Revd Elizabeth Davies
The Vicarage, Mount Way, St. Weonards, HEREFORD HR2 8NN
Revd Frances Phillips
New House, Garway Hill, HEREFORD HR2 8EZ
As Easter approaches once again, the beginning of March finds us also right at the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday falls on the first day of March and at St Weonard's Church we'll be holding a benefice service of Holy Communion and ashing, which everyone is encouraged to come and share in as we mark the start of Lent. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence, and from the Middle Ages it became customary for Christians to begin the season of Lent by being marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross in ash.
On Wednesday evenings during Lent, we'll be holding a Lent study group. The evenings will be held at the home of Gillie & Peter Hallewell, 10 Mount Way, St Weonards, commencing at7pm and finishing by 9pm on the following dates: 8, 15, 22, 29 March and 5 April. We're going to be using one of the Pilgrim booklets - called Church & Kingdom - to aid our thoughts and discussions. Let me know if you'll be there -- or just turn up on the first evening.
'Pilgrim is an innovative and inspiring programme ... it approaches the great issues of faith not through persuasion, but participation in a pattern of contemplation and discussion ... we are invited to explore how we can 'follow the way' experiencing Christian faith not just as a set of things to believe in but as a way of life.'
We'll also be holding our traditional bread and soup Lent lunches again this year, on Wednesdays in Lent. The churchwardens have chosen Water Aid as the charity we'll be raising money for at this year's lunches, so please do come along and help raise money for this international charity that seeks to bring clean and safe water to some of the very poorest communities around the world. Here are some words from the Introduction to Lent, which we read at the Ash Wednesday service, and which can serve to remind us of the purpose and intention of the season of Lent:
I invite you in the name of the church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditation on God's holy word.'
Dear readers,A group of seven people travelled from these parishes to the little island of Iona in the inner Hebrides at the beginning of September. We stayed in the old Abbey on the island, which was rebuilt during the Depression in the early twentieth century as part of a project to bring together young clergymen and unemployed working class men from inner-city Glasgow, so that they could learn from each other. Our journey, which takes 15 hours if you do it all in one go, involved car, 3 trains, 2 ferries and a long bus ride.
Leaving the bustling little port of Oban on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Mull, we sailed past other islands and lighthouses, under a sky where there always seemed to be a rainbow in one place or other, and where the great pinkish heights of the mountains on Mull seemed to float above the horizon.
The scene gave an amazing feeling of leaving the world we know and entering another world -- a parallel universe, perhaps -- where another reality is working. This feeling of other-worldliness persisted all the way to the island of Iona, and to some extent throughout our stay there.
While at the Abbey, we lived in community with another 30 people from all sorts of different backgrounds, sharing all the housekeeping tasks, eating together in the big refectory, attending workshops and talks, and worshipping together in the lovely old Abbey church, as well as enjoying wandering on the beautiful white beaches on sunny days, and watching with awe while a violent storm battered the island just after we got there, making all the ferries and smaller boats run for shelter.
The centre is run by the Iona Community, a 'dispersed' ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions in the Church, scattered across the world, and engaged together in acting, reflecting and praying for social justic, peace and the care of our planet. Their aim in offering hospitality to visitors to Iona is to spread some of their ideas and ideals to a wider audience.
When we got home, I was asked what we've brought home with us from our visit. A memory of a beautiful place, a 'thin' place where somehow a different set of realities are operating? Beautiful instrumental and choral music in the Abbey? Simple, unwordy liturgy in the services? An increased awareness of the importance of the aims of the Iona Community?
Yes, all of those: but most of all, a chance to 'be' rather than 'doing' all the time. Time to stand and stare. Time to listen -- to self, to others, to God. Something we don't have to travel 330 miles to do, if only we take the opportunity to make time for it in our everyday lives.