From Bishop Jonathan

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”The storms over the Christmas period have had a devastating effect on communities in the Calder Valley. The floods have affected many homes, businesses and community facilities, including schools, and the effects will last much longer than the attention of the news media.

At the same time, the response to the floods locally and from further afield has been remarkable, with people working tirelessly to help with the clean-up, and groups coming from across the country, including from churches, mosques and gurdwaras. There have been countless donations of food and other supplies both to meet immediate needs and to assist in getting people back on their feet. Churches are working together with the local authority and other agencies to provide space for people to gather and as a base for offering support to those in need. I was able to visit a number of places on Tuesday morning and was so impressed by everything that was being done. I also heard heartfelt expressions of gratitude for the support being offered through the churches and their members.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all those in our churches and in the wider community who have given so generously of both time and resources to respond to the crisis. Christ Church, Sowerby Bridge has been a key focal point for gathering donations and for co-ordinating volunteers. St Michael’s, Mytholmroyd and its Parish Hall were flooded to a depth of several feet, but by Tuesday much of the debris had been removed and the clean-up was underway. The church was lit by candles – as it had been at the Carol Service I attended the week before – and the words that came to me as I stood on the soggy, smelly carpet were: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The world’s attention is already elsewhere, but the needs of our communities will continue for months and years as a result of what has happened. People’s initial energy and enthusiasm will be drained as the long, hard work of cleaning and rebuilding goes on. It will be in the months ahead that our communities will most need the presence and support of our churches.

But what exactly can our churches bring, especially as many of our congregations are small and our church members often elderly? Well, of course we can provide some practical help; we can open our doors as places for people to come and sit, to be heard and listened to, to receive prayer and a hug. But above all our churches should be places of hope. Our faith is both in Emmanuel, God with us, born as a baby in Bethlehem and also in the God of resurrection, going through the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary and rising again on that first Easter Day.

This is what we can and must bring to the people of our communities – the constancy of our presence, being there for others, and the assurance of hope, of the possibility of new beginnings, because we are sustained by the presence of the risen, living Christ.

Thank you so much for all that you are doing to support our communities, whether in the towns where you live or elsewhere in our area. We need to make sure that this support continues, perhaps in new and less obvious ways, in the weeks and months ahead. I will be doing all I can to work with our churches and other agencies to ensure that happens. Our churches need to be communities of hope when things are tough, remembering always that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

+Jonathan Huddersfield