Why keep Lent at all?
Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter, is traditionally a period when Christians are invited to take time to strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, through a blend of prayer, simple living, and study. John Chrysostom said “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great”. This is a particular challenge if we think that Lent is mostly about reading a Lent book or giving up a glass of wine at the end of a long day. The way we keep Lent should make a difference for others too – but ceaseless activism is not the key building our relationship with God either. It follows, then, that a good starting point would be to ask God to help you discern how best to use this time in which your relationship with God is your priority.
Lent is both private – for it focusses on the spring-cleaning of your soul – and corporate, for, as the Ash Wednesday liturgy reminds us, it is the season when together we learn to be God’s people once again. May we commend to you a Lenten programme that makes space for both dimensions? If as clergy we can help and support you through this holy season, please do speak to one of us.
What to do?
Some suggestions to consider as you plan your journey through Lent, just in case you’re so used to giving up sugar or booze that you’ve almost forgotten why you bother.
Take up the Coventry Way as a prayer discipline and look out for moments of reconciliation to celebrate and share.
This year’s national focus is the Plastic Challenge – we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation. Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. That’s enough plastic to cover every inch of the UK ankle-deep more than ten times over. Just 9% was recycled. Pick up a list of daily suggestions from the Community table. You could start by bringing your own mug to church for Sunday coffee! And maybe take the service book home so you can reflect on the readings and pray the Collect during the week…Share your journey with others on the Plastic-Less Lent Facebook Group
Read a book by one of our Peace & Poetry Festival writers:
Malcolm Guite’s A Word in the Wilderness offers a poem for every day of Lent, or try his Sounding the Seasons or Paradox & Parable
Pádraig Ó Tuama’s In the Shelter: finding a home in the world
Michael Symmons Roberts Drysalter
Live Lent and take a 6 week discipleship journey through the gospel of John, exploring what it means to be a witness. The programme offers a reading, prayer, reflection & action for each day. www.churchofengland.org./lent to sign up for a daily email, or text Lent to 88802 for a free daily text message and reflection, or download the free app (Look for #LiveLent in the app store)
All three poets, together with Patience Agbabi and Anthony Owens will be with us for the Peace & Poetry Festival on Saturday, 17th March from 12 noon, and their work and thoughts promise to be a launch pad into fresh ways of thinking about something that matters so much to us here.
Or dip into the thoughts of our Holy Week preacher Ruth Scott, with her most recent book The Power of Imperfection
And don’t forget our Lent Course “Foundations in Reconciliation” on Wednesday evenings from 7.00-8.30 in St Michael’s House from 21st February. Why not take time this Lent to learn more about something that is part of our Coventry DNA?
Friday 16th March 7.00 A Poetry Mass, created and celebrated by The Reverend Dr Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
During Holy Week, Holy Communion will be celebrated at 12 noon on Monday 26th to Wednesday 28th March, and Compline with an Address by the Reverend Ruth Scott at 7.30 pm each evening.
Ruth writes: The stories of Holy Week are not dead history but your story and my story. They capture profoundly the human capacity for inhumanity and, through Jesus, our potential to live out compassionate, counter-cultural, costly Love. Holy Week invites us to engage imaginatively with the gospel drama of Jesus’ last days, to recognise our own attitudes and experience in the people he encountered, and to explore and respond to his invitation to, ‘take up your cross and follow me’. I will set the scene in my Palm Sunday sermon and, during the liturgies from Monday to Thursday in Holy Week, through different ‘voices from the cross’ reflect on what prevents, and what enables us today to live out and share in the Love embodied by Jesus.
The Cathedral will host the Chrism Eucharist at 10.30 am on Maundy Thursday, with the Liturgy of Maundy Thursday being held at 7.30 pm (with an address by Ruth), followed by the Maundy Watch in the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane.
The Liturgy of Good Friday will be at 9 am on March 30th, Stations of the Cross in the Ruins at 2 pm, and a performance of Bob Chilcott’s St John Passion & Bach’s Jesu meine Freude at 6 pm.
Easter Sunday’s Dawn Eucharist will take place at 6.15 am, with the Cathedral Eucharist at 10.30 am and Festal Evensong at 4 pm.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)
Though we know that God forgives us whenever we turn to him in penitence and faith, it is sometimes helpful to engage with a more intensive process of self-examination and to hear God’s forgiveness spoken aloud, knowing own specific failures have been forgiven. In a place where reconciliation is integral to all that we do, it makes sense to enjoy the full riches of the sacraments that Christ has entrusted to his Church. There will be a priest ready to hear confessions in the Millennium Chapel on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, from 6 pm to 7 pm in the Millennium Chapel, or at other times by appointment with Canon Kathryn (02476 521230)