Revd Gary's Pastoral Letter February 2021
Listed Under: Vicars Blog
As I began this letter for this issue of the magazine, not long after the start of the year, thoughts of Lent and fasting were somewhat far from my mind as Lockdown took hold once more. It does make me wonder if we all kept to the rules, wore face coverings well and socially distanced appropriately, would we be in this situation again?
Over indulgence or self-indulgence is so easy in Western society and the festive time of year offers us all so many opportunities to eat to excess and may be do things because we can as they won’t affect us - we are super human after all…. or selfish.
We make New Year resolutions to diet, study the advice offered so freely by all the social media sites and newspapers, and this season’s latest “go to” B list celebrity Fad Diet or Exercise programme, and yet so often we fail to reform our habits. We are told that the shops are fine if we pace ourselves, but who still ordered online to excess on Tuesday 5th January, the night before Lockdown 3 started, and took the last Tesco Click and Collect slot - because I was too late to get it? Remember the queues to get into M&S and Morrison’s and the Great Loo Roll hoarding of Lockdown1? Perhaps we would take notice if there was a Whitty Diet or Vallance Plan? I hope the vaccination roll out happens smoothly.
As February begins and those rashly made resolutions have been largely abandoned, there is truly the chance for renewal of purpose with the onset of Lent. This year it will commence on 17th February and end on the 3rd April. As there is no obligation to fast on Sundays, this is how we arrive at a total of 40 days, echoing the period Jesus spent fasting in the desert.
I’d like to think if He could do it, I could do it, especially since the normal custom is just to curb our consumption of sweet things or alcohol, rather than deny ourselves all indulgence. But we are surrounded by so many temptations in our busy lives that even a modest denial can prove difficult to sustain. And our period of Lent is traditionally preceded by one last fill-your-boots blast of feasting, whether it’s Fasching in Germany, Carnevale in Italy or our more modest Shrove Tuesday (February 13 - I am so sad that I cannot do the School Pancake Race Challenge again, and it won’t be the same on Zoom or Facetime).
Would we have more engagement with Lent, or success in our trial, if we described Lent as a ‘detox’ or ‘mindful’ eating, in keeping with the latest dieting trends? Would more people would subscribe to it?
Lent is not just an opportunity, welcome though it is, to lose a few inches from the waistline by eating more simply, it is also a window of time in which we can reflect and appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us and meditate on the true meaning of our lives. ‘For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ (1 Corinthians.13:1).
So, this year I pray you may all embrace this period of abstinence in the hope it will strengthen your resolve to keep your hastily made New Year resolutions, encourage you to see more clearly the purpose and future of our Church locally and maybe also whittle away a stubborn pound or two or whittle away at some selfish or stubborn self-centred streaks to make us all more helpful and humble to the needs of others. And I’ll be joining you all in ‘mindful’ eating, just as soon as I’ve demolished the last chocolate in the box I have just found hidden.