Thank you so much for all your Christmas cards and good wishes to Jamie and me. We had a lovely Christmas, and I hope you did too.
It seems a long time ago now, and already as a church we need to be looking ahead. We start with Lent, our season of preparation for Easter. If you have been doing Dry January and are now gasping for a Wet February, you may be glad to know that, because Easter is late this year, Lent doesn’t start until March. Ash Wednesday is March 7th, and the first Sunday in Lent is March 10th.
There are many ways to make Lent meaningful, and you may already have an established practice, such as the Christian Aid ‘Count Your Blessings’ scheme. If not – or in addition – there are two suggestions in this magazine. We will be starting a new Discussion Group using some of the Bible studies first published in Reform magazine. And there is a new initiative from Ealing Foodbank, ‘Give up and Give Away’, which gives purpose to the idea of giving things up for Lent by making a corresponding donation to the Foodbank.
These short-term disciplines can be really helpful in bringing us closer to God and opening our eyes to the need around us. However, it’s even better if we can find habits and practices that bring us closer to God and that we can carry out all year round. Many of you already have a daily habit of reading the Bible and of prayer, and I would encourage everyone to do that – there are ways of praying that don’t take up a lot of time. But we could also look at other ways in which we could deepen our discipleship, and develop new habits to sustain our faith.
Adopting a new habit is not easy – it takes an amount of commitment to get going. Fortunately, there are resources to help, including a series of booklets called ‘Holy Habits’, covering such topics as Worship, Breaking Bread Together, Bible and Prayer. We will have chance to look at some of these, as well as sharing in fellowship with friends from other local URCs, at the SWAG (South West Area Group) Day on Saturday 22nd June.
Looking even further ahead, the elders and I are planning another church Away Day, for everyone in this congregation, to give thanks for what God has done and to look to the future together. It’s on Saturday 7th September, at the Niland Conference Centre in Bushey Heath. Do get the date in your diary and come along – we can sort out lifts etc nearer the time.
We have lots, then, to look forward to; lots of ways in which we can encourage each other and be enriched by God. May we be blessed in all we do.