I have only very simple memories of Lent from my childhood. For this young schoolboy, Lent was an arbitrary time of year when one was expected to give up some wonderful treat for what seemed like an interminable period of time.
I’d like to blame my R.E. (Religious Education) teacher (the parish vicar) at my Church of England school for my early lack of Lenten knowledge. But it’s far more likely I was being a squirrely child and not paying attention. So it was that for many years I thought Ash Wednesday had something to do with all the near-by ash trees, not to mention an excuse to forego lessons and join the school in a march up the hill and across the fields to the village church.
There was no imposition of ashes that would have made an impression on a young schoolboy and that might also have prompted at least a passing interest in the proceedings. I suspect that such a practice was far too Roman Catholic for our village church. Unfortunately, my interest in things Lenten peaked (rather than being piqued) the previous day — Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday if you prefer — when we enjoyed our once-a-year treat of pancakes. I’m talking real English pancakes here; thin crepes, drizzled with lemon juice, dusted with sugar, rolled up, and eaten while still warm. After that, there was only one thing to look forward to. Easter Eggs.
Fast forward fifty (plus) years and I’d like to think that I have a little more mature view of the proceedings surrounding Lent. I’ve seen a shift away from my childhood emphasis on sacrifice and (perceived) austerity towards reflection, education, and a modicum of penitence. We have a whole host of Lenten programs that we can follow to prepare us for Holy Week and the Resurrection. Each year I pick one of the programs and try and follow it through. I set aside a short period of time each day to reflect on my chosen Lenten activity. Over the years I’ve spent my time studying the Saintly form, and following the (often passionate) discussion of the merits of the various saints in Lent Madness. It’s great way to learn a lot more about why we revere these people, and often quite humbling too. I’ve read the Daily Lenten meditations from Episcopal Relief & Development, and I found last year’s ‘Growing a Rule of Life’ from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist very helpful. So much so, that I’ve decided to go with their ‘Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John’ program this year. How about you, which programs have you found helpful?
I’ve included links to many of the Lenten programs below. Even if you don’t read this until much later, they all have their merits and are worth investing some time in at any time of year, so why not pick one and give it a go?
Oh, and I’m still looking forward to Easter Eggs.
March is time for Bishop’s Days, or to give it it’s full title, ‘Bishop’s Day with Wardens, Vestries, Administrators, & Clergy’ That’s quite a mouthful. This year we have added a lot of new content, as well as retaining the essentials for those new in their roles. Essentially it’s an annual opportunity for all those involved in Church Leadership and Management to get together and learn in detail how various aspects of the diocese works and integrates with the individual churches. It is an essential primer for new vestry members, and it’s a great place to hone skills, learn what’s new, plus a chance to meet and compare notes with others performing similar roles in other churches.
We hold two Bishop’s Days one in the north and one in the south of the diocese. This year they are being held on March 3 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, and on March 17 at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield. I strongly encourage anyone in a leadership role, or with an interest in a church leadership role to attend. I’ve included a link to the complete list of the offerings below.
We look forward to seeing you there.
ResourcesBack to Contents
- Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John: meetingjesusinjohn.org/
- The Good Book Club: www.goodbookclub.org/
- ERD Lenten Meditations: www.episcopalrelief.org/church-in-action/church-campaigns/lent
- Lent Madness: www.lentmadness.org/