A letter from Father Sam

As Lent begins this year, many of us will feel preoccupied by the news from the war in Ukraine. On an almost hourly basis, I find myself checking the latest news online - to see how far the Russians have advanced, hoping refugees have managed to escape to safety, wanting to know whether Ukraine continues to resist, against the odds; and wondering how we will respond internationally and what it all might mean for the future.

Seeing the invasion confounded, so far, I risk and dare to hope as Martin Luther King hoped, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I know that I’m not alone in being impressed and inspired by the leadership of Zelensky – in what has felt like a David vs. Goliath struggle. It is powerful to see people risk so much to defend their nation and their democracy against tyranny.

One thing that has struck me about their resistance – is the way that it reveals the value of things we too often take for granted - seeing them, I am reminded how precious our freedom and democracy are.

Too often in life we can end up sleepwalking, or taken off course by distractions – so our time and energy is not focused on what is most important, or what truly matters to us.

I know I have preached often in the pandemic – about returning to what really matters, and prioritising what really matters, as we look to the future. But it can be all too easy to imagine that that is still about the future, not today.

This has been understandable because the situation has been constantly changing, and there has been no clear or honest sense of the pandemic ever being truly over. So we are left waiting for the future, knowing what we want to focus on or prioritise, but not ever quite there – and time passes, and restrictions ease, but life hasn’t moved on, or changed in the way we want – not yet.

Often we see Lent as a time for giving things up.
However, after the disruption and cancellations of the last few years, I think that this year it might be better to focus on what we want to take up – and those good habits that will help us grow in faith, hope and love, form Christian character in us as individuals, and build community together.

Personally, I have been blessed by the re-establishment of Morning and Evening Prayer through the week, as well as our Sunday and Wednesday Eucharists. It is a great encouragement when people join the clergy for Morning or Evening Prayer – and is an opportunity to find quiet space for prayer or private conversations, away from the bustle and noise of Sundays.

Morning Prayer is currently said on Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am; and Evening Prayer is said on Monday and Thursday at 6pm. It would be good to see you there!

Over the last few months, I have been heartened and encouraged by how many people have returned to worship in church, and it has been wonderful to welcome new people into our worshipping community.

However, I have also noticed that people are attending less often – so week by week, our Sunday congregation looks quite different. This can mean that we miss each other, if we attend on different weeks – and fail to build connection.

The last few years, we were not been able to mark Lent, Holy Week and Easter fully. So this Lent, I would like to encourage people to make a real effort to prioritise being in church on Sundays, and to rebuilding our sense of community with one another together.