As we continue to journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, we at St John the Divine, Victoria — along with so many of our church communities — are continually adapting and responding to changing needs and restrictions. To that end, we have decided to go with a Lent that combines what we’ve learned during the past two years of online activity with tentative steps to gather our community together in person.
It’s become something of a tradition — remembering the old Anglican adage, “If you do it once it’s an innovation, and twice it’s a tradition”— for us to mark Lent and Advent, the reflective seasons of the church year, with daily blog posts written by members of our team and other invited guests on a particular theme. In previous years, we’ve had “a poem a day for Lent,” “Art and Soul” (an artwork/poem/piece of music for every day), “Advent Doors,” “Advent Journeys,” and others.
This year, we decided to look at Lent through a particular lens — one we’ve called “LOVELent.” Every day we post a piece of scripture that addresses love, along with a reflection on that passage and a prayer for the day. It’s been quite the experience researching and sharing thoughts on all these different parts of our Christian and Hebrew stories. Our hope was that a short reflection would give folks the opportunity to take a short pause, wherever they are and whatever they are doing, and remember the multi-faceted love of God, the place of love in our lives and our calling to “the discipline of love” — not a bad Lenten discipline to aspire to.
We also have an in-person discussion group and a Zoom discussion group on our excellent Lent book from Isabelle Hamley, called Embracing Justice. It has been interesting to see how most people have preferred to meet on Zoom, while the in-person conversation has had a very limited appeal for the time being.
Though we have been meeting in person (and via Zoom and Facebook Live) on Sundays for some months, Lent gave us the opportunity to try to meet again with a smaller midweek Eucharist. Again, it will take some time for many to feel confident gathering physically in one space, and many still find the idea of sharing Eucharist “in one kind” (without the common cup) less attractive for them. For Lent, we have reinstated a simple service of Compline on Thursday evenings at 9 p.m., which we hold on Zoom and livestream through our Facebook page.
We observed Ash Wednesday in person and we plan to do the same through most of Holy Week, when we have services every Monday through Thursday evening, and then during the day on Friday. We are still discussing whether we want to record some reflections and put them online alongside our physical gatherings, as it seems many more access our online offerings than ever attended groups and events when we held them in person. In the same way, our online daily prayers continue to gather a small but worldwide community that faithfully watches or takes part every day, Monday through Friday.
We will continue praying, experimenting, learning, listening, hoping and gathering in every way possible, as we learn to live in this strange and sometimes confusing new world where physical and virtual spaces each offer their own opportunities to connect and grow.
Details of all these Lent activities can be found on the St John the Divine website.