Rector's Letter for February
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
There is a sense, as we grow older, that time somehow speeds up; that days are shorter, winters longer, years quicker. I sense this for myself as my first letter was about arrival and Christmas and so on and now, in my second letter, Lent hovers into view. There has barely been time to unpack and the second of the two great cycles of Christian Time, the “Paschal” cycle, starts this month.
In some religious traditions (I am thinking Judaism and Islam but it probably is true of others) a season of abstinence and prayer is bounded by very specific regulation of time, food, devotion, service. Christians once had equally precise and detailed practices; abstaining from meat, use of particular prayers, careful deployment of money and so on. That is, for a whole variety of reasons, no longer the case. Our past observances find a weak echo in people “giving up” things (chocolate for some reason being a classic example, along with alcohol), “taking up” something improving (exercise, reading) or generally trying out one of those ideas casually suggested in the self-help book of the moment, like meditation or mindfulness. It is hardly surprising that we take Lent so lightly and that others, outside the Church, look in deriding pity on our paltry practices.
So what might we do this Lent? How might we seize the opportunity to make a “Good Lent”? Doing Lent well is about stretching oneself. In one of the gym classes I occasionally attend, the speaker suggests that it is the last few repetitions of an exercise, the ones which really hurt or cause particular tiredness that make a disproportionally significant contribution. In other words, it is my willingness to go the extra mile which gives me the benefit that I want. We could choose to make conscious decisions about where our priorities are, commit ourselves to doing Lent well. If we do this, we set our diaries free for God because we have simply decided that everything else has to fit in with our decision.
Here are a couple of basic ideas;
We could commit ourselves to come to Church on Ash Wednesday, however awkward, disruptive and complicated that is. To do that is about setting our hearts and our bodies in the right place. And if you recognise the sheer appropriateness of coming to Church on Ash Wednesday, clearly the same conversation ought to go through our hearts for each Sunday in Lent.
Feeding the Soul
What sustains our friendship with God? Lent is an opportunity to go deeper into our friendship, to stretch our hearts and minds. For some of us, meeting with other Christians over this period is really helpful, fun and empowering. For others, particularly when we are juggling so much, that habit of getting up extra early for a period of bible reading and prayer, or reading a Christian book, hits the spot. There are suggestions elsewhere in this month's edition of the Parish Magazine (Available to buy inside the church)
With love and prayers,