Lent is one of my favourite times of year. I’ve used it to challenge myself for a long time now, often with impacts that last; five years ago I gave up meat for Lent and I’m still a vegetarian now! I love the notion of the journey towards Easter, and lent is a great time to try and get away and go on a literal or metaphorical journey.
As I write this, I am nearing the end of this year’s literal pilgrimage. I had a few extra days in Cornwall as part of my holiday, and rather than just walking the coast path or sunbathing I decided to walk St Michael's Way, a medieval pilgrimage route to St Michael's Mount near Penzance, which ultimately forms part of the Camino de Santiago. It’s an exceptionally windy route that manages to double the distance between the north and south coast, meandering around hills from church to church.
The journey towards Easter, regardless of how literal, is a kind of pilgrimage as well. A time to take stock, realise what you really need, and how much you can take. There are a thousand Lent devotionals and resources to guide us along this journey but my favourite find this year is Christian Aid’s 'Count Your Blessings'. Amongst other things it asks people to participate in the Big Shift, a campaign encouraging people to ask banks to divest from the fossil fuel industry. It leads people on a journey asking them to participate in a series of campaign actions. This short journey through a campaign to Easter asks us to become pilgrims on a wider mission; speaking truth to power with a prophetic voice in the wilderness is part of the Easter story too as we strive towards a better world.
This time of year is also one of fast and sacrifice, as a lot of us are giving up things like dairy products, twitter, or alcohol. None of these bear any real relation to the older Christian traditions of fasting but I love that the concept of lent is accessible and even, to a small degree, secularised. The message of moderation and sacrifice is such a necessary one now. Our unrelenting consumption is driving climate change, which is already hurting the poorest and most vulnerable in every corner of the planet. The campaigns against this huge human created injustice have been happening since before many of us were born, but right now it feels like we are cresting a wave. Renewables are finally cheaper then fossil fuels, environmental and climate issues are regularly in the mainstream news, breakthroughs like the EU ban on single use plastics, discussions about a UK Green New Deal and local council’s declaring Climate Emergencies are all becoming regular occurrences. New Eco Churches are springing up every day and dioceses, districts and circuits are all going forwards too. Movements like Extinction Rebellion who have teamed up with Christian Climate Action hold the radical edge forcing us to turn our fear into action.
This is what renewal looks like, what the Lenten season is for; individual sacrifice certainly, but societal regeneration as well. As Easter comes let’s help keep this movement going, push the wave up the shore, lobby HSBC, go vegetarian, protest at parliament; whatever your role keep hold of hope, pray and work for renewal.