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Views from the Vicarage - January 2015

Dear Friends,


Every year millions of people do it - make New Year Resolutions. The most common resolves are to give up smoking or to achieve some planned weight loss. They embark on the enterprise on 1st January, but we all suspect that by the end of the month they'll be back on the cigarettes or have resumed tucking into the burgers.

The problem is little to do with a failure of will-power, but simply that in both cases they are tilting at windmills: a serious chemical addiction, and a very natural human desire for rich food - 'marrow and fatness', as the Psalmist called it. Those who do succeed have usually had recourse to vital support, either (where smoking is concerned) medical help from a clinic or surgery, and where dieting is concerned a group like Weight-watchers or the constant vigilance of friends or family. Once achieved, the goal is often then maintained, certainly where smoking is concerned.

So are 'resolutions' useless? Do they simply expect too much of us - indeed, more than unaided human will-power can achieve? I suspect that in the case of smoking and weight loss 'unaided' is the key word. Both resolutions require that external help (though some have managed it without). For many people that 'external help' can be prayer - their own, and that of their supporters.

The trouble with failed resolutions is that we may then feel that the cause is lost forever. We've done our best, and it wasn't good enough. We label ourselves hopeless cases, and order the next packet of cigarettes or a box of doughnuts. In truth, taking on smoking or slimming in the context of an individual new year resolution is a bit like swimming the channel - not impossible, but jolly difficult. (And if at this moment you're trying to do it, I salute you and hope and pray that you succeed.)

But what about other resolutions? Experience tells us that there is a better chance of success if we set ourselves, initially at least, more modest but important goals. How about a resolution not to complain about the weather? Or to go to bed at a sensible time? Or to smile at the neighbour who keeps putting his bin where mine should go? Or to say 'thanks' to the bus driver as I get off?

On a slightly more exalted level, why not a resolution to make time every day for reflection, prayer and perhaps a short Bible reading? Or to go back to church (if we've stopped going) or be a bit more positive about it if we haven't?
'Resolution' has two meanings: a 'resolve' to do something, and the result of doing it (the 'resolution' of the problem). Perhaps it might help all of us if we concentrated on the latter rather than the former this New Year, keeping our eyes on that desirable goal rather than the difficulties of getting there. As the RAF motto says, 'Per Ardua ad Astra' - through challenge to the heights!

I hope you have had a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

My prayers and best wishes,

Fr. Philip Edge - Vicar