When the working party gathers in the vicarage this morning, one of the greetings to our Iranian friend will be ‘Happy Nowruz’. In recent months we have had the privilege of getting to know two Iranian men who have come to help in Café Vista and prepare the vicarage for our family to move in.
Yesterday over 300 million people in regions close to the Caspian Sea celebrated ‘Nowruz’ – the Persian New Year. This is one of the world’s greatest festivals, with a full month of activities celebrating the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature. Families share in preparing a special meal, decorating the house and welcoming in the New Year. The UN have praised the celebrations for promoting peace and solidarity in troubled areas.
As we approach Friday 29th March solidarity is certainly something we want for our own country. This week The Church of England has called for communities to join together in conversation and prayer as discussions over the UK’s departure from the European Union reach a pivotal point. At Christ Church we will be hosting an “informal café-style meeting” in Café Vista on Saturday 30th March at 12 noon to 1pm to enable people to bring together people of all standpoints and encourage open discussion. We will be asking Remainers and Brexiteers to come together to pray for our country and future. Archbishop Justin Welby said “As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to demonstrate that love for God and for each other, along with compassion, solidarity and care for the poorest, are our defining values. These values have been the bedrock of our national life for many centuries. They are not simply our history: they are also our best hope for the future.”
In the Bible we read how Paul urges Timothy to ‘offer petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, for sovereigns, and for all in high office so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life, free to practice our religion with dignity.’ (1 Timothy 2:2 ff).
So today as we celebrate with our Iranian friends the start of their new year with all it’s hopes and opportunities for rebirth and new life, may we also pray “without ceasing” for fresh hope and the promise of unity in our communities and nation.