Dear Friends,

As we enter a new month, one of the features of the month of February is the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a season in which Christians try to draw nearer to God sometimes by engaging in different practices. Often people use this 40 day period as a time of resetting or trying to engage in disciplines like Bible reading, silence, prayer and fasting. Both in the secular and spiritual world, people use the opportunity to maybe give up some treats, perhaps to embark on a programme of exercise or pursuing a healthier diet.

Sometimes we take on board some aspirations to read some books we have always felt we should read or to declutter our homes of excess possessions and all of these are noble and excellent things to do. Everyone will have their own idea of what their life might need if we were to do something of a reboot. Maybe there are calories to be shed after the excesses of Christmas. Maybe there are habits you know would be beneficial to your spiritual life but you just always seem too busy to put them to the forefront of your priorities.

Like any season of the year we can sometimes make the mistake of trying to do too much. We try to make huge changes all at once and if circumstances go against us and we fail to complete our targets we can be consumed with guilt and shame.

The church does not want to add to the weight of those burdens so this year we are offering a number of alternatives for you to consider. While we don’t want to overburden people what we do encourage is that you try one of these options. During the 5 Thursdays of Lent we hope to run a course in church about how to hear God by praying the Bible. Each week there will be a 15 minute video and some discussion questions to help us to process and think about what we have heard. It will happen in church, but will not feel as formal as a service and there will be opportunity to engage with the materials through discussion. Each of these sessions will last 35-45 minutes and will take place on Thursdays at 7.30pm beginning on Thursday 23rd February.

You will also find in this month’s magazine details about a new Bible reading method in the form of a book club facilitated by Andy our curate. This will be quite a new way for many to read the Bible as the books are not divided into chapters and verses as we are accustomed to. It would be a great way to start reading the Bible if you have never done so before or if it’s something you do occasionally and you’re not quite sure how to go about it. It’s a great option if you’d like to try it out with a curious friend who has had a fascination with the church and the Bible but never had the courage to try it out for themselves.

I recently shared some reflections with the Ladies’ Friendship Group about the past 2-3 years and what it was like as an ordinary pastor to live through covid and try to lead the church through that period. One of the big takeaways for me was the fact that we no longer take gathering in person for granted. Even the most casual or normal of family gatherings can be disrupted by someone testing positive for Covid-19. Almost as a matter of course we test ourselves if going to see relatives who are older or who reside in nursing homes or sheltered accommodation. The uncertainties of the past few years, the times of lockdown and restriction had quite an impact on our mental health. Everyone suffered or missed out on things whether it was things we take for granted like school or university. Most families remember events like birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals having to take place in a very different way because of the virus and the dangers it posed to public health. Some people have found it hard to regain confidence, to go out, to feel safe in crowded places like shops or churches or entertainment venues.

The Sanctuary Course offers a safe space in the coffee bar to discuss our mental health and to reflect on the experiences of others who are open to share what they went through in some powerful and instructive videos. It’s done in a relaxed and informal way again and the feedback from our first course was very encouraging. If this is something you’d like to explore why not come along to the coffee bar for the 8 sessions that begin on Wednesday 1st February at 7.45pm. As always our aim in all of these things is to draw closer to Jesus and to have a deep sense of His presence in our everyday lives. We hope that you can experience that in this season and going forward.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822