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Issue 26

Annual Letter

Dear Friends,

At the time of writing, governments are debating whether to use military force against President Assad of Syria. We are faced with evil on all sides ? the evil of chemical warfare, the evil of war and its proliferation as neighbouring states seek to address this situation, the evil of disguised selfish motives and profit from the suffering of others, the evil of passively standing on one side saying it is nothing to do with us. We continue to be surrounded by evil at home, when peo ple fear those who are unlike them, become suspicious then hostile, and then react in violence.

Jesus said to his disciples \"Love one another as I have loved you\':: He spoke this when surrounded by evil the night before he died. He said that if we do this then we will know God\'s presence within us, we will know God\'s joy, and our prayers will be answered and God will be glorified as a result. In the face of evil comes the presence and the power of God and the joy that does not ignore evil but rather encompasses all things. All this comes from love that gives everything. When risen, Jesus said to his disciples \"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whosoever sins you forgive they are forgiven...\" The Holy Spirit was given to the disciples as a community. They were to be a community that practised forgiveness and self-giving love. Anyone entering that community would be uplifted by this, and saved, or they would be entirely unmoved and go out in the same state as they came in. This \"Christ community\",\" where God dwells, is where God saves. Christ\'s love is not something we look at. It is something we practise. It is this love that sav es us when we are surrounded by evil. The church is about this love. Our prayer is about being enabled to be that church.

In Isaiah 45:7 God says \"I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I am the Lord that doeth all these things\" This is not to say that God is capricious or cruel. It is to say that nothing happens outside God, and that only in God\'s hands can evil be understood and addressed. In our contemplative prayer we place ourselves in God\'s hands, we leave behind all our expectations of what we think should happen; and we place our world in God\'s hands, a world for which we are given responsibility.

We are not here to find answers to satisfy our outrage so that we can walk away undis´┐Żturbed after all. We are here as the hands of God engaged in our world. We are here as the body of Christ ? and the suffering in our world is part of our experience as that body. This is the huge context of the command \"Love one another as I have loved you\".

Love is not about emotional intentions but is the way to the presence of God and to glory which is seen in the midst of defeat, transforming and overcoming evil. In our prayer we can be strengthened truly to have Christ\'s totally self-giving love. This is the light that overcomes the darkness.

With my love and prayers,
Charles Dobbin, Chaplain