Karen Campbell, Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries for the United Reformed Church (URC), reflects on the tumultuous 2020 and looks ahead to 2021 in this reflection for New Year’s Day:
What a year 2020 has been! I could say it was full of ups and downs – but, in truth, it’s mainly been downs: the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed untold numbers of lives, still rumbles on; the ongoing fear and dis-ease suffered by so many; the separation of families, friends and support networks that we usually rely on without a thought; the businesses which have folded and the jobs which have disappeared.
And, I haven’t even started on the racial inequalities and injustices which have been so starkly exposed, or the various situations around the world which have seen different nations and lands struggling with particular hardships.
2020 has been a hard year, and sometimes it feels all there is left to say is: “Help! Lord, we need you!”
But I find this has been a testing year for faith too. I have heard sermons preached and sentiments shared with the gist “just trust in God… all will be ok!” “God will see you through!”
There’s a part of me which admires these stalwarts of faith. I wish I could believe it was as simple as that – but my heart tells me something different. Why? Because it is already “not ok” for countless individuals and families.
How many people trusted in God to “see them through” Covid, but died – is it “ok” for them? How many families have cried out to God, yet found themselves bereaved?
Having lost my own Dad to Covid in April, I can assure you, it is not ok. As the economic consequences of lockdown continue to unfold, as financial pressures mount for those who are already the most disadvantaged, as physical and mental well-being are compromised – can we really claim that anything is ok?
I don’t believe that trusting in God makes everything ok. I do believe that faith gives us an added source of strength to withstand – and respond to – the hard times, the times when things are far from ok.
Faith gives us hope for what we cannot yet see but trust God will do. It is not ok now… but, at some point, blue skies and sunshine will surely follow the storm.
But I also believe there are God-filled moments even in the midst of the struggles; that there are glimmers of hope in the here and now, signs of God reaching through and reminding us that we are not in this alone.
I remember taking a walk during lockdown when I was stopped in my tracks by the sheer awesome beauty of creation, a true “wow!” moment; “God is with you!” I reflect on the resourceful and determined ways people have been reaching out to each other during the pandemic, especially to support vulnerable members in their communities.
I consider the new spotlight on racism, although depressing to recognise how far we still need to travel to achieve racial justice, there is a sense in the air that real change is finally possible. I give praise for the passing of a resolution at Mission Council in November committing the URC to journey towards being an actively anti-racist body – a wonderful outcome, even more wonderful for the decision being unanimous!
And my heart is warmed by human commitment to the wellbeing of others as I give thanks for the URC response to the Beirut Hope appeal, following the devastating blast at the port of Beirut, enabling a gift of £15,000 to help bring relief to communities who have known immeasurable suffering to remind them that somebody cares.
Things are not ok. No wonder many people can’t wait to see the back of 2020!
But, I invite us to take a moment to call to mind one blessing, one undeniably ‘God-filled’ moment we have seen or experienced in this past year.
Savour that memory. Therein find your strength. All may not be ok. Maybe it won’t be ok in my lifetime, or yours.
Yet God has been with us in 2020. God is with us as we journey into the New Year. And God will be with us, always.
Thank God for the God-filled moments which sustain us and remind us of that truth.
Goodbye Old Year
Goodbye, Old Year, farewell,
It’s time I must move on;
You brought me laughter, brought me tears,
But now your time is gone.
In truth, I had grown used
To your tricks, your twists and turns,
But the calling of tomorrow
Now hot within me burns.
The smiles you brought were sweet
And lit the path I trod;
I smile again, now, at their memory –
A gift of grace from God.
The tears I shed were bitter,
With such pains I’ll never tell,
But I must trust there came God’s healing
Through those teardrops as they fell.
For the good days and the bad days,
I sought to live each one
With the One, who’s left me never
Since my life was first begun.
And I don’t claim that I can understand
The where, or why, or how,
But God calls me to leave yesteryear
And live my life in now.
So goodbye, Old Year, farewell;
What’s to come, I may not know,
But I step into my future
For God calls, and I must go.
Image: Immo Wegmann/Unsplash
Published: 28 December 2020