New Year Message
The turn of the year is a time both for reflection and for looking forward. So, in wishing you a Happy New Year, I offer five things that I have discovered in my first three months here as bishop, and five things that I hope for in this new year. They are not startlingly original or insightful, but they are all important to me in one way or another, and I hope that some of them may resonate with your own experience.
What has inspired me so far? I have been astonished at the breadth and beauty of the Manx scenery. I knew that it would be varied, but I hadn’t realised that the views and colours and contours would be so striking. Neither had I realised just how much very ancient history is present in our church buildings and burial grounds: I could give many examples, one of which might be the site of the original Celtic monastery from the seventh century at Kirk Maughold. The Manx language is another rich area for exploration, not least because the Bishop’s House (‘Thie yn Aspick’) contains ancient volumes of the liturgy in Manx which arise from the research of two of my predecessors, Bishop John Philips (in post 1605-34) and Bishop Thomas Wilson (an immensely long episcopate, from 1698-1755), both of whom contributed to the development of written Manx. In terms of his huge influence, I sometimes think that the saintly and holy and courageous Thomas Wilson is still bishop of this diocese! So I have learnt also that we must have the utmost respect for the best that has been done and written in the past of our Island. Finally, I have discovered what a privilege it is to sit in Tynwald, and to participate in debate of the highest quality and in the discussion of issues which are of the utmost importance to our daily lives as human beings.
What are my hopes for 2018? I want to continue exploring the Manx cultural heritage. I hope to continue to be an advocate for the Isle of Man to the Church of England and to the wider world, in the national and international context in which I work, presenting our nation as a place of natural beauty where human life and dignity is cherished and valued in its richness and diversity. I plan to reflect more on the unique blend of tradition and innovation which has struck me since arriving here, and see how we can hold in balance the very best of these things. I want the Church to grow – not because I care about numbers, but because I care about people, and because I care immensely for the spiritual aspect of our lives. And for that reason I want the Church to speak powerfully to the poverty and social need that persists even here, because the gospel teaches us that it is in serving others that we serve God. God bless you: Bannaghtyn as Blein Vie Noa.
* Also published in the Isle of Man Examiner Newspaper
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