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Dear Friends

‘I’ll give it up for Lent’.

A phrase that used to be more common (though less heard today) but was often expressed in a joking way, implying that the speaker knew that what he/she was doing was probably wrong or unhealthy, but didn’t intend to stop any time soon!

 Like all these old phrases it was based on a good idea.. The key word, of course, is Lent.

Lent is usually defined as being a ‘Penitential Season’. Although often linked to Our Lord’s forty days in the wilderness, this is a secondary theme of the season. The origin of Lent is in the preparation of Christians for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ in Holy Week and at Easter. This observance was first used by baptismal candidates, the catechumens, for whom it was the final part of their preparation for baptism during the Easter liturgy, and by those who were seeking re-admittance to the church after excommunication for grave and public sin.  It was not long before the Church realised the benefit to all believers of joining in this time of preparation marked by penitence expressed in prayer and fasting.

Fasting was a major part to the whole experience of Lent. Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’) was the last opportunity to use up all the rich foods in the house before the more austere days started.  The popular idea of ‘giving things up’ for Lent, so often misunderstood, has its liturgical expression in the relative simplicity in Lenten worship. While this expresses a spirit of penitence, it also provides a striking contrast with the joyful celebrations of Easter.

And so we stop singing the Gloria at the Eucharist; we stop having flowers in church; we avoid texts and hymns which include the word ‘Alleluia’ or similar expressions of joy which will greet the resurrection on Easter Day. Some churches remove the hangings, altar frontals etc completely, or replace them with drab linen. We are not looking for dreariness or dullness, but an austerity which will concentrate our minds on our own Lenten Discipline.

For despite all the corporate activities in Lent – our worship and our study together – it seems to me that Lent is primarily the time when we should take a long, hard look at ourselves and our lives.

Lent should be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our relationships with our Lord Jesus and our service to him.

So should our Lenten Discipline include ‘giving something up’? It’s probably a good idea – so long as it is a part of the discipline and not its totality. What should we give up – that is as individual as we are. It needs to be something we enjoy for most of the year; something which may be a habit. In my case it’s my weekly bottle of wine – when I was younger it was chocolate and sweets. And as part of that discipline the money saved needs to be redirected to a charitable cause. Of course, what we give up might not be something tangible – it could be a period of time set aside for study (a Lent Course?) or some worthy cause. But the giving up is not all the discipline – to it needs to be added worship, study and prayer, which will ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ.

So it is fitting that our following of Lent begins in church on Ash Wednesday with a symbol of repentance: having ashes mixed with oil put on our forehead,

And the words used at the imposition of those ashes are a sharp reminder of what Lent should mean to us:-

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Tony King


March 2019

Dear Friends

Well Spring seems to be in the air as March comes in. The snowdrops have faded and daffodils have taken centre stage.

Here at St Mark's a curse has landed, especially if your Christian name starts with an 'M'. Last year Mary broke her hip, Marion broke her wrist and now Marcia has a broken ankle from falling down the stairs, just as she was about to go on holiday. Marcia, we all send you our Best Wishes and Get Well soon. I'm pleased to report that Mary and Marion are well on the mend, but these things cannot be rushed.

We are still open for business here at St Mark's, we are pleased to say . We still have respectable numbers on the Sunday's we are open and the Prayer and Poetry Groups still run, Prayer Group on the first Wednesday and Poetry on the last Friday of the month. There is always a warm welcome waiting for anyone who would like to join us.

With all best wishes


Diary for March 2019

Sunday 3rd                11.30am Morning Prayer (BCP)

Wednesday 6th          2.30pm Prayer Group meet in the Omega Rooms

Sunday 17th               11.30am Morning Prayer (CW), preceded by coffee in the Omega Rooms

Friday 29th                2.15pm Poetry Group meets in the Omega Rooms.


Church opening

St Mark’s church will now only be unlocked on Wednesdays and Fridays.  A notice will be put on the door directing visitors to contact numbers for those who have keys.  If you want to access the church outside these days, please contact the Parish Office.


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