As I write this, we have just celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and been reminded in the Lectionary that we are one body with many parts, each distinctive but equally important. In the United Reformed Church, we profess to believe in the unity of the church, the clue is in the title, but unity should never be confused with uniformity. Each branch of the church, even within denominations, is different; it has to be as the church is people and we are all different. To use a wonderful illustration, imagine the beauty and wonder of a rainbow with its seven distinct colours and the shades created at the meeting of those colours, now imagine what would happen if you placed those seven colours all together in one pot and mixed well – the result would be a grey/brown non descript mess, we need our diversity, our different colours, to truly reflect the glory of our creator God.
It is this diversity which means how we resource our journey to God needs to be a smorgasbord rather than a set menu. Each one of us has different needs; we start from different places and our relationship with God is unique. We also all have different tastes! As we approach Lent, we all have a different way of using the time. It is a time for preparation and contemplation. Traditionally, people have given something up for Lent, usually chocolate or cheese or even alcohol but I have always worried that this was more about me than about my relationship with God. Hence, I have chosen, and encouraged others, to give up some time for Lent, deliberately making space for time with God, either with others in a study group or by doing something contemplative each week or day of Lent. The simplest way is to buy a special book, preferably with a faith emphasis, and read it during Lent, making notes of the questions it raises or the things that particularly strike you in the text. Lent is a special time for journeying. Within the pastorate there will be an opportunity to meet together in study groups, and in Dunstable there will be some Churches Together Study Groups; the material for both is still being finalised but will be in the notices soon.
If you are looking for a book to read, two that I would recommend are When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd, or At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hahn. The latter is a series of reflections by one of the world’s most revered masters of mindfulness.
If you like taking photographs then Spirituality in Photography by Philip R Richter would be an interesting read, and you might like to couple it with taking a photograph every day in Lent, either the same view each day reflecting on the changes day to day, or perhaps using a theme of a different colour each week, or simply something you notice each day. The possibilities are endless as the book demonstrates, but doing it deliberately will itself be a spiritual exercise.
The important thing is to let God into our lives in a special way during Lent and there are, as we know, many ways of doing that. We simply have to find the way that is right for us.
Enjoy the search.
Love and prayers,