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Vicar's Musings for the Second Sunday in Lent

16 March, 2014

This is the third of the Vicar's Musings drawing on articles from a four-part series in the "Church Times" on the state of our Church.

The appearance of our church during Lent is striking; what has happened to all the beautiful historic adornments? As we journey together through this ancient period of fasting and prayer, even our church furnishings reflect the solemnity of the season. At St Peter's Eastern Hill during Lent we follow the Sarum (Old English) Rite and veil the reredos, statues and pictures in the church from Ash Wednesday until Easter Day. This is called the Lenten Array. The curtains are made from a natural linen material, ashen coloured or "Lenten white," to remind us of Ash Wednesday and that we are in a season of mourning. In Hope and Atchley's An Introduction to English Liturgical Colours (London: SPCK, 1920), p. 53, they write: "in this time of Lent ... all things that make to the adornment of the church are either laid aside or else covered, to put us in remembrance that we ought now to lament and mourn for our souls dead in sin, and continually to watch, fast, pray, give alms ... that now we should only have our minds fixed on the passion of Christ, by whom only we were redeemed." Only on Easter Day are the veils lifted and the church is once again filled with flowers. The building bursts back into colour as we celebrate the glorious mystery of the Resurrection.

Lent is much more than just an inner journey, however. As we drink deeply at the well of prayer and worship we are (or certainly should be) thrust out into the world, to minister to the poor, the sick and the needy. I was shocked when speaking to colleague recently about social service, "We're not into that stuff at our church" he said. Over the past few weeks I have been drawing on a series of articles in the Church Times looking at the state of the Church of England. Although not our geographical context, there are many lessons for the Church of Australia. Stephen Timms, Shadow Minister for Employment has written a challenging piece entitled "Christianity — a cue for action." He writes: "Most people think the churches in Britain are experiencing a slow but inexorable decline into irrelevance. The truth about Britain in 2014, however, is rather different. Only the churches have had the capacity to address a sudden crisis of food poverty. And it is not just foodbanks. Debt advice, street pastors, helping jobless people into work, tackling homelessness, and international development: in all these areas — and many others — the churches are making a remarkable social impact. We are seeing a new wave of church-based social activism. It is not just activism undertaken by people with a background in Christianity. Rather, it has the activity of worship right at its heart. This is what gives it energy and commitment."

For the full article see: Christianity — a cue for action.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Lent 2 Musings

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