HAPPY New Year! Amidst all the challenges this New Year brings, I pray that you may know the amazing love in which you are held by God.

New Year’s Day 2023 marks the 250th anniversary of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind but now I see.

Written by The Rev John Newton, it seems unremarkable until you discover that before he was ordained John Newton had been a sea captain. Not only that but he had been a part of the infamous slave trade. He took goods from England to West Africa to trade for African men, women and children, who were then shipped in barbaric conditions to the West Indies, where those who had survived the Atlantic crossing were sold to plantation owners.

Newton would have cleaned up his ship after its human cargo and filled the hold with sugar and rum to bring back to England. It was such an accepted trade at the time that even after becoming a Christian Newton could see no way out of it at first. But God’s call was strong, and eventually he became a vicar, firstly in Olney where he wrote his famous hymn, and then in the City of London. Filled with disgust for his former life as a slave trader, Newton went on to become a leading Abolitionist, giving first hand evidence of the evil of that trade and helping to get it outlawed.

The hymn is perfect for New Year, as it looks back to the past and forward to the future. Always trusting in God’s loving kindness, that reaches out to each one of us in love. The Amazing Grace, lived out in Jesus, that still has power to save, even ‘a wretch’ as John Newton called himself.

May that amazing love, the loving kindness of God be with you and surround your steps as you journey on, this new year, and always.

Bishop Martin Gorick