When I started work on this month’s parish magazine, I was horrified to realise that Lent starts on 17th February. But I feel I have been in Lent since March last year! And we never got to celebrate Easter properly, or Ascension or Pentecost!
So it is quite a struggle for me to think how I’m going to engage with Lent this year. Well, I am certainly going to go easy on myself. With life already so restricted by coronavirus measures, it seems unwise to add further disciplines. Perhaps it is more a case of living well the restrictions that we already have.
When new lockdown measures were announced on 4th January it was clear that Places of Worship could remain open. However, a few days into the lockdown, infection rates were still rising. On 7th January Bishop David wrote to incumbents and churchwardens and saying, “… you may wish to further restrict activities in the church building or close completely for the time being. In all this, you have my full support.”
This caused us to look again, very carefully, at the risks associated with public worship. The risks have increased because of the new, more infectious, strain of the virus, but also the end is potentially in sight because the more vulnerable members of the congregation might reasonably hope to have been vaccinated by mid-February. St Michael’s Baddesley Clinton has therefore decided to suspend public worship and to review the situation after Ash Wednesday. Members of the congregation will be able to access online services from the St Mary’s website. Most Sundays we manage to live stream the 11am service.
At St Mary’s Lapworth the same risks apply, but many regular worshippers are already choosing to stay away from church, so it is much easier for the remaining, much smaller congregation to really spread out in the rather bigger church building. We plan to maintain a generous two meters between households. We have suspended choir singing and are taking extra care with social distancing on entering and leaving church. The PCC is due to review the situation on 18th January, but at the time of writing it looks to me as though St Mary’s will remain open.
So, for me this year, Lent will be about accepting and finding the positive aspects of the various coronavirus restrictions that are in place. We can hope that within a few weeks the vaccination programme will start to have an impact. Easter Day is 4th April this year. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the rules were relaxing as we say goodbye to Lent and enter the Easter Season. That is something to hope for!
With prayers and best wishes,
Prayer about gentle discipline
Lord Jesus, you said,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
May it be so, Lord Jesus. May it be so. Amen. (based on Matt 11:28-30)