This year Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, falls on 22nd February. The best way to begin Lent is to attend the Celebration of the Eucharist at All Saints', Wickhambrook at 7.00pm on that day. There will be Imposition of Ashes at the Eucharist, for those who wish to receive it.
The service on Ash Wednesday is still conducted in much the same way as it was a thousand years ago. The priest dips his thumb in ashes, produced by burning some of last year's Palm Crosses, and makes the mark of a cross on people's foreheads, saying to each person: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ." The Ash from the Palm Crosses serves as a vivid reminder of the fickleness of human nature - how the happy crowds singing 'hosanna' would, in less than a week, be screaming 'crucify him'. Lent is a time for sorrow and self-denial, but with a confidence in the forgiveness of God, which is limitless and freely given to those who ask for it in good faith.
Traditionally, Lent has been a time to give up something we enjoy, but many now make a resolution to do something positive and constructive during this period - 'taking up', rather than 'giving up.' This might be setting aside time each day to read from the bible and/or from a Christian book - there are many Lent books for sale in Christian bookshops. It may be visiting someone who is lonely; attending a mid-week Eucharist, or setting aside extra time for prayer and meditation. There are many possibilities, as long as what we choose to do helps us to grow in love for God and for other people. Please think and pray about how you will observe Lent for the love of God - what about attending our Lent course?
Our Lent Course this year is entitled: "Handing on the Torch" We shall meet on Monday 27th February and on Mondays 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th March at 7.30pm in the Benefice Hall. Everyone is very welcome.
Christianity is the largest movement our world has ever seen. It continues to grow at an immense pace - especially in Asia (including China), Africa and Latin America. At the same time, Christianity in the West struggles to grow and - perhaps - even to survive. In this course we consider some of the reasons for this and what it might mean for individual Christians, for churches and for Western culture, in a world where alternative beliefs are increasingly on offer.
The course booklet, written by Canon John Young includes questions aimed at provoking wide-ranging discussion. Each group member needs a course booklet, which will be available at the first session and costs £3.50. This is the only expense involved in this five session course. An interesting feature of this course is that there is an accompanying CD, in which distinguished Christian speakers give some input into each session.
The participants on the course CD are Archbishop John Sentamu - the Archbishop of York, Clifford Longley - RC author, broadcaster and journalist and Rachel Lampard - who has responsibility for the Methodist Church's engagement with political issues. Bishop Graham Cray - Archbishops' Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team - provides the Closing Reflection at the end of each session. Dr David Hope - former Archbishop of York - introduces this course.
There will also be the opportunity to chat informally over tea or coffee. Please consider joining us, if you are able to.
With every blessing.
Rev'd Stephen Abbott