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Dear Friends,

As I return from sabbatical I feel that the first thing I should do in my letter is express words of sympathy to those who’ve lost loved ones in recent months. We’re all conscious that it has been a sad time for so many.

In Psalm 71 verse 3 we read this heart-felt cry asking God for help: “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.” Clearly, it’s a cry of someone in great distress and so it’s a prayer that could be echoed by those who mourn. But then in the very same verse the Psalmist goes on to pray: “You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (ESV) So having cried out for help the Psalmist doesn’t find himself sitting around waiting to see if God will do something and come to his aid. Instead, with his very next breath, he remembers that God has promised to help those in distress – he has done something and is a rock and fortress – and as the Psalmist declares his faith he immediately experiences the steadfast love of God that he yearns for. That’s how it is in all relationships; in the simple act of opening our hearts to someone and calling out for help we find that we are helped and comforted. May those who mourn call out to God, and to the church family, and find help.

On a happier note I was recently approached by a member of Brian and Marion Stevenson’s family to produce proof of their marriage. Not that there was any doubt about its legitimacy! The family simply wanted to arrange the surprise of a card from Buckingham Palace to mark Brian and Marion’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary. So through the pages of the magazine we add our congratulations to those of the Queen. The wedding took place at St Leonard’s on 12th April 1958. The registers record that young Brian was a ‘Master Plasterer’ at the time. Later he became a Lay Reader and then was ordained, serving first in our parish and then in a number of other parishes in the diocese before retiring to Great Harwood. Brian still keeps his hand in helping out in parishes in East Lancashire.

Mention of a wedding leads to thoughts of my daughter Martha’s recent marriage to Dan Booth. It was certainly one of the great moments of my life to walk a daughter down the aisle at St Leonard’s. Thank you to all who were there to support the couple with your prayers and singing and serving refreshments.

And lastly a word of thanks to all who took on extra responsibilities to make it possible for Isabel and me to have a sabbatical. We found it a time of great refreshment. In particular my thanks to our curate Mike Print, and his wife Natalie; without them it’s hard to imagine that the sabbatical would have happened.

Yours in Christ

Mark

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