The second in the Sunday newsletter inserts for February:
In 1993 I was doing a year of missionary youth work in the Northern and North Eastern areas of the old Transvaal province in
South Africa – now the Limpopo and provinces. There was a group of 6 of us from all over the country and we stayed in a house which doubled as the Diocesan Offices. The Diocesan Treasurer had a 1-bedroomed flat in the back garden and occasionally shared mealtimes with us. Mpumalanga
During Lent that year, we asked the Diocesan Treasurer what he was going to be giving up for Lent, and he responded that he was giving up Church! We all thought he was joking – until he never arrived for the first Sunday in Lent … or the Second, or the third, or any services in Lent. True to his word – he only came back to church on Easter Sunday. We initially thought it rather strange, but at the end of Lent, we saw a changed man. From Easter, that Diocesan Treasurer found that – rather than dragging himself out of bed and grudgingly sitting in Church – he loved going – Lent had both transformed him and transformed his experience and understanding of his faith.
I realised then that Lent was about more than just giving up something … it's an opportunity to spend time looking within ourselves, at what makes us tick, and identifying the areas where we can make positive changes.
I'm not suggesting that we should all give up church for Lent. But for that Diocesan Treasurer in 1993, Lent was an opportunity to evaluate what his faith meant for him.
The challenge for us this Lent is not to think about what we can give up, but to find out how we can make Lent a time for positive change for each of us, and perhaps for us as a community.