As you’re doubtless all aware, with varying degrees of clarity, Lent begins next Wednesday.
For most parish clergy, this means a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as they put the finishing touches to the plans for the raft of study groups and courses, "hunger lunches" and special services that will carry the faithful through the 40 days of fasting and deposit them, hopefully in a suitable state of spiritual readiness, on the threshold of Easter. For a season of penitence and reflection, Lent sometimes seems devised specially to ensure that most people have no time to reflect at all,- though I'm hoping that I've learned the lessons of last year's manic activity, and will refrain from trying to do it all in the weeks ahead.
At the moment, WonderfulVicar is up to his ears in it,- working far more hours than is sensible, and putting on hold anything that isn’t hugely immediate. I hope the worst is behind him, but I’m not at all sure.
Meanwhile, one or two of the "moderately immediates" have fallen to my lot – but mostly, I’m able to just carry on doing the bits of ministry that actually feel like ministry,- the sort of things that might just get crowded out when I've a parish of my own to take care of. So, I'm savouring days like today.
This morning I took Communion to the care home, played with the Little Fishes and chatted to their mums, and networked wildly in the parish office. After lunch, I did some writing and then visited assorted ladies in assorted hospitals. The highlight of the day occurred during my last visit, which I'd almost cut out as I was worried that I'd be late for the Office.
E has been slightly confused for quite some time. As it happens, she’s a resident at the home I visited this morning, and a regular at our monthly Communion. She knows every word of the liturgy by heart but is always completely floored when actually presented with the Sacrament.
“Thank you, my dear, - what do I do with it?” is her accustomed formula in response to the words of administration….
Today, though she is quite poorly, she knew exactly who I was, and what my business should be.
“You pray, don’t you? So…what are you waiting for? Pray.”
So I took her hands, which had been frantically plucking the sheet, and did just that. Straight away those anxious, fidgetting hands became still, as she relaxed into the familiar words. Her voice lost its nervous quaver and became steady and brave as she joined me in a psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.
After I had blessed her, she gave me a smile of pure joy and said
“Wasn't that nice!”
Yes, E, it certainly was.
It might even carry me through tonight’s PCC meeting, though given the number of papers I’ve just downloaded and printed, it could be touch and go.
Perhaps this is a new Lenten discipline – the meeting that lasts 40 days.
Please, God, no……….