The pancakes have been eaten, and the smudges of ash washed from the forehead. Lent has begun.
Our 40-day experience may not be as challenging as the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, but I appreciate setting this time apart in some way in preparation for Good Friday and Easter.
I seem to vary my Lenten practice every year. Last year I gave up candy, which wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice for some, but was a real discipline for me. One year I gave up buying things — anything except food, toilet paper, etc. and even though I do not think of myself as a big consumer, that too required more restraint than I had anticipated. This year (and this is partly because I am trying to organize to move after I retire), I am spending time each day “decluttering,” sorting things that I do not need and figuring out what to do with them. Each of these practices through Lent have given me occasions to think, at least daily, about the many things that occupy my mind and my life and distract me from the centred faith that I yearn for.
The congregation I am part of in Toronto helps me in my Lenten practice with daily reflections written by members of the congregation, and a daily message from our minister. It’s a bigger commitment than many congregations could manage, but I am grateful for these resources, and also grateful that the electronic tools we have these days make it possible for anyone to access them.
Every year the Lenten devotional produced by the General Council Office is one of the church’s most popular offerings, and this year is no exception. Faithfully Yours: Letters for the Wondering brings us the writing of diverse voices as we journey through Lent. Many congregations are using it for their Lenten studies, and there is also the option of an online discussion group through United in Learning which is led by Alana Martin, one of the contributors to the book.
The Moderator’s Lenten message, about finding hope and life in the face of death, is a powerful one, available for congregations to show, or for anyone to watch at home.
As I looked at a few websites around the church, I could see all these resources being put to good use in congregations, and I found some innovative ideas too. Here is one: the First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council has created its own folders for special Lenten offerings.
Further afield, I was intrigued by the Lent event that the Uniting Church in Australia has created, where stories of the impact of that church’s global work are told through beautiful videos, and people are invited to “be personally changed by God’s work in the world… building peace, beating poverty, and creating hope. Another part of this “event” takes the familiar approach of living simply by giving up something or adopting a particular practice and adds the option of getting sponsors for this Lenten practice. Interesting!
There are many more resources out there. Aren’t we lucky to live in a time when the internet gives us access to such a vast array. I wonder what you are doing for Lent? I hope you have found something to ground you, to challenge you, to accompany you, through a time of deepening connection with God.
— Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada.
This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.