The contract included an annual flight home for all the family. Our teaching posts in Kenya
had many wonderful fringe benefits, but being able to get home regularly was one of the best. Getting home, however, was never so urgent that our journey could not include a few days discovering a new country. A memorable visit to the Valley of the Kings in Egypt was only surpassed by exploring the rock-hewn churches of Lalibella in Ethiopia. A wonderful visit to the town of Gondor, also in Ethiopia, came to mind when writing this pastoral letter, as we celebrated the first Sunday of Epiphany and the baptism of Christ; a Sunday of particular importance in the orthodox churches and, therefore, in Gondor.
"Why is there a very big rectangular hole in the groound, surrounded by this metre high wall?" I asked our guide.
"Come back on the first Sunday of the year and you will be amazed," he said. "Not only will it be full of water, it will also be full of people," he continued. "The whole local orthodox community will be in this enormous tank which will be full of water and, on this first Sunday of the new year, they will renew their baptismal vows. This happens annually."
As we move into a new year, something stronger than a resolution, sometimes only half-heartedly made, could have great significance. I am renewing my commitment to Christ, to those who are near and dear to me, to the growth of the Christian church and to the needs of my local community. I invite you to discern what should be your focus as you consider the spiritual shape your year is to take and make, or renew your vows, as God leads you. Robin Bragg