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January 3, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray that you and your loved ones are having a blessed and joyful Christmas and New Year as we celebrate this 10th Day of Christmas and 3rd day of 2014! Karen and Catie and I are currently on our way back from Charleston, S.C., after visiting Chris and Lauren and our grandson, Peter. We flew down early on the morning of December 26th and will return to Albany today, January 3rd. We had a wonderful family time together enjoying Charleston and the surrounding area, but mostly enjoying one another and especially Peter who is almost nine months old. This is our first Christmas together since Chris entered the Air Force. Having served at Yakota Air Base in Japan for the past three years, Chris is now serving as the Chief of the Public Affairs Office at Joint Base Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. We give thanks to God for bringing Chris, Lauren and Peter safely back to the United States, as well as for this special time with Catie. Karen and I feel richly blessed and never take for granted the wonderful family the Lord has given us - not only our immediate family, but also our Diocesan family. We are richly blessed indeed.

I hold up in my prayers all those families who were unable to be together this Christmas, either due to military service, illness or some other reason. I pray whatever the circumstances, the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be experienced by all people wherever they may be.

As we look back on the past year and forward to 2014, there is much to give thanks for, some things to grieve, and much to look forward to as we strive to be faithful and obedient to our Lord's call on our lives.

This past year, our focus as a Diocesan family has been "Passion for Jesus." We have been blessed by the sharing of many faith stories and an ever growing love for God's Word, as many of you have committed yourselves to reading the Bible daily, using the "Essential Jesus" Bible reading plan from Scripture Union USA, or some other Bible Study. Several took on the challenge to read the entire Bible in a year. I am so appreciative to Dean David Collum, Mother Jill Stellman, and others who led the way in faithfully answering that challenge by not only reading the Bible in its entirety, but also in sharing their very insightful daily thoughts and meditations on God's Word through their blog sites.

I have been deeply touched by the generosity of so many of you throughout the Diocese this past year as you have given of your time, talent and treasure in support of the ministry of your home parishes, the wider Diocese and the Church, as well as the special needs that have arisen and been met through your gifts to the Annual Bishop's Appeal and various other appeals.

The "Pave the Way" project at Christ the King Spritual Life Center was one of the areas that many of you gave generously to, enabling us to pave all the major roads, parking areas and sidewalks at the Spiritual Life Center before the winter snow hit. This was a huge need that we have had ever since Christ the King began over 11 years ago. Thank you for answering that need through your generosity and prayers!

One other blessing and gift from God that I am particularly thankful for this Christmas season is the special friendship and faith we share with our friends overseas. The Diocese of Albany continues to be richly blessed by the special relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, especially through our sister dioceses of Down and Dromore in Northern Ireland with Bishop Harold and Liz Miller, and the Diocese of Maridi in Southern Sudan with Bishop Justin and Mama Joyce, as well as our missionary friends: Bishop Grant and Wendy Le Marquand in the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa (especially Ethiopia and Somalia), Bishop Todd and Patsy McGregor in the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar, Bishop Mike and Linda Chapman and Bishop Bill and Judith Godfrey in the Diocese of Peru.

I give thanks to God for each of these our dear friends for their faithful witness under very difficult and often dangerous circumstances and ask God's blessing and protection over them. As some of you are aware, fighting and bloodshed has broken out in South Sudan, which if not ended soon, could throw this fragile country back into a state of civil war. Bishop Justin reports that so far fighting and violence have not occurred in Maridi itself, but the threat is very real if the current political turmoil is not resolved soon. Tension also continues to be very high throughout the entire region where the Le Marquands are ministering due to ongoing political turmoil and terrorist attacks. Severe poverty and financial need continue to plague the people and ministries of Bishop Todd and Patsy, Bishop Mike and Linda and Bishop Bill and Judith. Please join me in holding each of these our dear friends and their dioceses up in prayer, asking that the Lord will watch over and protect them and provide for them in this time of danger and great need.

When we hear of all the trials and struggles of our friends around the world, it helps keep things in perspective and serves as a reminder of how truly blessed we are in this country despite our own trials, challenges and struggles. Whatever we or our friends face, whether here or abroad, knowing that Christ is with us, even in the most difficult of circumstances, makes all the difference. It is that reality that we celebrate this Christmas season as we give thanks to God for the precious gift of His Son that first Christmas morning.

In closing, I pray that Almighty God who poured upon us the new light of His incarnate Word would grant that this Light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives and that He will plant in every heart the love of Him who is Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Your Brother in Christ,



+Bill

 

 

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