A letter from the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Revd Rachel Treweek
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth
As we look to the start of Lent, I send this letter as a call to prayer for each one of us. I want to encourage the whole Diocese – churches, chaplaincies, Fresh Expressions, schools – to renew our commitment to prayer and to link this to the vision discernment process, which will unfold across the Diocese later this year.
During the seasons of Lent and Easter we make a common journey – a journey to the pain of the cross, and then beyond it, to the joyous hope of Easter Day.
As a Diocese we are continuing our ‘journeying together’ and during this coming year will discern the specific priorities for the next stage of our life together, whilst building on what has gone before.
From Ascension to Pentecost there will be an emphasis on praying for our Diocese and listening to what God is saying to us. This will begin with a day of prayer in the Cathedral on 5 May. This prayerful discernment will lead into a period of conversation, which will be developed through the summer, and followed by an Advent launch of the next stage of our journey. Therefore this Lent is about laying the foundation for that.
In the story of the Israelites’ battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17, we are told that when Moses held his hands up the Israelites prevailed, but when he let his hands down, the Amalekites prevailed. One understanding of this is that Moses as leader was reminding the people to look upwards to God as they undertook their task. Good advice for us too. As followers of Jesus Christ we want to learn more of what it means to look upwards, to pray, and in doing so to see God, ourselves and our world differently.
Last May (Ascension Day to Pentecost) there was a focus on the Try Praying initiative to encourage many people to do just this. Some of the feedback and stories have been very encouraging including prayer spaces in schools and the university, where hundreds of booklets were given to young people. Are there ways this Lent that you can connect with those around you and encourage people to look upwards and TryPraying?
Some of you will already be familiar with the Church of England JustPray initiative. If you haven’t looked at the website yet, I encourage you to do so. I hope you will find it a source of encouragement and inspiration: www.justpray.uk
As well as encouraging those we encounter to try praying, there is also the challenge to encourage those who are already part of a Christian worshipping community to look upwards, to infuse the whole of their lives with prayer and so gain a new vision, not just for church but for Christian discipleship among the people and places of their week. Perhaps you might produce a prayer card which people carry with them each day and use in the different places where they spend their time. Perhaps you could find ways of encouraging those you already worship with to support each other with personal, meaningful prayer relevant to their own circumstances and situations. I would love to hear of your creative ideas about encouraging prayer. In all of this I commend to you the Lent prayer resources, Streams in the Desert, produced by the diocesan Worship, Prayer and Spirituality Group.
May each of us live Lent with expectant hearts as we look upwards and encourage others to do so too. May we see where God is already at work and may we discern how best to join in.