My thanks to all those who helped putting together the February edition of the Link. This Special Edition of the Link, focuses on worship and spirituality. It was guest edited by the Rev Canon Susanne Carlsson, Adviser for Spirituality, and myself. You’ll notice that some of the regular articles from Link – the Bishop’s diary, for example, and the diocesan calendar of intercessions – are missing from this paper. All of these are still available online, but we hope you will appreciate having here the extra articles.
It’s a good month to focus on prayer and contemplation, approaching Lent as we are. At this time of year we look to refresh our discipleship. There is a mixture of themes that start to emerge as we walk through these six weeks, stepping from our identification with Christ’s fast in the wilderness, to journeying alongside him on his last journey to the cross. We juggle penitence with discipline, and try not to get the two too muddled. We often simplify our liturgy and our ‘decor’ in order to mimic the wilderness in our worship.
Some of this will be about our personal disciplines. It’s becoming a bit of a cliché to ‘take something up’ for Lent, but so it is for many of us. Many will be planning to spend more time reflecting, praying and reading the Scriptures during this season. Archdeacon Clive therefore writes about the resources we might use for prayer and reflection. Also, this year the diocese is offering a number of quiet days as we move into Lent. It’s a season that lends itself to taking time apart from the madding crowd, to pray and take stock, whether simply for a few hours or a retreat numbered in days. So we have a centre page spread on the resources for retreat and reflection offered in the diocese at Burrswood, West Malling and Chatham.
But it’s not just as individuals that we reflect on our practice and on Scripture. Lent is often a time for parishes to take up new practices, or to set time aside to reflect together on their common journey. Susanne Carlsson has included some notes on the prayer pack that she and her team offer, while Sue records her experience of a quiet day at St Peter’s, Pembury. Stephanie Tibber gives an insight into putting together a themed labyrinth, as she did at the parish of St Peter’s, Walthamstow, for a Mother’s Union day last November. (If the idea of labyrinths grabs you, Barbara Wallace has written about the history and resonances of this particular prayer path.)
By far the most common lenten practice is the lent course, so Claire Boxall has given us an introduction to this year’s lent course: a Place in the Crowd, a course aimed at helping congregations come to grips with the Rochester Conversation. “Our Conversation our Future” is meant to stimulate prayerful thought and dialogue about our place in God’s economy – what the Spirit is saying to the churches of this Diocese.
And there’s more within these pages: Godly Play, spiritual direction, some thoughts on the use of space and on the practice of hospitality. These are articles on how we help each other discern what God is doing in our lives and how we express it, how we support one another in our journey and in our worship. Finally Caroline Clark has written a piece introducing the Archbishops’ project for national renewal: Thy Kingdom Come, an octave of prayer for the work of the Church – of Our Lord – not only in West Kent, but in the United Kingdom.
I hope you enjoy having something a bit more themed than usual, and I hope the thread Susanne and I have tried to run through this paper leads you somewhere fruitful (which is not at all the same thing, necessarily, as it leading you where she and I expected or intended).