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New year, New challenges

Mike Claridge - 2nd January 2012

Roundabout - January 2012

St Andrew's, West Bromwich

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that it’s 2012 already. It’s a big year in more senses than one. There are things to look forward to and challenges to face as well. For many it’s the Olympics that look like being the centre piece of the year. For others it’ll be the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations early in June. The 60th Anniversary of her accession is on 6th February but as that’s the anniversary of the death of George VI the Jubilee celebrations are being held around the 59th anniversary of the Coronation.

Both the Olympics and Jubilee will be very much centred on London. Away from the capital, and indeed for many within that city, the opulence of both events stands in stark contrast to the reality that many people face. Here at St Andrew’s we worship, and many of us live, within one of the most economically deprived areas in the country. Recent indicators have shown that, even by Sandwell’s standards, the area served by the Parish of St Andrew’s is more deprived than those around it. There are appalling levels of poverty and hardship in this parish and town. That’s why initiatives of the churches such as the Night Respite Centre being operated by Centrepoint on Carters Green, the Food Bank run by West Bromwich Community Church and the Day Centres operated on the Methodist Circuit need our prayers and financial support. We also need to be up to our task of proclaiming God’s love in an area that needs to hear about it. That’s the daily task that, as Christians, we live and breath in church, in our homes, workplaces, schools and elsewhere.

As the economic situation worsens here it would be easy to forget the needs of others in our world. The adage that “Charity begins at home” is often quoted. What gets forgotten is that Charles Dickens (the 200th Anniversary of whose birth we celebrate in February) actually wrote “Charity begins at home, justice begins next door” (Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter 27). As Christians we know that the concept of neighbour is much wider than those we live alongside. In the modern world we are also conscious of that we are all global neighbours in an ever more fragile world. The needs of those in other lands need to be our minds and hearts as well as those close by.

Later this year I’ve decided to do the London to Paris Bike Ride for Christian Aid. Christian Aid supports projects among some of the poorest communities elsewhere in the world. I last did the ride in 2008 and am looking forward to repeating the challenge. If you would like to sponsor me you can do so either in person or online at www.justgiving.com/Mike-Claridge

We also face a big financial challenge as a church. To put it simply we need to meet the challenge of our finances. There’s no excuse for not doing so as in West Bromwich, thanks to the historic resources of the Walter Stanley Trust, we don’t have to find a lot of money to maintain the Church (of England) buildings. So we should be able to balance the books. To put it simply the Diocese of Lichfield is looking to reduce posts and parishes and those that aren’t up to date with their finances are vulnerable. To put it another way it is likely that the next Vicar to leave their post in West Bromwich is likely not to be replaced. That’s the harsh reality, and the real challenge we face.

Happy New Year!