The Christian tradition of giving something up for Lent could provide a new perspective on life and faith. Dianne Jensen talks to families about Lent Event.
Uniting Church congregations don’t have much corporate memory when it comes to the Lenten practice of undertaking 40 days of repentance and self-denial, culminating in the joy of Easter Sunday. Frankly, it’s been a bit high church for us.
Lent Event has changed all that. Nearly 10 years ago, a Uniting Church congregation in Sydney asked members to forgo a few luxuries and to donate the money saved to support projects in developing countries. The idea was simple and practical—not about hair shirts and introspection—but a vision of how we might participate in bringing about the kingdom of God on Earth.
The relief and development agency UnitingWorld has developed the concept. Over the 40 days of Lent from 5 March until 19 April, individuals and congregations are called to engage in reflection and prayer, to embrace simple living and to learn about specific community development projects.
Lent Event projects for 2014 include training midwives in South Sudan, training women in business and leadership skills in Indonesia and the Pacific and education programs in north India.
Vicki and Brian Robinson and their two sons Joel (13 years) and Zac (10 years) from Oxley Uniting Church in Brisbane have become regular participants. They host a Bible study and give up lollies and chocolate. Each family member contributes to the Lent appeal donation.
“We realise how blessed we are, and how generous God has been to us and our family,” says Vicki. “It is easy to take a lot of things for granted.”
“Giving up something symbolises what Jesus did for us,” she adds. “Giving money can be easy, but giving up our treats is a tangible experience for us to reflect on and to remind us every day.”
For David and Wendy Lowry from Caloundra Uniting Church, the annual campaign is a reminder that Christians are called to work for peace, compassion and justice.
“In this Lenten period we see the cross as a sign of love. In his love for the poor and the marginalised, Jesus spent his life and died at the hands of this unjust world.
“We see the projects of the Lenten appeal as a challenge to go the way of the cross, and to give all that we can for people in need. Some may find ‘giving up’ something in Lent helpful as they give to a project, but for us this is a call to ‘give out’ to keep the vision of the kingdom of God before us.”
Lent Event resources can be downloaded from the Lent Event website. Printed copies can be ordered by calling (02) 8267 4267.