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Taking a break and giving things up during Lent


Our congregation has entered into a season of giving things up. This being Lent, a lot of Christians are taking a break from various practices as a spiritual discipline until Easter, but at Montclair Presbyterian Church we may be having to say “goodbye” to our bridge (which has rotten support beams) and during Lent we’re saying “see you later” to our weekly invitations during celebrations. Both actions have inspired conversation and comment. It’s safe to say no one wants to see the bridge close down and reaction to the invitation fast has been mixed (and passionate), but I have seen good come from both sets of conversations.

The closure of the bridge has inspired an outpouring of creativity in our congregation. Folks are talking about ways to fix the bridge, about design ideas for a new bridge, and about possibilities for what can happen to the creek if—because of various environmental regulations and building codes—we are unable to do either. The sharing of ideas has been inspirational, and I look forward to harnessing this creative energy once we have a better sense of what will happen going forward.

Setting aside our invitations for the six weeks of Lent has been similarly stimulating. It has forced us to think of new ways to communicate (for example, I loved watching folks hand out fliers after celebration on Sunday, and I thought Talitha did a fine job giving a summary of the announcements in the bulletin during her welcome at the beginning of celebration); it also has helped us to identify weak spots in our present communication system (the Lenten discipline caught several people off-guard, despite the fact that session and staff thought we’d communicated the plan properly, which means that as a community we need to be creative around fixing the leaks in our communication pipeline). Another benefit to the Lenten fast has been the emergence of new and fresh perspectives in the conversation about invitations (which, I’m told) has been ongoing for nearly 20 years.

As hard as it can be to say goodbye and give up—even temporarily—I’m glad church is a place where we can practice what is a spiritual discipline of singular importance.  When we give up something we like, or upon which we rely, it is a hard adjustment. But it is good to practice adjusting muscles from time to time, because sometimes life forces deprivation upon us and for those times it’s vital that we practice creative ways to work around what is lost, and this takes practice.

I saw this first hand recently, when I went up to Humboldt County to help take care of my father, who fell and broke his pelvis a couple of weeks ago. He has had to give up use of his left leg for as long as it takes for his bones to knit. Such things happen to us and to our loved ones all of the time. In order to survive life we must learn adaptation and I’m really happy to be in a spiritual community where folks practice creativity in the face of giving up. It is one way the church can be like a laboratory for life, and I’m grateful to be in this learning environment with you.

God’s Peace,