A special message to the Clergy and Congregations of the Diocese from Bishop Paul on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6th January 2021

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Dear Friends,

This message comes to you as we are still processing the thoughts and feelings of entering a further period of lockdown. I want simply to assure everyone of my prayers for you in this very difficult time, recognising that alongside your particular responsibilities in your everyday lives, you will also have people among friends and family that you are concerned about and seeking to care for.

As I was reading Psalm 3 a few days into this New Year, there is a verse through which God spoke to me afresh: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory and the lifter of my head” v3. These words are spoken at a time when David is living under intense pressure, seeking to trust God in the midst of huge uncertainty about the future for himself and the people of God he was called to shepherd. The phrase that particularly struck me was the Lord as ‘the lifter of my head’.

We know what happens when someone’s head drops, particularly when we think of this in terms of a race – whether due to exhaustion, despondency or an unwelcome change in the conditions and terrain. We easily lose heart. All of us will have had moments like this over the past months, as well as before the pandemic came along.

You may have sensed your head dropping on Monday at 8pm when the Prime Minister announced the further extended lockdown. On a personal level in that moment, I could feel it for two of our sons wondering if their time at university is ever going to properly start up again, and for our youngest trying to work out what it will mean now for his A levels; also for our elderly parents we have not been able to visit for several months already. For each of us, the more personal cost of this pandemic will be different: the challenges of home schooling, concern for a family member working in health care or key services, living on our own, caring for someone who is vulnerable or needing to shield again, coping with increased stress, grieving for someone.

We know we should focus on counting our blessings, but God understands our struggle and how easily we lose heart. This is why I give thanks that he is ‘the lifter of our heads’. Whatever challenges you face in life this New Year, I am praying you know that God will be the lifter of your head, as well as a shield around you.

There will be ways we can all draw support and encouragement from one another over the coming weeks, though for the time being this is likely to remain online. We will also be praying particularly for all who are working in our hospitals and health care across the region, including those involved in distributing the vaccines, and the many other key workers.

For now, I would like to share every blessing for you, your friends, and your families as you move through the challenging weeks that lie ahead.

With love and prayers,
The Rt Revd Paul Williams