Dear Friends,

One of the privileges of being a priest is being recognised. This takes a bit of getting used to, but throughout my ministry I have been blessed by so many interesting conversations in the most unexpected places—all thanks to the piece of white plastic I wear as a collar. Whether in our hospitals, our schools, the pub, or the petrol station, it seems we still want to talk about faith. People have shared with me their fears, vulnerabilities, and concerns as well as their stories of answered prayer.

It is sad that we have fewer priests serving our villages than we once did. Our Diocese is under severe financial strain and, to quote Bishop Michael, we have had to find ways to cover many more slices of toast with the same amount of butter! But it is worth remembering that ministry is something that we can and should all be part of. Our churches are full of hardworking and hard-pressed volunteers who serve God and their communities not because they wear a collar, but because they carry a much more important sign—the sign of the cross which they received at their baptism.

As our group expands to welcome the parishes of Bishop Sutton and Stowey over the coming months, it is a good opportunity to thank God for those who carry that sign of ministry into their communities in gentle, every-day, unassuming ways.

Soon we will celebrate Christmas in our homes, churches and schools. At its heart, Christmas is about being able to recognise someone in the most unexpected of places. Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, not wearing distinctive robes or even a collar—he came as a vulnerable child, born in the squalor of a cattle shed.

I pray that amid the busyness of the season we will be able to recognise the Christ Child and take time to join the shepherds, wisemen and angels in worshipping him.

I wish you God’s richest blessing for a peaceful Christmas.

Yours in Christ,

Rev’d Dr Ian Mills