Ash Wednesday 2020
During the autumn of last year, we ran the first half of the LyCiG course — Leading Your Church into Growth — the purpose of which is to think about the many, often small and achievable, things that we can do to enrich our common life: to deepen our experience of God, look towards the well-being of our community, and (to be perfectly frank) get a few more bums on pews. I was pleased, even delighted, with the thoughtful, prayerful way in which members of our congregations engaged with the material and, even more importantly, with one another.
That said, whilst debriefing the sessions with St. John’s PCC, one of our members declared with powerful conviction and some urgency how much he wished that more people had come. He spoke passionately about our need as a congregation, all of us, to be taking responsibility for enabling growth at both a spiritual and a logistical level — for communicating the Gospel message and making our community life visible and accessible in our wider community. I have been pondering his disappointment ever since because, whilst I don’t think I was wrong to celebrate (as I still do) the powerful conversations we’ve had since last autumn, yet I could not but agree that his point was valid: these are conversations that I would love to be having more widely across the general population of our churches in the East Newport Ministry Area. And that can only happen if we all suit up and show up.
We enter Lent today, Ash Wednesday — a journey towards Easter that echoes Christ’s 40-day journey in the desert after his baptism. We are asked at the imposition of ashes to connect ourselves again to Christ, turning away from all that distracts and alienates us both from the divine and from one another, and to return in tangible ways to God’s more perfect love and the promise of his Kingdom. Historically, this has meant that the Church encourages us during Lent to adopt a Lenten discipline, either by giving up some distraction in our lives, or else by taking up some act of dedication or devotion, in expectation that this will lead us to a brighter understanding and appreciation of the Easter message of resurrection to new life.
To that end, therefore, may I please encourage you to consider two things that you might take up.
First, may I ask you simply to pray daily, as I also will, for growth in the life of this Church; I have recently had some copies of the LyCiG prayer printed up on cards, and I will encourage us all to take one home — or more, if you’d like to give some away to likely friends — and pray each day that God will water the fields of his church in Newport and encourage us to grow. I plan to use this time to reflect on the words of the prayer and seek God’s inspiration as to how he might be leading me to respond to them. Perhaps you might do so, as well.
Second, may I renew my call for all and sundry — including you — to join us for the second half of the LyCiG course, all of which will take place during Lent at St. John’s Church Hall. The sessions will be on the 2nd, 16th, and 30th of March at 19:00. There are only three, each of which will be about two hours long, and this strikes me as a Lent commitment that may give us powerful returns for only a small investment. At no point will you be asked or urged to take on more tasks — this is not about coercing people into working harder or doing jobs. But you will become a part of the wider conversation about the life of our church and how, together, we can make it more enriching and more available.
The life and worship of the Church is something that not only affects us all, but is also something that — together with God — we create. It follows, therefore, as my friend pointed out during the PCC meeting, that we all have a responsibility to engage with building up the people of Christ. The journey we’ve had with LyCiG has, thus far, been an exciting one — and one which it is not too late for you to join. As we start on the next leg of that journey, I hope that you will join us, so that together we can be a part of the Easter light that is coming to East Newport.