LETTER FROM A MINISTER
Lent and the Pandemic
OVER THE COVID MONTHS we've had to give up many normal activities like meeting our family, hugging friends and even visiting loved ones in care homes. In many areas we've not been able to go to cinemas, restaurants, sports fixtures, holiday destinations or Sunday church services. It is a list of understandable 'thou shalt nots' for fear that we may put ourselves or others at risk.
Then along comes Lent which is traditionally a time of giving something up for a short while. Some may say, 'Not something else we have to give up on top of everything else this last year! Why now bother with Lent?'
However, Lent is a time when we can focus again on all the questions we ask about God. We can use the time we didn't expect to have to seek for answers. For some in quarantine, perhaps there is more time to find out how to receive what God wants to give and reveal to us in the silence of our hearts. Then, when lockdown ends, we will be able to engage with the world in a new way having discovered something new about God and ourselves.
Giving up so much already has created solitary time in which we can engage with questions about life and God. We can explore connecting with God, despite the pandemic.
Lent has never been a time for giving something up for its own sake. We give things up for a short time, so that we can create space and time for God to give us his gifts in a way that we can experience his love and presence more deeply. We especially need this during these times of worry about the future.
Sacrificing some of our time in order to love another better is something that happens in most worthwhile relationships and it draws folk closer in love and care. This is what Lent is about. The 'giving up something for a while' concept is something we do so that we can clear some space in our lives for God to meet us and reassure us. Lent is supposed to lead to joy and a deepening of our relationship with our maker and redeemer.
We could use the time to pray for those, such as health workers and the sick, who are struggling at the sharp end of the pandemic. A phone call of support is creative and will bring us closer to each other and God—even if we have to give up some of our time and energy to do so.
Yes, we've been forced to forego a lot anyway recently, but using the spirit of Lent fruitfully is a weapon against the effects of the virus. Even quarantine space can be used to seek for God, so that we emerge from the pandemic with a stronger sense of God's presence that ever before.
Let's face it, God will still exist
long after the covid virus has been wiped out.
Revd Nick Evans,
Rector of Newport Pagnell