January, 2021. 

My Dear Friends, 

Through the dark, demoralising and anxious days of 2020 I have written a series of Pastoral Letters holding out a positive word of hope and encouragement, urging us to look to the future with faith. Yet we found ourselves at Christmas facing a second wave, under more severe lockdown, and seemingly back to where we had started. We are wearied of it all! 

There is, however, a clear light in the darkness promising that 2021 will be a new and better year. Already the Pfizer-BioNTech jab is being administered to our most vulnerable citizens. Today, as I write this letter to you, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use by the Regulatory Agency. This has been described as “a game-changer” and as “a significant moment.” The government is now pledged to roll out an ever increasing programme of vaccination. This is a cause for great rejoicing. 

And yet, so poisoned have our politics become; so cynical and untrusting are we of each other – that we read with alarm that a significant percentage of Scots are hesitant to accept a vaccine. My friends, having prayed so long for deliverance, don’t let scare stories or conspiracy theories tempt us to shun the answer to our fervent prayers. 

In the Second Book of Kings, at chapter 5 and verses 7, 13 & 14 – we read the story of Naaman, the Syrian general who suffered from leprosy. The King of Syria sent Naaman to the King of Israel asking for a cure. “When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and exclaimed: How can the king of Syria expect me to cure this man? Does he think I am God, with the power of life and death? It’s plain that he’s trying to start a quarrel with me.” 

The prophet Elisha, however, told Naaman exactly what he needed to do in order to be cured. But Naaman was too proud and suspicious. Surely there must be a better way – a different way? It was his servant who advised him: “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” And we read: “So Naaman went down to the Jordan, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured.” 

My Friends, let us move on into the future in faith and hope and confidence.  

Liz joins me in sending our love to you all, together with our very best wishes for the coming year.