Minister's Letter - February 2019
Rev Sue Keegan von Allmen
Rev Sue Keegan von AllmenDear friends,

What will you be doing for Lent?! You’re probably wondering why I’m asking the question, given that it’s not long since Christmas, but it’s a matter of preparation.

Lent, like Advent, is a period of preparation – although the mood of the preparation isn’t fixed. In the early centuries of the Christian Church, it was a time when those excluded from communion, did penance. In the 3rd century in North Africa, there is evidence of those who had sinned gravely, prostrating themselves at the feet of the ministers and asking for the congregation’s pardon. Around the fourth century, it was a time when adult candidates for baptism, were prepared. Later, it became a time to prepare for Holy Week and Easter with a fast, and this would normally involve abstaining from food until the evening of each day – except on Sundays, the day when Christ’s resurrection is celebrated. In our own time, Lent is associated with “giving something up”, traditionally chocolates or alcohol. In some churches and Circuits, meetings have also been on the list, and one person I knew always went on a diet during Lent. But they’re not really the point! The point of fasting, is to abstain, in order to appreciate the real value of the thing of which we are depriving ourselves. Fasting can have the effect of focusing the mind, so it is necessary to know why focusing our minds might be useful.

That brings me back to the question of preparation, and why I’m writing this now and not for the March Link, when there will only be a few days to go before Lent begins.

I would like to invite you, over the next few weeks, to think about how you will spend Lent. Here are some of the possibilities.

All We Can – Methodist Relief and Development – have prepared a guide, for which you can sign up in booklet or email form, on allwecan.org.uk. Travel Lightly is a series of reflections, prayers and activities for individuals and groups. There are also church, children and youth resources. It invites us to travel light as we reflect on the wilderness experience which for many people in today’s world is a daily reality.

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) which works for the Methodist, Baptist and United Reform Churches and the Church of Scotland, invites us to become part of a community who will respond to the call to climate action by making significant, personal commitments to changing our lifestyles for the climate. They ask – Could you:

• Give up single use plastics?

• Go meat free, or get rid of animal products all together?

• Take up alternative forms of transport?

• Commit to an hour ‘electricity free’ every day?

• Commit to locally sourced food?

• Commit to buying nothing new?

Choose something that will stretch you – and then become part of an online community who will be making these commitments alongside each other. Through the ‘Living Lent’ community, we will share in blogs, spiritual reflections, devotional and creative materials which will help you explore where this journey might take you.

Living Lent is hosted by JPIT. Find out more about them here: www.jointpublicissues.org.uk.

Some people choose to read a book. There are many possibilities. I’ve just ordered Jane Williams’ “The Merciful Humility of God”. If you’d prefer something to read each day, I’ve enjoyed using two books, which have a poem and some reflections for the whole of Lent and Easter. One by Janet Morley is “the heart’s time”, and the other by Malcolm Guite is “The Word in the Wilderness”.

I will also continue an online course I’m doing on Centering Prayer. It’s the form of silent prayer I’ve practised since 2002, rooted in the hymn of Christ’s humility in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Phil 2: 5-11). I am doing it as a way of reminding myself about the theology that undergirds it and renew my practice. If you have a particular prayer practice, is this a time to renew your practice and commitment to God through it?

There will also be the usual Churches Together Lent Groups. Please look out for them and join one if you have the time. It’s always good to share the Lenten journey, and receive fresh insight, with our brothers and sisters from other churches. See page 14 for more details.

That brings me to the point of it all. Whatever we choose, we’re engaging in them as a way of focusing: of focusing our minds, our bodies, our prayer, and our whole lives on God and on God’s purposes for us as individuals and as a church. If we’re not sure what this is, Lent can be a time for discovering where God might be leading us, but it all begins with being prepared to use it well.

I look forward to sharing Lent with you – in due course.

With good wishes, Sue