Lent and Easter at Holy Trinity Church
A Pastoral Letter
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Lent traditionally lasts for 40 days and is a time of preparation for the major Christian festival of Easter when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Easter is then followed by 50 days of celebration culminating in the great feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
The four Lenten disciplines are prayer, bible-study, fasting and almsgiving. This year, I am inviting you to go without a meal on Ash Wednesday and each Friday in Lent and to give the money saved on food to support the Horfield Night Shelter Project. Some may choose other forms of fasting such as giving up meat, alcohol, chocolate or some other food or activity during the whole of Lent. The Night Shelter project runs from January to March and is staffed by volunteers, some from here at Holy Trinity. Our church school, Horfield Church of England Primary School, has an ongoing charitable project during these months, donating, weekly, toiletry items collected from the whole school community. It makes a big difference if the homeless guests can be given the dignity of a wash and shave each day.
Envelopes will be available during Lent to help support this project, which relies solely on donations of financial support.
As a pilgrim people, I am asking us to spend some time in the 40 days of Lent and the 50 days of Eastertide to ask ourselves if we show the signs of being an authentic pilgrim Church. As a pilgrim church, we must always ensure that we are journeying together as an authentic Christian community. We must constantly ask ourselves whether our church shows four particular signs of being the Church. We must constantly remind ourselves to be a community of prayer; a welcoming community; a community of service and a community of sacrifice.
Firstly, a community of prayer. Churches that are vibrant, are churches where there is prayer not only during services, but also an opportunity for people to receive a personal ministry of prayer and the ministry of healing. Prayer is the basis for renewal - and a growing church will invariably make it possible for people to pray constantly, in a variety of ways to nourish the inner life of faith and contemplation before God. Please use this leaflet along with Sacred Space or the weekly pew sheet and the Morning and Evening prayer cards to help develop a prayer routine.
Secondly, a welcoming community. All churches think they are friendly but we must always ensure we are living out that vision. We are all responsible for providing a supportive greeting for newcomers; developing a culture of welcome and invitation where church members want to invite people to come to church with them.
Thirdly, a community of service. Jesus washed feet and told us to do the same. He also said that -what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do for him. A church that lives to itself will die to itself, but a church that lives for others will grow. St Francis taught by example that the mission to build God’s kingdom begins, not with acknowledging sinfulness, but acknowledging the poor and the suffering.
And fourthly, a community of sacrifice. At the heart of our faith is the Cross and sacrificial giving is an authentic sign of discipleship. We should all give a proportion of our income to the mission and ministry of the Church, in addition to our time and talents. The highest level of giving in the diocese is in some of our poorest parishes where the people tithe or give a proportion of their income. In many of our churches some 10% of the people give over 80% of the income. One evangelist used to say that the last part of a person to be converted is his or her pocket! Let us celebrate this Lent and coming Eastertide as the gathered people of Jesus in this place and give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ and, collectively, enable the work of Christ to continue here and in the community of which we are a part.
Finally, (and here I shall imitate St Paul when he wrote letters to the churches) I thank God for you all and for your prayers and support. I believe that we are truly blessed in the parish of Horfield, with wonderful prayerful and caring people. We face challenging times both in the church and the nation, but so often churches grow when facing such times, because we are required to examine what it means and what it costs to be the pilgrim people of God.
I wish you all a truly holy observance of Lent and pray that it may be a time of spiritual growth and blessing – and to God be the glory.
With my love and prayers, Fr David