It was on Ash Wednesday morning that I saw a bus which said ‘Route Learning’ on its front. It struck me then that Lent is for us rather like the point on a walk in the Cheviot hills when you know you have been going generally in the right direction, but keep finding yourself knee deep in bog, or the wrong side of a rushing stream, and you pause to regroup, review the map and try very hard to get back on the route.. Route learning certainly, after a fashion… In Lent we try to give up things that send us off the track, or that we know we use as indulgences when we should be more focused – and to work on understanding more clearly, through study, the route that we are following as Christians.

Now we are almost half way through Lent. How are we doing? We are looking at some of the places where we find division in society – taking as our ‘route map’ the words of Jo Cox  MP in her maiden speech – we have #more in common with each other than that which divides us. So far we have looked at dementia, which challenged us to think more about how we ourselves might want to be treated if we had dementia – and to consider ways to support people with dementia and their families and friends; then we looked at ethnicity and faith – our own identities and the things that have shaped us, the way we see people from other nations and faiths, and how in our faith we are called to respond to others; this week we are looking at social class – perhaps not so obvious in accents or dress, but in rich versus poor, or powerful versus the disempowered – clearly portrayed in I Daniel Blake. In our remaining weeks we shall look at family – and some of the diversity that simple word encompasses – and then at justice – some of the unintended inequalities of our justice system. As we move then into Holy Week and follow Jesus and the disciples in the topsy turvy events of that week – from joyous celebration to the abandonment and agony of the cross, we will have thought and prayed more about some of the big issues which divide our society, and ways in which we might engage more effectively with them – ready as we come to celebrate Easter to go out and get walking!

As we come towards Holy Week, we will have another reason to celebrate – as we are joined by a new ‘guide’ along the way – our new Vicar, Revd Canon Brian Hurst. He will be joining us on March 27th – and will help us as we go forward together.