Lent Letter 2021

The Vicar’s Lent Letter:  Ash Wednesday: 17th February 2021                                           


Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to Lent!   Who would have thought, 11 months on, that we would still be under pandemic restrictions?  We “lost” much of Lent last year, so this year we are grateful that church is still open for worship, and we have had plenty of time to plan for this most Holy Season.  Here are some of the things you can do to keep a holy Lent this year:  do join in with as many of them as you are able, either in person, online or in the quietness of your own home via the booklet and prayer sheets provided:

Lent Course:  enclosed with the Lent letter is this year’s Lent Course, based on the Old Testament readings of Lent.  To supplement this we will be focusing our Lent sermons on the readings and reflections from the Lent course (available in church at our Sunday 10.30 am service, and also as part of the weekly online worship on the website/YouTube and Facebook).  On Tuesdays at around 5pm, Mother Laura will post a “Lent Broadcast” video live on Facebook which takes us through that week’s reading and reflection points, and you will be able to comment and ask questions on Facebook.   These comments and questions will be picked up online and in the following week’s Lent Broadcast.

Stations of the cross:  this service will take place weekly in church on Fridays 12.15-12.45pm.  It will be a Covid-secure format, which does not require people to move around the church in the usual manner, but focuses on projected images of the stations of the cross, whilst remaining seated in church.  An alternative printed version is available here.  We will also “live stream” the services on Facebook.

Ash Wednesday: during our services on Ash Wednesday, we are not applying ashes to people’s foreheads in the usual manner, but instead they are being applied to a piece of sackcloth, in line with full sanitising requirements.  One of these is enclosed in this letter for you today.  The ashes are imposed with the words:  “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  Turn away from sin and be faithful unto Christ”.  The 7.30pm Ash Wednesday service will be live-streamed on Facebook (with music).

Holy Week and Easter:  We are planning a full Holy Week and Easter this year, so do please join us for as many of the services as you are able.  We hope that many more of you will be returning to church by then.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (28th March), and we hope that many of you will be able to join us on that day, to collect your Palm Cross and celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  During Holy Week, we will have Mass and Compline on Monday (29th) Tuesday (30th) and Wednesday (31st) at 7.15pm.  On Maundy Thursday there will be a Mass (with music) and Vigil at 7.30pm.  On Good Friday (2nd April) there will be Stations of the Cross at 12noon and the ceremonies of the Cross at 1pm.  On Holy Saturday there will be no services (although we will be getting the church ready for Easter with cleaning and flowers).  On Easter Day (4th April)  there will be a dawn service at 6am and Festal Mass at 10.30am. 

Confession and/or a Spiritual Conversation:  one of many spiritual disciplines that takes place during Lent and Holy week is personal confession (also known as “The Sacrament of Reconciliation”).  It is a way of examining your own thoughts and deeds, and for many it leads to a healing encounter with Christ that will leave you filled with peace.  In preparing for confession, you are asked to pray about it, and to reflect on those times when you have harmed your relationship with God, yourself and others.   It isn’t only conducted in the traditional scenario of sitting in a confessional box and speaking to the priest through a grille.  It is about a deep, personal spiritual encounter with God, through the Sacrament, which ends with the priest absolving you from your sins and saying “Go and sin no more, and pray for me, a sinner also.”  It is a reminder of God’s unending love for us all.  If you would like to make your confession during Lent, or maybe to find out more about it, or just to have a spiritual “chat” with one of the clergy, rather than a formal confession at this stage, please contact Fr Barrie either via telephone, email or via the Lent-link on the website.  During the current restrictions, we are suggesting that a spiritual chat should be done over the phone (although it might be possible in person in certain circumstances, particularly if you are attending church).  Confession is better in person, but again we could also do this by telephone if you prefer.  Whatever you choose, it is a good idea to book a specific time, so that you are not disturbed, and you can spend a few minutes beforehand preparing for the conversation or confession.

We hope that you will be able to re-join us in person in church soon.  We are still maintaining full safety procedures, and it is a blessing that, as far as we are aware, nobody at St John’s has contracted Covid-19 via contact in church.  As more and more people receive the vaccine, and as the number of people infected with Coronavirus continues to decrease, we pray that church attendance, worship and fellowship will return to normal.  Do continue to use Morning and Evening Prayer at home (new versions for Lent are included with this letter), and also Spiritual Communion at home, alongside our weekly online worship.

Here’s a great idea for fund raising:  Thank you all for continuing to support St John’s financially either via the Parish Giving Scheme, standing orders or regular envelope giving.  It is lovely when you return with your “saved up” envelopes and contributions, and a real sign of the faithfulness of St John’s folk.  Of course we haven’t been able to have all the mini markets and fairs and events to top up our funds, but we have found an excellent way of helping out which doesn’t cost anything.   If you are one of those people who shops online or via apps, please consider doing so via “easyfundraising”. You can sign up with them, and then every time you make a purchase from an eligible seller, they will donate to St John’s.  It doesn’t cost you anything, and can be done via computer or app.   www.easyfundraising.org.uk  Get your friends and family to do it too – we have already raised over £50 from just a few people doing this (my stepfather bought a new TV from Argos, and the purchase raised £3.75 for St John’s) – so this could be a great source of free income if we can get more people signed up.  Just click on “support a good cause” on the Easyfundraising website or app, and register for St John’s Perry Barr.  There are hundreds of organisations involved, including supermarkets, departments stores and travel companies. 

And so, Mother Laura and I wish you a Holy Lent, and assure you of our continued prayers.  We are grateful for all your prayers and good wishes, and look forward to the glorious celebration of Easter.  We will leave you with a thought from dear Albert Davies’s funeral last month:  he was a man of great faith and integrity, known far and wide throughout the community, and was a loyal member of St John’s for many years.  The world is a lesser place for losing him – but a better place for having known him.  And who among us wouldn’t be proud to say of our own lives, as Albert can surely claim, to have made this world a better place by living.  This is greatness.

With every blessing for Lent, Holy Week and Easter.

The Rev Canon Barrie Scott                                          Mother Laura Ward

Vicar                                                                               Curate