Apologies, first of all, to those who read the title and were gripped with panic that Lent, already ridiculously early, had somehow started without them. The LLLL campaign this year clearly assumes that most people will be given the booklet by their churches on the Sunday before Lent, so yesterday was day 1...and the activity was to hear the story of the Good Samaritan (something I managed via Open House...where I was delighted to discover that in a staw-poll of congregation, most of the under 5s were happy to expect that Postman Pat, Revd Timms AND the scary skateboarder with hoodie and spray paint would all be good friends to the unfortunate traveller - oh to see the world through such hopeful eyes).
This year's focus is on "being a good neighbour" and once again we have 50 actions to lead us through a positive Lent...
Today were are invited to
contact a family member whom you haven't seen for a while...
Leaving aside my own nuclear family, I'm actually distinctly short of other relatives, so I was happy to substitute a good friend - someone, in fact, whom I've known since my post-grad year at Durham, 25+ years ago.
He has had an interesting time over the years, and at one stage our home was, I think, quite a needful bolthole for him, when things were tough. The last time I saw him was when I was made Deacon, 4 years ago. Recently life has cheered up substantially for him...He's getting married, and en route to that committment wanted and needed to make another committment, through Baptism. An email a couple of weeks ago was followed by a phonecall...
Would I be willing to baptize him?
So he and his fiancee travelled down from London by train, arriving in Cheltenham early this evening. We had a wonderful hour in the study, discussing his baptism, my priesthood and all the difference that faith can make, then we went up to church together and he took this huge and wonderful step. There were just the 3 of us there in the building - but the presence of God with us was quite overwhelming.
This was a first for me - to baptize someone I know well, whose journey has intertwined with my own...to know some of what he is leaving behind, and to be conscious of the many people whose influence had brought him to today.
As I gave him the lighted candle, the whole building seemed flooded with light and joy.
It was, quite simply, awe-inspiring.