February Magazine leader

From the Vicar

We had an adventure this Christmas. Jane was invited to be the Chaplain on the Saga Sapphire for a 21-day cruise to the Canary Islands. She left me here for Christmas and set off from Dover on Sunday 21st December. I joined her of the 29th, there being a direct flight from Bournemouth to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that day. I got 12 days of the cruise, which was a welcome break for me, although of course Jane was working. It was an interesting experience. The ship holds about 600 passengers, which makes it a large ship, yet small when set against the giant cruise ships. When you add in the crew, you get a floating, travelling community of a little over 1,000 people. There is a lot for a chaplain to do, for in such a floating village there is a lot of need, with many people parted from their families, either by distance or by death. It is a shared journey, with new sights to experience and stories to be told as we travel. At one of the stops we went to Santiago de Compostela, where a massive Cathedral was built over the remains of St James the Apostle. Since his remains were ‘rediscovered’ in the ninth Century, the shrine has been the destination for countless pilgrims. The whole point of such a pilgrimage is the journey. The journey is defined by a shared destination, but it is in the travelling that the value of the pilgrimage is experienced. The shared journey, and the sharing of personal stories, creates a deep comradeship, which both opens up new relationships and leads one to discover new depths in living.  It is as much about the shared company as it is about the things to be seen. It is as much about what is going on inside us as it is about the external views.

Lent is also a journey to be shared. What defines Lent is the destination, which is Easter. When Lent starts (Ash Wednesday on 18th February) is determined by when Easter falls, which in turn is dependent on an ancient method of calculation that involves the moon. On one level we share a shared journey to the celebration of another Easter. Yet there is a deeper truth here. In keeping the journey of the liturgical calendar, we also enter into the more profound experience of travelling towards our own inevitable death in the hope and assurance that, beyond that dying, there lies resurrection and a glory won for us through the dying and rising of Christ. That shared destination defines our shared journey and Lent becomes a special time in which we lay aside some of the fripperies of life and enter into the experience of travelling together. Making a point of coming to church each week might be part of that journey, as might be attending the weekly Wednesday Lent Lunches in the St John’s Hall. Meeting people and sharing something of the journey of life is what is important. There is no better way of doing this than joining a Lent Group. In a safe and supportive environment there is the opportunity to share something of your faith with others and to be encouraged and uplifted by the stories they tell. There is also something powerful about telling one’s own story and having that story listened to and affirmed. I do strongly encourage you to join one of the groups, details of which can be found in the churches and elsewhere in this magazine. If you cannot join a group, you might decide to keep Lent by inviting someone to tea and asking them whether you could share something of your life story with them. I myself will not be leading a group this Lent, but I am very open to receiving such invitations. Just ask and I will try to say yes to every invitation I receive.

At the heart of the Christian journey lies an act of worship we call ‘Communion’. The word ‘communion’ means to be at-one-with someone and to be connected to them in some way. Communion is about being close to God, but it is also about being formed into a renewed community with one another. Perhaps a good word for us all to reflect upon this Lent is that word ‘communion’. What will we do to create the space to be closer to God and to enter more deeply into the journey of life with each other? I wish you all a blessed Lent.

Nigel LLoyd

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