that whatever has passed still there can be hope for the future.
It would be quite understandable for people to be feeling fearful about the year to come, we now know the horror of a pandemic , a pandemic that continues to control our lives and to cause illness and death. Yet in the midst of that there is hope, the work of the scientists and the doctors who have brought the vaccines that might bring us back a true sense of freedom, the question I ask is: freedom to do what?
I long to be able to hug family, to be able to visit friends and to sit down in a theatre but that cannot be all that I hope for, all that we hope for, surely we must use the experience of the past to change our behaviour in the future.
This year will bring some dramatic moments into the life of Scotland. We have COP26 coming to Glasgow just at the time we as a church have promised to reduce our green house gas emissions. There are plans afoot to enable the churches and faith groups to make their voices heard when the politicians are in town, but we must also place the needs of the planet into our own hands, our own prayers and our own plans.
We know that the number one emergency is the saving of our environment, what should we be doing to help? How do we change our needs to meet the needs of creation?
In May Scotland will go to the polls for the election of our Scottish Parliament, I am also aware that the outcome of that vote could lead to major changes in our relationship with the rest of the UK and with each other. My hope for the New Year is that the voice of debate will not become a voice of anger and hatred. How we speak to each other and communicate with each other should be an example of the way Jesus spoke, with honesty and love.
We will also continue to see changes in the way we live our church lives, my hope for the new year is that as we begin to gain a greater capacity to worship in church, we also remain committed to maintain the remarkable links with those who cannot or will not come to public worship. We have the technology and many have learnt the skills to be far better at getting the message of love and joy into the world.
There will be many other things that will happen in 2021 events that will require us to look at the Christian response and to have the courage to speak up for justice and for peace, to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
We will continue to look back to the difficulties of 2020 but I pray we will also have the courage to look forward to the challenges of 2021, not by simply demanding change from those in authority, but by demanding change of ourselves, changes to help heal the planet and changes in ourselves to bring to end the discrimination and inequalities of our society. We might not be able to make all the changes we desire but who knows? For with our faith and with the help of God we just might.