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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

1 January 2010: Rev'd DJohn Owen, Vicar of Steep and Froxfield

Making a new start

De-clutter your life and make a new start. That's what we're told. But it's not easy. Google mail works on the principle that no message ever needs to be discarded. Storage space on some distant North Atlantic server is so vast that all our emails and documents accumulate, year after year, in an ever burgeoning pile of data. I've been allotted, I'm told, 7402MB. This has definite advantages for someone like me, who finds it easy to lose things. It is also very useful for the police and security services who can track our records and social contacts across the years, if they so choose.

The downside for the individual is that you never quite feel that you are able to make a new start, because you know that out there, in cyber space, are all those messages that you and others have generated across the years and which represent your behaviour patterns and attitudes. There's not much chance here to de-clutter, when Google is happy to store automatically everything you write.

At the start of a new year, this is a definite drawback. The idea of beginning the new year afresh may seem no more than an illusion, restricted as we are by all the baggage we carry with us. That is a big loss, because one of the key promises of the Christian faith is that we can make a fresh start: we are not condemned to be what we always have been, without hope of change. Many of the words and phrases and stories in the New Testament capture this theme: new birth, renewal, turning again to God, opening our eyes, seeing afresh, being renewed by the Spirit of God.

If we really want to change, God's grace helps us to do so, because he is a God of change, movement and growth. So this January, don't let Google and its almost infinite capacity for storage of our old messages deter you from making steps towards that new beginning, in this new year of Christian Hope.

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