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Giving up something for Lent is a discipline that I have mixed feelings about, and, I have to admit, have had mixed success in following. When I was at school it was quite fashionable to give up chocolate. But because of a childhood allergy to chocolate – which happily I eventually grew out of – this rather passed me by.

In more recent years I have occasionally given up coffee or alcohol and the results weren’t quite what I expected. The first time I stopped drinking coffee I was dismayed at the severity of the withdrawal symptoms that I suffered in the first few days. And although I went back to my old ways at Easter, my attitude to coffee had completely changed. It was much the same with alcohol. I am not a big drinker and it was no great hardship to give it up for a while. But one Easter Sunday, when I had laid on a rather fine red wine to have with our celebration lunch, I found that I could hardly bear to touch it.  A friend of mine of Caribbean origin had a similar experience with red meat that, as part of her culture, she had previously enjoyed on a more or less daily basis. If nothing else, Lenten abstinence had changed both our attitudes to certain luxury foods.

We also did our share of cheating. At one of my previous churches there was almost always a glass of wine on offer after Evensong. On the first Sunday in Lent I was surprised to see that the wine bottles were still there. “Oh but Sundays don’t count” they told me. And indeed, there is a school of thought that goes along with that. The justification for it is, apparently, that although Lent commemorates Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, there are in fact 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. So if you want to fast for 40 days you can leave the six Sundays of Lent out of account. And of course it’s very much easier to give something up just for short bursts of six days at a time.

People who find all this unsatisfactory often stress the benefits of marking Lent by doing something positive instead. When I worked at Christian Aid, one of my team devised a programme for Lent called “Count your blessings”. This was a simple fund raiser. Each day you were invited to donate a small amount of money based on what you took for granted. So, for example, you could give 10p for each time you turned on the tap to get clean water on a given day; or each time you turned on the light or used the loo. The appeal still runs: look at www.christianaid.org.uk for this year’s version.

This year on Wednesdays in Lent we will be holding Lenten lunches at 12.30 – a basic lunch for €5 which will be given to our diocesan bishop’s Lent appeal. And in case you are giving them up for Lent there won’t be any coffee or alcohol to tempt you either.

Our services: Holy Communion on Sundays at 9.30 am and 11.00 am and on Wednesdays at 10.00 am. Taizé worship on the following Thursdays at 5.30 pm: 14 and 28 March.

Chaplain: The Revd Dr Paula Clifford
Tel: 922 38 40 38
Email: paulaclifford4@gmail.com