Minister’s Letter

Traditionally, the 40 days of Lent have been a time when Christians fasted, spent time in prayer, studied the Bible or other spiritual books, didn’t eat meat, and examined their consciences with a view to coming closer to God, or perhaps it would be truer to say ‘letting God come closer to them’. But nowadays people give up chocolate, or alcohol, or take up some exercise programme, the aim being, I suppose, to improve personal well-being, or just lose weight.

How about going back to the ‘old ways’ this Lent? Could we risk engaging in one of the old traditions? Could we plan, and commit, to a prayer time, or a Bible reading time (accompanied by some helpful notes which anyone in the Ministry Team could get for you), or follow the Diocese’s ‘Come and See’ programme. What does that last involve? Here’s what the Diocese says:

“ We send you a short email each day, Monday to Saturday. And on Sundays during Lent you receive a short video from Bishop Steven exploring the theme for Come and See that year in a bit more detail. Each email begins with a short passage of text from the Bible. If you've never opened a Bible before, please don't worry, just go with the flow as you settle in to the journey.

There is a separate weekly email for children and families, and separate materials for teachers, and children, youth and family leaders too. Children and schools materials include films from our school chaplains, and access to some of the contemplative practices from our Space Makers toolkit.”

All you need to do is go onto the website: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see/ and register.

lydiaIf, however, you would rather do some activity together with other people, you might like to join me in the current ‘Big Church Read’ which is a novel Lydia by Paula Gooder [Canon Chancellor at St Paul's Cathedral, London, and New Testament scholar]. You can find out about the Big Church Read on https://thebigchurchread.co.uk But here’s what they say about Lydia.

“Journey with Paula Gooder as she tells Lydia’s story – who she was, the life she lived and her first-century faith – and in doing so opens up Paul’s letter to the Philippians, giving a sense of the cultural and historical pressures that shaped Paul’s thinking, and the faith of the early church.

Written in the gripping style of Gerd Theissen’s The Shadow of the Galilean, and similarly rigorously researched, this is a book for everyone and anyone who wants to engage more deeply and imaginatively with Paul’s theology – from one of the UK’s foremost New Testament scholars.”

We would meet in a group to do this. Perhaps on a weekday evening, but dates and venue to be discussed. Unfortunately, the book is not in paperback until October. It can be bought for £12-99, or even cheaper if one searches for second hand copies. If you would like to be part of a group reading and discussing Lydia get in touch with me as soon as possible, so I can see who is interested and we can plan dates and a venue.

We are also offering a series of Lent lectures which will be on four Thursday evenings in Lent starting on Thursday 2nd March. See page 9 for more information. We will have the details of the speakers in next month’s magazine but perhaps you might like to put the dates in your calendar now. Those that have come along to the Lent Lectures previously will know that they have been really interesting and inspirational, and the opportunity to meet and chat with others over supper beforehand is always very good too!

Don’t miss out on the opportunities that Lent brings us.

Penny Wood

January

THE PRAYING HANDS

Albrecht Durer was born in the fifteenth century, near Nuremberg one of eighteen children. Albrecht’s father, a goldsmith by profession, worked long hours and took any other odd jobs he could find in his neighbourhood merely to keep food on the table for his family.

Two of the children, Albrecht and Albert were talented artists. They both dreamt of pursuing their talent further, but they knew that their father would never be able to afford to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

So, the two boys worked out a plan. One would work in the nearby mines and support his brother with his earnings whilst the other would attend the academy. When that bother had finished his studies in four years they would swap. Albrecht won the toss of the coin and attended the academy whilst Albert went down into the mines and supported his brother during his studies with his earnings. Albrecht planned to swap in four years, either using income from sales of his artwork to support Albert, or by labouring in the mines.

Albert went down into the mines for the next four years and financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate success. Albrecht's etchings, woodcuts, and his oils were often far better than those of most of his professors. By the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

After four years the young artist Albrecht returned to his village, ready to pay for his brother’s time at the academy. The Durer family held a festive dinner to celebrate Albrecht's return. After the meal, Albrecht rose to drink a toast to his beloved brother thanking him for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfil his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."

handsNo, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! No, brother ... for me it is too late." The bones in every finger had been smashed at least once, and were now suffering from arthritis, the thumbs were bent and twisted. It was difficult even to hold the glass toasting his brother, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush.

Albrecht paid homage to his brother for all he had sacrificed and painstakingly sketched his brother's hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward simply calling the drawing “Hands”. The picture shows the crooked thumb and the gnarled hands that could not close due to the abuse the mines had wrought.

The world renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands”. This story is an example of unconditional love and grace, and a reminder to us all that no one ever makes it alone, we all need someone!

(This article was taken from ‘The Parish Window’ – www.parishwindow.co.uk)