The Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Tim Barker, is urging islanders to "embrace the new possibilities of 2021" with the same spirit and common purpose that has carried us through this strange and challenging year.
"On Tuesday 15 December, I travelled to Alderney, for the 75th anniversary of the Homecoming of the people of Alderney from their long years of exile in the United Kingdom during the occupation of their island. They returned to far more devastation than had been experienced in the other Channel Islands.
As ever, it was a privilege to meet some of the people who returned to Alderney all those years ago, and the descendants of others. One of the most poignant moments in the day is when Charlie Greenslade plays ‘There’s no place like home’ on the cornet on which John MacCarthy played the same tune as the ship carrying the first returning exiles docked in the harbour in December 1945.
However, the biggest surprise of the day came before I set foot on the plane that took me to Alderney. I arrived at Guernsey airport before dawn, only to find a practically empty car park. Usually in the early morning, there is a long queue to go through security. That day, I was the only person in the security area, apart from the courteous staff. I realised that this was my first ‘work’ flight since the middle of March – nine months previously, almost to the day.
As sometimes happens, the journey leaves memories as powerful as those of the destination.
Pictured: The near-empty airport was an unfamiliar sight for Mr Barker during his travel to Alderney for the Homecoming Day celebrations.
There is every confidence that we who are privileged to live in the Bailiwick of Guernsey will be able to celebrate a normal Christmas. We will be able to celebrate with family and friends, attend concerts and carol services, enjoy a meal in one of Guernsey’s wonderful restaurants, and go to church to praise God for the gift of Jesus at Christmas.
Normal, that is, except that travelling to spend Christmas with family in England or elsewhere will be difficult. And many of us will not have the joy of greeting family at the airport in the days before Christmas. This will be the first Christmas since they were born, over thirty years ago, which Judy and I will not spend with our son and daughter.
This time last year, none of us really knew what 2020 would bring. We were not prepared for the strong sense of exile from so much that is familiar, such as easy travel for holidays or to visit family members. Many had to adjust to working from home and spending hours on Zoom and Teams video calls. I remember those poignant gatherings of just a few for funerals during ‘lockdown’ in the spring.
And yet, as we look back over 2020, we have learned that it is not enough simply to focus on our own needs and concerns. Our community and our institutions have taken on a new significance, as we have celebrated #GuernseyTogether.
Carol service at St Andrew’s church #Guernsey yesterday. Thanks to Chris Claxton for composing some beautiful music. Good to welcome so many people. Very conscious of the privilege of gathering for such a service, impossible this year in Jersey and much of the UK. #ComfortAndJoy pic.twitter.com/h76lOXBgCB— Tim Barker (@TimBarker10) December 21, 2020
In 1850, the Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote these words as he looked forward to the new year:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
the flying cloud, the frosty light:
the year is dying in the night;
ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
ring, happy bells, across the snow:
the year is going, let him go;
ring out the false, ring in the true.
Even with the welcome arrival of the vaccines, the new year will bring many challenges. But our experience of 2020 is that there is strength in our community and our common purpose. We must embrace the new possibilities of 2021 with the spirit that has carried us through this strange year: ‘the year is going, let him go’.
In December 1939, as the world faced a second world war, King George VI quoted these words written by Minnie Haskins:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
May the light and hope of Jesus Christ illuminate our way through the year to come."
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