So tonight I zoomed in for a remote catch up with those who I’d been on the Advent Course with. It’s a lovely group, and one I feel happy to belong to as we share our thoughts and personal experiences with each other. We have offered each other new and/or different perspectives, as well as empathy and understanding; I feel both humbled and privileged, as well as happy and content to be amongst such a group. The reason we had another catch up, was not only because it had been several weeks since the advent course had finished and a catch up was long overdue, but also because many had signed up for a Lent Course, following much the same format as the advent one, and being another journey of discovery and reflection for each of us.
I’d decided to sign up for the Lent course, as I’d personally gained so much from the advent course. I knew very little about Lent if I’m honest, and looking through the overview of the course I knew there would be lots for me to ponder, explore and give thought to.
There are so many regular church goers who are part of these courses, and I remember how I felt initially when I’d signed up to the Advent course, and how apprehensive I’d been about joining. I knew the people would be honest, welcoming and accepting, but it was my perception that they would know so much more than me, that they would be able to quote passages from the scripture, be more Christian in their thoughts and their deeds. I wondered if I would bring enough to the group, or even what shouldn’t be brought. I was utterly and wonderfully wrong. We all had something to offer, something to give, something to take from it. When I heard the announcement that this Lent course was taking place, I signed up without hesitation.
So what do I know about Lent? Not a lot.
I know that Lent is the 40 day period before Easter, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
I know that violet is the symbolic colour for Lent, which is the colour associated with both mourning and royalty.
I know that Lent is a time for fasting, abstinence, repentance and prayer. I know that during Lent, Christians are expected to give up something, reflecting Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness.
And I know that Pancake Tuesday, precedes Ash Wednesday, which I thought was a symbolic representation of when people used up the remainder of the food they had stored over winter as it would go off, and prior to the Lenten fast.
Right, that’s it. I know there will likely be people picking holes in the details of this, there will be those shouting I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, or what about x, or y or z. Truth is, I don’t really know much about Lent which is why I’ve decided that to understand myself, my thoughts and my beliefs, I need to listen, learn, and understand. By gaining knowledge and insight into Christianity, into others, and into myself I begin to understand what is being said, understand me, and understand my journey, the path I’ve taken, and the one I wish to continue on.
I don’t have answers, I certainly don’t have all the knowledge, but I do have an open mind, and time to give to myself in being a part of this course.
The Lent course entitled “The Food and Drink of Faith” will last for 7 weeks, during which time we will explore scripture, prayer, fellowship, fasting, and our own journey with God. Each week we will connect, contemplate, consider and commit.
This gave me so much food for thought, particularly given the title of the course, and that Week 7’s theme is “Exploring Bread and Wine”. The plan is that by Week 7 we’re hoping to be able to meet up in person and share communion. Whether that is something that will happen remains to be seen, and I'm not sure the wine will indeed be wine, given that this is a Methodist run course; it might be that we come together that day with our glasses of Ribena. I’m not sure any easing of restrictions and allowing groups to meet up will be coming anytime soon, but all we can do is take each day as it comes. Whatever will be, will be.
So I’ve been pondering what I might want to give up for Lent. I need to shed some weight … about two stone if I’m honest. Lockdown cake eating has definitely figured in my ever expanding waistline, and my gaining of weight hasn’t been helped by my reaching that sort of age … the age when it’s so very easy to pile on the pounds, but not quite as easy to shed them! Before the meeting this evening I’d decided that I’d give up chocolate, as well as biscuits for Lent … I know that 40 days is a long time, particularly for a chocaholic, but I figured that cutting out these delicacies would hopefully tip the scales in my favour too. And the light at the end of the tunnel would not only be a lighter me, but also the opportunity to binge at Easter time … woe betide anyone who doesn’t buy me a chocolate egg!
But then I thought what if this time for reflection and focus were not about giving up something, but taking something on. I’m not an avid reader, I never have been, it’s generally (with one or two exceptions) forced. I thought if I could set myself a goal of a page a day then they were baby steps in moving in the right direction. They may be slow and steady steps, but they’re steps all the same, and hopefully the one page goal may start a habit which I can increase to two pages per day … who knows? And so the gaining of a hobby or interest or knowledge with what reading brings is also me committing to giving up my time.
I discussed this with Deacon Kim after our social last night and we talked about how the giving up of something is not necessarily what Lent is about, but the giving of my time and commitment is enough. Committing myself to the course, every week, participating, giving, receiving, learning, reflecting, understanding may be what my Lent experience should be. We talked about how God knew each of us intimately and each of us will offer and bring something different to the course, and likewise each of us will take and receive something different from that experience. Each of us is travelling along our own path. Each of us is on a journey, and that journey is our own.
My mind is exploding with thoughts, and I’m excited to start this course … watch out for my outpourings coming soon!
by Elizabeth Dee