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FROM THE MINISTER

Dear friends,
The turmoil and shock felt around the Grenfell Tower blaze last month continues to reverberate. It has come alongside the uncertainties following the General Election and  the continuing flow of tragic news stories from around the world. One aspect of our times however was striking to me just at the time I came to write this present letter. It was how people increasingly question the flow of information. Can we believe what we hear on the News? What is not being told to us? Can I better trust posts on social media like Facebook, or is it that where problems also multiply, like the quick dissemination of rumours and half-truths? Even at the beginning of 2017 there was all the discussion, perhaps overdue, of what facts are in the public domain, and what the notion of "alternative facts" might mean.  And so how do we move forward?

I don't imagine Christians are more likely to get everything right about everything, but it is when it comes to personal relationships that we surely have to be most careful. I find myself reflecting quite often about the importance of listening lest we overdo giving our opinions. Different people's perspectives need to be heard. We make assumptions at our peril; we cannot readily jump to conclusions. There's a lovely verse in the first letter of Peter in the New Testament: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ..." (I Peter 3:15) Such hope as we have in God is there for sharing, but it may be better heard when it is given in response to people asking.

Are we people who carry such hope that others will ask us about it? To launch our series of summer services at 9.30 am this year, we opened another New Testament letter, to the Galatians. There Paul, at the end of expressing quite a lot of distress about how people, even believers, can get the wrong end of the stick, becomes eloquent about how far love takes us. With the Spirit of God, he says, let there be "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). What a wonderful vision to commit to! I encourage you to carry that into our confused and confusing world.

Yours, Peter