28 Jan February 2021
NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2021
We find ourselves in another national lockdown and are not at present gathering for public worship. As part of our efforts to maintain strands of communication among us, and as we come towards Lent, this Newsletter is longer than usual but I hope continues something of interest and support for everyone. MB
Some thoughts as Lent approaches from Revd Lynn Grove:
February will soon be upon us, officially ending the Christmas/Epiphany season, and ushering us into Lent. But sitting at home watching the rain, I feel almost as if Lent is already here. We have all been called to give up so much in the past year – surely God will understand if we just don’t feel that a time of deliberate sacrifice is called for this year? And, yes, of course God understands if we’re in danger of being overwhelmed with anxiety, if we can’t give up chocolate or champagne or whatever, because we haven’t had the money to buy them anyway! But marking Lent is not just ‘giving something up’ in the sense of physical indulgence, though that can be part of it. I remember clearly the year I presented our vicar with a packet of money, saved through not buying Thomas’s cheese and onion pasties and sausage rolls which had become a daily habit. But talking things through with that wise man, I saw that why I’d done it was not to bring me closer to God – it was to lose weight! Of course, we all have mixed motives for doing things, but I learnt a lot about myself, and about God’s grace and mercy that year.
What do I want God to teach me this year? I’ve been reading a lot of poetry in recent weeks, and these words from TS Eliot’s 4 Quartets have really struck me anew:
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden…” TS Eliot from ‘Burnt Norton’
My parents’ generation, born in the 1910’s and 1920’s, looked at time through the lens of ‘before’ and ‘after’ the War (World War 2). I suppose my children’s and grandchildren’s generations will do the same with ‘before’ and ‘after’ Covid. But living life always looking over one’s shoulder at what might have been, constantly ruminating on ‘What if I’d done this or that?’ or if someone else had done it, or the government, or the doctors, or, or, or… is not, I think a good way to live. It is how it is; now is where we start. That’s as true of our spiritual life as any other aspect. Of course, the past is important in that it will inform the present and help us to move into the future. But wishing, longing, for things to be like they used to be is not, I’m sure, the way to move on with Jesus in our lives. We so often grow spiritually through hard times. So how can we walk with Jesus through this time of such difficulty? We seek to know him better, to become even closer to him, to love him, and to find the blessings he gives us every day, to live in the present time, as joyfully and reflectively as we can. That seems to be what my Lent is about this year. There are many ways of following this sort of living; I only suggest what follows because it’s what seems to suit me – it may well be different for you. If you’re someone who finds God in the beauty of Creation, in music, in art, start there. Join a Lent group – there are several online ones – read a Lent book. For me, the bible, and certain prayer practices are the most helpful, though it’s good to try something new from time to time – God is truly a God of surprises.
I read the bible every day, the set readings for Morning Prayer at least. I pray, not only for other people, though that’s so important, but for myself. I ask God for the grace I need to follow Jesus. I may sit with a short piece of scripture and allow it to become part of me; I may imagine what it was like being present with Jesus as he taught his disciples, or healed the sick, or performed miracles, always asking God to show me what I myself need to learn. I try every day to use a prayer called the examen – nothing to do with exams, I promise; it’s more a sort of inspection, with oneself being the inspector. It’s a way of looking back at the day (or week) just past, asking God to remind me of when I was most conscious of his presence, and to give thanks for that. Then I ask him to remind me of any times when I was least aware of his being with me, and as I recall those times, to show me why that was. Then I give thanks for that insight. The beauty of the prayer is that it’s done as a thanksgiving, never a guilt trip. Yes, we can see places where we were not giving of our best, or going wrong, and decide to try again, living in the knowledge that we’re loved and forgiven, even before we ask. I’m not saying that this is always easy. It gets easier with practice, like all spiritual disciplines. There are still times when I go to sleep as I’m doing the examen (I often do it at bedtime), but I know God understands when I’m tired. The prayer doesn’t need to take long. If you want to try this, I suggest you begin by setting aside no more than 10 minutes. As you go on, you may find that the time becomes longer, but it’s always better to start with what you feel you can do easily and do it, rather than set an unrealistic target! It’s not a competition; it’s not something to achieve: it’s a gracious gift from God. Do get in touch if you’d like to know more, but however you decide to mark Lent this year, I pray it will be a fruitful time for us all.
Lent resources – Ash Wednesday is on 17th February 2021!
Although we may not be able to return to worship in our churches before Lent begins, we can think about how we want to review and build on our discipleship during Lent this year. If we continue to be limited in our ‘out and about’ activities, what about exploring some new reading?
Here are some suggestions – it is deliberately extensive in the hope of offering something to appeal to everyone [I am indebted to Rev Lynn for her input here]:
- #Live Lent – https://www.churchofengland.org . There are booklets which can be purchased but you can also sign up for this material to come to you via email.
- Online Event – Lent Books: Discussion and Readings
A look at this year’s selection of Lent books hosted by Mark Oakley.
With authors: Stephen Cherry (Thy Will Be Done), Hannah Steele (Living His Story), Sheila Upjohn (The Way of Julian of Norwich), and Samuel Wells (A Cross in the Heart of God).
This free event will be streamed on the Church House Bookshop Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/420618378988391
- ‘The Art of Lent’ – a painting a day from Ash Wednesday to Easter – Sister Wendy Beckett – £7.69 from Amazon.
- ‘Art of Holy Week and Easter’ – Sister Wendy Beckett
Meditations on the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus
If art is a spiritual gateway for you, this should be lovely!
- ‘At Home in Lent’ – the story of Lent in 47 objects by Gordon Giles – £6.89 from Amazon
- ‘Come and See’ – learning from the life of Peter, by Archbishop Stephen Cottrell £9.99 from www.brf.org.uk or Amazon
- ‘The Way of Julian of Norwich‘ – Sheila Upjohn
A Prayer Journey Through Lent
Whether you know Julian or not, this would be a good book to pray with.
- ‘Still Standing‘ – Rachel Mann
A Lent course based on the Elton John movie ‘Rocketman’
(Internet needed for this)
- ‘Glimpses of Glory‘ – David Bryant (The Mowbray Lent Book 2017)
David was a past vicar of Lastingham; he wrote this book during his
terminal illness. I found it profoundly moving and insightful.
- ‘My Sour-Sweet Days‘ – Mark Oakley
For anyone who loves George Herbert’s poetry
- ‘God of Surprises‘ – Gerard Hughes
A spiritual classic for anyone wishing to embark on the inner spiritual journey
Updates on recent appeals
- SASH – At two services at Christmas at Sinnington Church a total of £307 was collected in retiring collections for SASH (Safe and Sound Homes). Grateful thanks to those who were able to contribute.
- LANGA, SOUTH AFRICA – Ann and Adrian Bishop write:
On Monday, 11th. January, £1600 was sent to St Cyprian’s for their soup kitchen, £1200 of which was donated by you in response to the appeal made in the autumn. A very big “thank you” to everyone for such a generous response.
We heard from Zandi before Christmas and she said they still have money left over from last year because the kitchen was closed during lockdown, so what we send them will get them through the coming year. If they have to lock down again the money will be used for food vouchers.
Once again she sends her best wishes and love to you all.
- HOLY TRINITY, NORTH ORMESBY – collection in Lieu of Toy Service gifts.
We were very fortunate to be able to send £1000 to our friends at Holy Trinity. Here is an extract from a recent email from Lee-Anne Southon, Churchwarden there:
‘I intend to write a proper letter but in short the PCC decided to bless families with a gift voucher, enabling them to use for gifts, with families having different age ranges we wanted to allow them to choose.
19 families including 5 families seeking asylum received a gift voucher of £50.00. This was a high street voucher which could be used in a variety of shops including Argos.’
I am delighted to hear that so many families have been supported and thank everyone once again for your contributions.
[You may be interested to know that Lee-Anne also tells me their new Vicar – Bridget – has been appointed and begins work in the Parish in Mid-February].
Prayers – two prayers for Lent for your use
(from ‘The Book of 1000 prayers, Ed. Angela Ashwin)
God of the desert, as we follow Jesus into the unknown, may we recognise the tempter when he comes; let it be your bread we eat, your world we serve and you alone we worship. Amen.
Lord, in these days of mercy, make us quiet and prayerful; in these days of challenge, make us stronger in you; in these days of emptiness, take possession of us; in these days of waiting, open our hearts to the mystery of your cross. Amen.
Services – none during Lockdown
The PCCs of both Parishes met on Zoom / via email on 6th January 2021 and it was agreed, while the current Govt. restrictions allow public gathering for worship, that this would be extremely difficult to achieve given that the tighter structures required to minimise risk of infection cannot be guaranteed in any of our buildings. This decision will be reviewed in early February but at the time of writing no changes are planned.
Meanwhile, there will be a service via Zoom each Sunday at 10.30. Rev Rob will circulate joining details. There may also be opportunities to join weekday prayers.
There is also Sunday worship on TV and radio during this time. If you have internet access, you may also explore other resources local and national, e.g.
and many others.