Dear Friends,

Thank you all for the very warm welcome that has been extended to Phil and me since my start in December. We already feel like we are part of the family and have settled in very well. They say that time flies when you are having fun. I find it hard to believe that we are almost ready to enter our fourth season here – liturgical season that is!

This month we move from the season of Epiphany where Jesus is “made known” or “revealed” to us as divine, to the season of Lent. During the forty days that begin on February 14th, Ash Wednesday, we set aside time for self-examination, spiritual renewal and growth. For many this is a time for fasting and abstinence, for alms-giving and acts of mercy, for repentance and prayer.

Some of us will use this time to “give up” something for Lent. This may free us from something that distracts us from our relationship with God or a bad habit or it may simplify our lives, allowing for more time to pray and to study God’s Word. Others of us may use this time for fasting our bodies to cleanse it of impurities and to have the reminder that we are sustained by God. Some may choose to commit themselves to acts of service giving time and talent to others.

This season is also used to focus on a particular portion of scripture, prayer or book study that helps us journey with Christ to the cross. Please see the news story about The Good Book Club that we will be participating in at Manakin. We use this season for deeper reflection and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death on Easter. We do this not because God needs us to, but because we need to.

I would like to encourage prayerful consideration of this excellent mediation on “True Lenten Disciplines,” as printed in The Anglican Digest (2001):

“True Lenten Disciplines”

Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from fear of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on speech that purifies.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from negatives; Feast on alternatives.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion.
Fast on suspicion; Feast on truth.
Fast from gossip; Feast on a purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from worry; Feast on faith.      

                                               – The Reverend Ann Bonner-Stewart

I pray that we will make the most of this Lenten season and that it will be a time of great self-examination, spiritual renewal and growth.