Bishop urges compassion
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese has urged people to help make a difference to the lives of those facing poverty, loneliness, illness and lack of support.
In his Christmas message, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley praised the work of volunteers working through churches and community groups.
He singled out those who provide food parcels for families, run toddler groups and lunch clubs, visit people in care homes, hospital or prisons, and open churches as night shelters for the homeless.
He said: “At Christmas we remember once again that God is with us, coming among us as Jesus, sharing our human condition, knowing poverty, and fleeing with his parents as a refugee.
“Each Christmas in recent years we have seen growing numbers attending church Christmas services in Suffolk, from 44,000 in 2014 to more than 49,000 last year, and I believe people are connecting with this sense that we are not alone, that God is with us, and God wants us to be there for each other.
“People recognise that the birth of Jesus gives all our lives meaning, and that God responds to the troubles and uncertainties we face, by coming among us and inspiring us to help others in so many ways.
“God’s gift to us at Christmas is the source of our hope, of reassurance, and confidence. I hope that those being welcomed to our churches at Christmas will continue to engage in the life of the church, and allow their faith and sense of belonging to grow, to live our lives hopefully and fruitfully, caring for others.
“This time of year is a time of real joy for so many of us, but Christmas can often bring sad memories, or a time of loneliness, especially for those who miss lost loved ones.
“I hope at Christmas, and through next year, we can all reach out to people – people who we may already know – who are facing severe need not just in Suffolk, but around the world.
“We have seen extraordinary generosity in giving from our churches this past year. Suffolk parishes raised more than £75,000 to help vulnerable children this year through the Children’s Society, and more than £50,000 was raised to help those starving in Kagera, in Tanzania.
“There have been countless thousands of pounds raised by churches to serve their local communities and Christians, people of other faiths and no faith are reaching out and caring for those in real need.
“We have seen food banks and churches open as night shelters, but it is dismaying to think of how many people and families are still hungry in Suffolk this Christmas or those who feel so lonely.
“It’s important we all continue to reach out to them and make a difference to their lives.”