Another year has come and gone. Another 365 days of waking and sleeping, breathing, hearts beating, living.
Another year in which we met strangers, made new friends, lost old ones, loved, hated, laughed, cried, raged, agreed, argued, and tried to understand and be understood.
And the world spun on…
Later in the service, there is a time set aside for lighting candles of 2013 joy and sorrow. I hope you will share your own personal stories then. Let’s look now at the events on the world stage in 2013...
As always, there was more than enough bad news to go around. Our human failures to understand and have compassion for one another and to create a more just world have continued to fuel hatred and conflict.
Again, this year, we’ve had cause to worry that one nation or other will ignite the fuse that will lead us to destroy ourselves with our technology of doom. North Korea continued to frighten the world with nuclear weapons development and the mercurial behaviour of its supreme leader.
In Iran, though, another nation with bellicose language and designs on nuclear weapons, a glimmer of hope arrived with the election of a more moderate president. An international agreement in November limiting the Iranian nuclear development program may have inched the world away from self-destruction.
The complex struggles that combine words like “freedom”, “revolution”, and “terrorism” are seemingly everywhere. Syria’s civil war raged on this year with many thousands of people killed on all sides.
In, Egypt, a country that had not long ago deposed its dictatorial leader, an elected President was deposed in a military coup. On an on it goes. The list of conflicts in 2013 numbers at least 100 significant locales and events.
Non-state attacks on civilians continued this year. Two Chechen Islamist brothers exploded bombs at the Boston Marathon. Islamic militants a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, launching a bloodbath that killed 62 wounded more than 170 people. Less extensive actions happened around the world, including the murder of a military drummer on the streets of London.
We have also been reminded this year that we are not the only threat to our safety.
Natural disasters seemed to be more frequent and more damaging this year. In February, a meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over a Russian city causing tremendous fear, many injuries, a much destruction.
The severity of other so-called natural disasters may well be tied to our human action through global climate change. All-time temperature records were broken in many parts of the world. Climate change will not just be odd and inconvenient. In what may be a sign of things to come, flash floods and landslides in India killed 6,000 people and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands.
Last month, Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6,000 people and left massive devastation. Our own recent flooding here in Britain pales in comparison to these disasters, and yet we know how devastating even these small incidents can be.
Technology came into the news in many ways - bad, good, and neutral. In one of the most unnerving, American Edward Snowden told the world about the ways in which the US and UK are conducting mass surveillance of innocent people in their own nations and around the world. The reaction has been widespread anger and demands that the NSA and GCHQ be reined in. The future of privacy is very much in doubt.
Completing the litany of bad news, global financial injustice was put into stark relief on April 24. An eight-story commercial building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,000 people and injured about 2,500. The building had been improperly built, skirting regulations to save money. The global pressure to keep costs low to sell clothing inexpensively in places like Britain is injuring and killing less fortunate people all over the world.
There has been good news too...
In religion, one of the biggest stories was the voluntary resignation of a pope. The last time this happened more than 700 years ago.
The new pope, who took the name Francis for St. Francis of Assisi was the first pope from the Americas and the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere. Francis has inspired millions - and not only Catholics - by turning away from the social conservatism of his predecessors. He is less worried about GLBT people, atheism, and correct doctrine, and more insistent on attacking poverty and oppression and the systems that produce and maintain them.
In a positive technology story, scientists use a 3D printer to create a living lab-grown ear from collagen and cell cultures. In the future, we may be able to grow replacements for damaged or diseased body parts!
Mathematician Alan Turing was given a posthumous pardon for his conviction in 1952 on charges of engaging in - then illegal - homosexual activity.
In July of this year, Parliament passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
As always, the year brought births and deaths.
Prince George of Cambridge was born.
Margaret Thatcher, Seamus Heaney, Peter O’Toole, and Lou Reed died.
In one of the most expected and most bemoaned losses, Nelson Mandela died on the 5th of December.
Closer to home, members of this community struggled with illness. There was the good news of cures and remission for some - true cause for celebration.
For others, the struggles continue.
And we lost two vital young women to cancer:
Three lovely babies were born in this community
Francesca Olive Alexandra Millfleet
Bonnie Rose Bruce
The world spun on and we, who are still here, still part of this great and messy and often chaotic dance of life, have the amazing opportunity to go forward and to influence the lives of those around us for the better.
We mourn our losses and our human failings. We celebrate the changes for the better. And most of all, we keep dancing.
Let it be a dance we do.