'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'. (Jeremiah 29:11)
How often have you quoted these familiar words of Scripture to a brother or sister in need, or gained strength from them yourself when facing a new challenge? Jeremiah was writing to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where they were to stay for 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem and deported them. It was a time of difficulty for God's people, as described in the memorable words of Psalm 137: 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion'.
During that period of reflection and uncertainty after seeing their beloved city destroyed, the exiles needed to know that God was still with them and had plans for them. It turned out to be a very fruitful time of growth and consolidation as the nation rebuilt itself before the return to their homeland under Ezra and Zerubabbel. New leaders like Daniel and his friends, Nehemiah and Esther emerged during the course of the Babylonian, Mede and Persian Empires and were able to make a huge contribution to the societies in which they had been placed while not succumbing to moral compromise themselves.
In Jeremiah 29 the prophet encourages God's people not to separate themselves from the prevailing culture, but rather to get involved in helping to shape and serve it. They were to be 'in the world, but not of the world'.
'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.' (v 5-7)
As the apostle Peter reminds us (1 Peter 2:11), as Christians we are also living as 'aliens and strangers' in a society that is in the main hostile to Christian faith and values. And many of us already occupy places of responsibility in it, or will move into them in the future.
We are called to be faithful to Christ by witnessing to him through our words and deeds, and in our concern for the society into which he has placed us. Like the Jews we also await our certain restoration to our 'promised land' – not an earthly Jerusalem, but rather the new heavens and new earth. CMF exists so we can equip and encourage each other to play our part well in the generation and situation in which God has placed us.
Fresh emphases for 2010
Our fresh emphases this year are graduate ministry, allied professions ministry and better IT connectivity. This issue of CMF News introduces new members of staff and lays the ground for what is to come.
Our new Head of Student Ministries, emergency medicine consultant Giles Cattermole, who started with us in February, is now well settled in his role, and GP Charlotte Hattersley successfully made the transition from Northern Students team leader to junior doctors staffworker at the same time.
New staff starting
In October two new staff join us. Glasgow intensivist Audrey Chalmers takes on the part time role of graduates staffworker in Scotland, supporting hospital doctors and GPs. And Annie Leggett joins us full time as nurses' student staffworker. Read their interviews inside.
New staff needed
We will shortly be advertising three further posts. First, we are looking for people to take the batons from Andrew Fergusson and Kevin Vaughan who retire next March as Heads of our Communications and Graduates departments respectively. If you think either of these might possibly be you, please get in touch. Secondly, we are looking for a part time media producer to oversee our developing communication with members and with the churches, using blogs, social networking, audio, videos and a more interactive website.
Serving the churches better
CMF General Committee is on 24 July (all members welcome) and part of this day will be a major discussion about how CMF can serve the churches better; all part of 'seeking the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile'. Please pray about all these new developments, and let's keep doing it together.