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Dear friends, I have just looked back to a letter I wrote in March last year when I lamented at churches being closed and hoping that we wouldn’t see the church buildings closed for too long. 12 months on and I think that we have all been lamenting over what is happening in the world. Not only with Covid and church but also with the care for our planet as we continue to mistreat the resources that we have been given. As we approach Lent we remember the story of John the Baptist and his encounter with Jesus. John is out in the wilderness and in the gospels John starts off by quoting from Isaiah, ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord’. Immediately following on from Jesus baptism by John in the Jordon, the Spirit leads Jesus into his own wilderness. This was a testing time for Jesus and as a result he probably learned a lot about himself that he wouldn’t have learned if he stayed in the town and with the people that he knew and loved. Over the last year we will all have struggled at times, and found our own wilderness a difficult place, but as we remember the dark valleys I hope that we can also look back on the mountain top highs as well. Wilderness can be anywhere; it can even be in our own homes. We have heard that schools will not be back until at least the 8th of March and they are a priority so I think it is safe to say that we will probably be looking at a good few months after that before we feel confident about returning to our buildings. However for the time being we will continue to worship together even though apart. For those of us who are meeting on Zoom I hear the words it’s not the same as being together, and I agree but we can do things which will help us to reconnect with our worship when we come together. I have read a short piece by Revd Anne Jacqueline which I will share with you elsewhere. As we are not physically meeting and sharing as Christians we could be fearful of what our future might hold. Fear and anxiety are emotions that debilitate the most. When we are fearful and/or anxious we tend not to do anything. We shut ourselves in, pull up the drawbridge and hope things will soon pass. We have choices, we either hold on steadfast to our beliefs and our faith or we abandon it totally. I urge you to think back to the times when we met together and the feeding off each other and the Holy Spirit empowering us to make decisions. Hold on to the good memories of church activities. They will help you to get through this wilderness. Luke (Ch3) quoting from Isaiah 40 –‘make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up and every mountain shall be made low, the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain’. Jesus struggled through his wilderness encounter and I know that many of us are also struggling, Jesus would have been very familiar with this passage and he may have used it himself as a reminder that things will get better. I hope that as we enter Lent we can find our own ways to smooth out some of our own wilderness problems and move into a deeper relationship with God. Mark