Looking back and looking forward

Richard Fisher, BRF’s chief executive, offers a personal reflection in this pause, as a year of great change draws to a close and a new year begins…

27 December 2020

Changed priorities

A year ago, I was looking forward to having a three-month sabbatical. I was due to finish on Maundy Thursday and return to BRF in July. How differently things turned out! In mid-March we concluded that there was no way I could take time away from BRF, and a week later we went into lockdown. The rest of 2020 turned out to be probably the most challenging period I have experienced in 32 years at BRF.

What kept me going? What have I learned? I think 2020 changed my perspective. During the early part of lockdown, someone wrote on Facebook that when this was all over, we’d realise three things: how much we have, how little we need and how important relationships are. I couldn’t agree more!

‘Prayer has become more important to me than ever.’

I’ve come to realise just how much I’ve taken for granted: travel, activities, visiting family and friends, even simple things like being able to buy toilet rolls and flour when I went to the shops – suddenly these weren’t so straightforward, and still aren’t. I’ve come to appreciate afresh what I do have, the things I am able to do and the people close to me. Prayer has become more important to me than ever.

Heartfelt thanks for the united effort

During the past year I have seen, read and heard about so many examples of God at work, of the kindness of strangers, of community spirit, of generosity and of the remarkable ways in which individuals, families, churches and organisations have adapted to the many challenges.

I’ve marvelled at the creativity of our teams here at BRF as they have reimagined aspects of our work – some of which you may have read about in recent issues of BRF News – and at the inspiration, encouragement, compassion and support they offer across our ministry communities.

‘I believe there’s much to look forward to.’

And I have been humbled by the response – from the countless messages of appreciation and support we have received from BRF readers and those involved in Anna Chaplaincy, Messy Church and Parenting for Faith to the wonderful generosity of everyone who has given financial support.

Without doubt, many challenges still lie ahead. However, I find myself looking forward to the new year with a sense of hope and optimism. I believe there’s much to look forward to.

New opportunities for better connectedness

All of our ministries have embraced the opportunities to deliver aspects of our work online.

The new year will see the launch of the first Parenting for Faith online certificate course and the Anna Chaplaincy virtual training course, while the Messy Church training team launches a programme of Messy Masterclasses.

A second Holy Habits homegroup will meet on Facebook during Lent on the theme ‘Following Jesus’.

Looking further ahead, there’s a one-day online event for women in April, and Messtival (a one-day online festival for Messy Churches) is planned for May.

‘The online opportunities that emerged have created a greater sense of connectedness.’

Many leaders cannot wait to be able to restart their Messy Churches as soon as this becomes easier to manage. Interest in Anna Chaplaincy has continued to grow throughout the pandemic, with people from across the UK attending information sessions on Zoom to find out more and discussing with us how to get started. We’re looking forward to numerous commissioning services for new Anna Chaplains, once these become possible again!

We will, of course, once it’s safe to do so, recommence many of the in-person, face-to-face, aspects of our ministry. I know just how much our ministry teams have missed this. But there’s no doubt that the online opportunities that emerged during 2020 have created a greater sense of connectedness between BRF and our ministry communities – both nationally and internationally – than ever before.

Moving onward, with God

A year from now, we will mark BRF’s centenary. Already we’re doing a great deal of planning and thinking about how best we might celebrate this milestone and reflect the breadth and range of BRF’s ministry today in the 21st century. We’ll be sharing more of these plans later this year. Watch this space!

So what am I taking into 2021? Along with a fervent prayer for the success of the vaccines and an end to the pandemic, I want to hold on to the perspective I discovered during last year, with a greater appreciation for all that God has given me, a greater recognition of all that he is doing around me and a deeper desire to play my part in all that lies ahead for BRF.

As you look back on 2020, reflecting on the difficult times and the new opportunities you have experienced, may you be filled with hope and expectancy at the start of this new year. 

Richard Fisher

Richard has been at BRF since 1988 and provides leadership and direction for the charity as a whole, working closely with BRF’s department heads and the leaders and pioneers of our individual ministries.

Archbishop of Canterbury Alphege Award

Earlier this year, Richard received the Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his ‘outstanding innovative work in supporting and developing Fresh Expressions of Church’.

Six hands and arms interlinked

Will you pray for our work?

Richard mentions the many examples of God at work over the past year. The year ahead promises to be as challenging as ever, but we trust in God to provide wisdom, talent and resources, as he has faithfully done in the past. Would you support our needs in prayer? Our new spring 2021 prayer diary is ready to download.

Woman reading the Bible

Start 2021 with the Bible

It’s easy to let time with God slip, yet our need of his sustaining love and guidance has never been greater. Make 2021 the year you commit, or recommit to spend time with him every day. Be renewed, challenged and comforted by his word, opened up by the inspiring yet down-to-earth writers in our Bible reading notes collections. There are several series to choose from, available as booklets  and apps.