Dear Friends,

I wonder how the season of Lent sits with you? Do you look forward to this intentional period of 40 days for renewing and deepening your spiritual life or do you find it all a bit heavy and oppressive? All this talk of the cross and self-denial and going deeper with God sounds so out of touch with how many of us tend to think these days.

Maybe in the past you gave up sweets and chocolate or alcohol for the
6 weeks, you tried to make it a weekly pattern to go to the midweek Lenten service but now you are wondering why you bothered? Most people you know don’t seem to care about these things and having heard about these events over many years, you don’t expect any remarkable new insights to be coming your way anytime soon.

Sometimes I meet people who get a bit nostalgic about the days when it used to mean something to them. They left behind their religious practice
some years ago but they have deep-rooted memories of the music, the midweek services, the Holy Week services and the joy of Easter day. They saw the physical changes in the church as the colours changed, the altar
was stripped and they felt the mood of solemnity and sadness on Good Friday and how that was transformed into joy with the celebrations on Easter Sunday. The Easter eggs were broken up and devoured, the church
windows were decorated, the days were getting longer. A spirit of hope was generated as people celebrated these things together.

Personally I always approach the season with a mixture of excitement and
apprehension. I get excited about the opportunity to refocus my thoughts on God and turn my heart afresh towards Him. I get the chance to wonder again at His mercy and His tender kindness towards me and His desire to invite me home again. He longs to welcome me even after I have been away for a while. I may have showed up physically but perhaps my head and my heart wasn’t in it. I take these weeks to bring both the best and worst of myself before Him and ask Him to teach me and help me to go again.

I get apprehensive too about stripping back all those little crutches that can insulate me from a sense of dependence upon him. It might be the sweets, the chocolate, the drink after a challenging day. I get worried about the services I have planned. Are they relevant, will they be applicable to people’s lives? What about the guest speakers? Will they bring inspiration? Will anybody care enough to turn up to hear them? Sometimes I make it far too much about me and far too little about Jesus.

The Lent that stands out vividly in my memory was the year Lucy was born. I had big plans and wanted to capture the hearts and imaginations of our
parishioners in the parishes where I served and all of a sudden my circumstances changed. Vicky had to go to hospital weeks before Lucy
was born. Lucy herself had to be delivered early with a number of complications and all my great plans were overtaken by events unfolding before me.

A parishioner who was terminally ill at the time took me to one side and said he would bring the churches together to do something very different. He directed a passion play that reflected on different events in the last week of Jesus’ life.

I spent much of Lent going up and down to the hospital and
had to ask big questions. Does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have anything to say to the human condition in the midst of bewilderment, confusion and suffering? If it does I need to know right now as these things are going on which are outside my control. I was amazed at how God used
all sorts of people to show me just how vital and important all these things are. They ranged from nurses and doctors who looked after us as a family in those challenging weeks, to farmers who took time out of their busy day to drive us to the hospital and collect us. There were anonymous people who left soup and casseroles and bread on our doorstep at night, there were children in schools and frail elderly people in nursing homes who prayed and wrote cards and why did they do these things? They did them
because Jesus lived, died and rose again and because his presence lived within them. That’s why we want to proclaim Him, share Him and take every opportunity to remind people of just how centrally important He
is in all things.

May you discover this in a fresh and powerful way over this season of Lent.

With very best wishes.

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822