A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

An e-mail arrived into my inbox last night. Within the body of the text was a call to:

“ … prayer, fasting, humility, and repentance. With the season of Lent before us, we ask how we can apply Lenten spiritual practices to our lives and to the dangers facing our democracy.
We pray for the soul of the nation and the resilience of our government’s processes.
We pray that we may have wisdom to discern and speak truth, and courage to stand for it in our public squares. We pray that we may be bridges that bring God’s love to our angry national discourse.

We call on clergy to pray and preach the gospel message and lead their churches to serve as the conscience of the nation.
We call on clergy to offer prayers that our political leaders will make decisions not for their self-interest but for what is right for our nation and those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”
We must pray and ask God to take us deeper and prepare us to give a response that comes not from the Left or the Right, but because we are, first and foremost, followers of Jesus.
Prayer and fasting will help us find the spiritual vigilance and availability that are necessary for action.”

Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t a call to prayer from church leaders in this country concerning Brexit; but comes from the United States and is a response to the President declaring a State of National Emergency, as a means to get the funding, that he has so far been denied, to build the Border wall along the US-Mexican border.

On Wednesday 6th March, we do indeed begin the church season of preparation for Easter (which is called Lent). It is a time and season, in the church year, which lasts for 40 days (Sundays aren’t counted) until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, which this year is Sunday 21st April.

I am mindful that in the middle of this season, as things stand at the time of writing, we as a nation will withdraw from the European Union; at the time of writing there is no-deal done with the other nations in Europe, and so there is much clamour over the consequences of the withdrawal, with a little speculation about possible riots and civil disorder.

The season of Lent is usually a time whereby churches usually encourage their congregations either to take up some form of self-denial, by giving something up for Lent; and/or undergo some form of self-examination as to our relationships with God. The latter certainly would require a conscious deepening of our prayer lives for the season.

In my previous parishes, during Lent, we have tried to foster that time for prayer, by means of daily services in the Taize style: using simple repetitive chants, prayers and periods of silence. Many of those who have attended these have expressed gratitude for the time, space and quiet that these types of service allow – an oasis for many in the midst of busy lives. For logistical reasons I have not yet felt able to offer these during my time in Worcester, but if you feel that that is something you would value during Lent then let me know, and I’ll see whether those logistics can be overcome.

Anyway, can I encourage you all during this season of Lent to make particular effort to pray for our world, our nation, our city and our churches.

Every blessing, Andy

Revd. Andy Stand

St. Philip & St. James Parish Church Whittington, Worcs. WR5 2RQ