Lent has begun. This evening we mark this with our Ash Wednesday service of Ashing at St Mary’s at 7.30pm, this evening.

The picture is the first of a set of ideas from St Michael’s Without (near Waitrose). It picks up in an approachable way our theme for Lent this year, our Living Planet. We have been given kind permission to use it.

Lent Groups will be using the diocesan course on our stewardship of the earth. Here is the information on when and where they are meeting:

This year there are four times for the Lent course. If one is sparse, we will ask those who’ve signed up to attend their second choice. Debbie and I are still finalising the details. All meetings will be at St Stephen’s. Please e-mail Gabriela on office@ststephensbath.org.uk and indicate your first and second choice by including the number corresponding to the meeting. Looking forward to getting closer to one another and to God.

Monday Afternoon 2.00 – 3.30
Tuesday Evening7.30 – 9.00
Wednesday Afternoon2.00 – 3.30
Wednesday Evening           7.45 – 9.15

I was going to write an introduction to the season, but I heard Revd Lucy Wicket’s Thought for the Day yesterday, and commend it to you. You can listen here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p072mn2g

So, Lent. the immediate talk is ‘what can I give up …’ But it’s also about what you take on, or what you make space for. It may be that in the hustle and hassle of your life you haven’t even thought about it. Please don’t worry, feeling that you’re a failure will only compound guilt. We will fail, all of us. But it’s all about intention, and being kind to yourself. Whatever you do will give you a chance to be present to God in your life and in the world – and that’s a wholly good thing. Whatever you do, do something, and don’t feel guilty.

I am committing myself to stillness every day from 12noon to 12.30.(I promise you I will miss days!) Sometimes I’m going to read something to reflect on, and then spend the time in silence. Do join me (not geographically!) for all or some of that.

There are the ideas above, and I offer two things to you as you begin this journey. The first is the Bishops’ Lent Challenge, which you can find here

The other is from Contemplative Outreach, which I think has some good ideas.

The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent… Mark 1:15

“Repent” means “change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.” The call to repentance is the invitation to take stock of our emotional programs for happiness based on instinctual needs and to change them. This is the fundamental program of Lent.”
Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

“Repent” means “change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.” The call to repentance is the invitation to take stock of our emotional programs for happiness based on instinctual needs and to change them. This is the fundamental program of Lent.”
Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

How am I to enter into Lent?
How to “change the direction in which I am looking for happiness.“?
What shall I give up and of what shall I partake as food
for the journey to resurrected life?
 
Possible small acts of renunciation
-fasting from news
-fasting from the television
-fasting from food, sweets, alcohol
-fasting from negative commentary of some sort
-countless ways of fasting; each of us has our own variety
 
Then, we are invited to uncritically observe the impacts on self:
-the discomfort
-the freed-up time
-the freed-up money
-What is being revealed? Is a kind of purification taking place, a cleansing of self-will, of habitual, mechanical, self-calming behaviours? Is there a wakefulness arising?
 
Possible acts created by these spaces
-reading Scripture
-listening to sacred music
-walks in nature
-lengthening our prayer times
-reading a special book, maybe one we’re not likely to read
-creations of beauty
-or, maybe it’s simply redefining the contours of our daily existence and infusing them with a renewed intentionality: “I will do this yard work, this ironing, this chauffeuring, this attendance at a meeting and re-orient it with an attentiveness and consciousness born of spaciousness, rather than hurriedness.”

All blessings, Philip