Happy New Year

The New Year letter this year is being posted on the website a bit later than usual. This letter is also being posted physically to the entire congregation, and hence we did not feel it was right to post the letter on the website until it had arrived via Royal Mail to people’s homes. Undertaking a mailshot of the congregation is an extremely onerous task, hence the reason we haven’t undertaken too many mail-shots during the past year. Our grateful thanks are due to Karen, Agnes, Christine and others who printed, collated, labelled, enveloped and arranged postage for all these letters.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Dear friends,
Bliadhna Mhath Ùr dhuibh uile! A happy New year to you all. I wish you all God’s richest blessings for the New Year.
This year has been like no other and has been in every way a most challenging and difficult time. 2020 will be remembered by most of us as the year when everything changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
In my letter to the Congregation in December 2019 I said ; 
“The year ahead may be challenging for us personally and as a Congregation and Community in any number of different ways, but we must never leave God out of the picture. The dark times should not fool us into thinking that God is indifferent or uncaring towards His children. In every circumstance, our God can keep us and enable us to prevail.” Well, that was certainly no exaggeration, and I suppose in the light of everything that has happened in 2020, indeed, prophetic too!  

For many reading these words, this has been a difficult and challenging year. This year has been for some of us like the soul’s dark night. A time when God seems so far away, and we have been left to traverse the dark valley all alone. When friends are few, doubts are many, and there are no answers to the heart’s desperate cries. To make matters worse, God is silent, and the heavens seem shut fast in our faces. But is God far away, in these dark moments? Or is he, in fact, nearer than we can imagine, as the God who is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. ( Psalm 34:18). Although we do not know what lies ahead of us in this year, let us remain confident in the God who promises in every circumstance never to leave us nor forsake us.
2020 will also be remembered by many of us as the year when we lost loved ones, and we may feel their loss more acutely at this time than at any other. Memories and reminiscences come flooding back of the empty place in our homes at this time of year. In the sorrow and sadness of grief, we continue to remember prayerfully all who have been bereaved in the past year. May we all know this year, God as our eternal refuge, and underneath us the everlasting arms of the Saviour to uphold and to bless.

Shortly before Christmas, we received permission from the Presbytery of Uist to resume services in the church. The Kirk Session have agreed that our first few meetings will be tentative first steps in seeing how we can adjust to the many challenges that lie ahead. The Kirk Session and Committee of Management met on Tuesday evening 29th December. We agreed that our first in-person worship service would be on Sunday morning 17th January at 11 am. At present only fifty persons are permitted to attend worship, and those who wish to attend a service will have to register in advance by either email or telephone. We will also now be permitted to hold funeral services in the church, which will be limited to twenty persons in total. However, it is hoped to boost this number by offering connection to Zoom during funeral services. The services will be stewarded by a rota made up from the elders and the Committee of Management.

Services will be very different and in a form that will be strange for all of us. For this reason, I am appealing just now for people to help out with running the services and other activities in the church. Some of you may remember that in March 2019 I mentioned in the morning intimations that it took ideally a total of eighteen people to run a regular morning service in Tarbert, and at the very least a minimum of twelve people to keep things going. Since then, due to COVID, we have been working with far fewer. I should like to take this opportunity to thank and mention those who have done a massive amount of work behind the scenes.

I am truly indebted to my co-hosts on Zoom and YouTube Live, Karen Macrae, Campbell Macrae and Kenny Macleod. They have enabled the work to grow and expand by being available to host meetings and take much of the strain off my shoulders in running meetings. Calum Mackay has spent much of the summer refurbishing the old vestry, and our grateful thanks go to him for the many hours indeed days spent in the joinery work, making that part of the building fit for purpose once again. Karen has also spent many days during the initial lockdown in the spring and summer, working hard in the church grounds, making a noticeable difference around the church. My thanks for all who have worked so hard over the of last year. To build resilience into the congregation’s work in the future in what will be a new and challenging year, we need more volunteers to help in various ways. Churches have always relied on willing voluntary help, and never more so than now. If anyone thinks they can help in any way, please speak to any of the Elders or Management Comittee of the Congregation. 

Many have asked about how donations and offerings can be made to the congregation, during this time when we are not using the building. Those who donate by Weekly freewill offering envelopes can hand these to Mrs Christine Macaskill at Tarbert Post Office. Full details of other methods of donation via Standing order or on-line may be found on the Congregations website at https://tarbertchurchofscotland.org.uk/2020/07/09/covid-19-situation/

Without any shadow of a doubt, the past year has been a momentous and challenging year for many of us, but in faith, we look forward to all that God has in store in 2021. At present, the world’s condition seems to be a literal fulfilment of what God said through Habakkuk “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told‘. (Habakkuk 1:5 NIV). Despite everything though, it is my prayer that we should all look to the future in faith, walking by faith and not by sight and trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and not leaning upon our own understanding in 2021.

With every good wish for the New Year, and the blessings of Christ to you all,

Ian Murdo Macdonald

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