The Christmas Fair is behind us – and what a wonderful annual occasion it is, with people coming from all over the country to our fantastic town, with its range of stalls and activities, music and foods to enjoy.
And now we settle down into December, with Christmas still a little way off.
For our Churches, this is the time of Advent – a deep, richly meaningful time of hope, of waiting, of anticipation for the birth of the Christ child who comes each year, to remind us of the joy and hope and love that is at the heart of the universe.
It’s a tough time of the year, though. Internationally, we hear of violence and insecurity. Here in the UK, we face a difficult time ahead, economically.
We need a sense of Advent hope. And so often that is brought by people who volunteer for our local charities, who give over and above to help others, and the many of us who contribute towards organisations and projects that do so much to make life better for those who struggle.
I think of the Women’s Aid Centre here in Bury. I’m privileged to be involved, alongside the dedicated staff and volunteers who provide a safe haven for women who have fled domestic abuse in various forms. Such violence can flare at Christmas as expectations run high. When children are involved, it is deeply traumatic. Do remember their work in your thoughts, and dig deep, if you can to support. If you need help, phone 01284 753085.
Then – again in Bury – there’s the charity Upbeat. Upbeat reaches out to those who are recovering from a heart attack. After the first six weeks rehabilitation in hospital, people can be pretty much left alone to exercise. That’s where Upbeat comes in, running exercise sessions through the week for those keen to change their lifestyle and keep their hearts working. Great work – here in the heart of Bury!
Just two local charities – and there are many more across Suffolk – that do so much to change lives.
As we all look towards Christmas over these next few weeks, spare a thought for those who care enough to make a difference. Here in Suffolk we have an excellent Suffolk Community Foundation that supports local charities throughout the county. Its recent report Hidden Needs highlights just how much deprivation there is, often hidden behind closed doors. It’s a great way to ensure any donations you make go towards a brilliant local cause.
Why not make your Christmas more joyful by contributing something – however much you can afford? Go to www.suffolkcf.org.uk to make a difference.
-- The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward is Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral