Pastoral Letter (February 2018)

from Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

Lent begins on 14th February – Ash Wednesday – and our theme for Lent this year is 'Worship in the Wilderness', using resources from the Music and Worship Foundation, who write: "The wilderness theme is an ideal way to explore a spirituality of struggle, simplicity, trust in God's word and the faithfulness of Jesus in testing times."

There are many characters in the Bible who have a wilderness experience – Jacob, Hagar, Job, David and Elijah all had profound and life-changing encounters with God in the wilderness.  God's people wandered for 40 years in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.  The beginning of Lent is traditionally the time when we remember Jesus' time in the wilderness, his 40 days of prayer and fasting culminating in his temptation experience.

We sometimes use the term 'Wilderness experience' to describe times when our lives seem dry or lifeless.  These are often in difficult periods of life following bereavement, illness or loss. Sometimes a wilderness experience might affect us spiritually, as a time when our faith seems dull and lifeless or when God seems far away.  These are the experiences that we will be exploring.  The introduction to the resources explains:

"The aim ... is to understand God's heart for us in the wilderness.  We will explore stories from across the Bible which touch on desert experiences.  We will unpack wilderness worship practices, such as simplicity, solitude and silence.  We will wrestle with the difficult emotions which arise in our desert journeys.  And we will look to the hope that we have in our 'Man of Sorrows' – Jesus."

The worship for each Sunday morning during Lent will follow a wilderness theme:

  • A Spirit-led Journey
  • A Simple Journey
  • A Sorrowful Journey
  • A Sacrificial Journey
  • A Truth-Speaking Journey
  • A Surprising Journey

There is also a personal devotional book with reflections and readings for each day during Lent based on that week's theme.  These will be available soon, priced £5.  I hope that this Lenten journey will be helpful and inspiring for us, enabling us each to encounter God afresh.

But there are other things happening before Easter too:

On Sunday 25th February at our 6pm service we be holding a 'Remembering Service', during which we will remember by name those we know who have died.  I will be writing to invite the families of people who have died in the past year or so, but if you would like someone remembered please let me know their name, and I will ensure that their name is included in the service.

And we're planning a very special event on Sunday 4th March when Revd Adrian Roux will be leading our 'Day of Engagement'.  You will receive a letter inviting you to this event, but do make a note of the date and make every effort to attend.

On 26th March I begin a three-month sabbatical.  I plan to explore something of the spirituality of singing, and I hope to have plenty of time for reading, prayer and recreation.  Judy Jones, our senior Circuit Steward, has written an article in this "Greetings" about the practical implications of this time.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to an interesting journey into the wilderness with you this Lent.

With every blessing

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