In a couple of weeks’ time, we will have flipped, eaten and enjoyed our pancakes; and will be turning our thoughts to Lent. For many people – whether or not they are Christian – Lent means giving up something you really enjoy, for the next 40 days (not including Sundays!). Very often it means chocolate or wine, which reminds me of a story: An Irishman walks into a Dublin bar, orders three pints of beer and sits down in the corner of the room. He takes a sip from each glass in turn, and when all three glasses are empty, he returns to the bar and orders three more. The barman advises him, “You know, a pint goes flat after it is drawn; it would taste better if you ordered one at a time.” The Irishman replies, “Well, it’s like this: I have two brothers, one in Australia and one in America, and here I am in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised each other to always drink this way to remind ourselves of the good times we had together.” The barman admits that it is a touching custom and leaves it at that. Over the next few weeks, the Irishman becomes quite a regular at the bar – always drinking the same way – ordering three pints and drinking them in turn. One day he comes in and orders just two pints. The other regulars notice this and fall silent. When the man returned to the bar for his second round, the barman says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your sad loss.” The Irishman looks confused for a moment, and then the penny drops: “Oh no,” he laughs, “Everyone’s fine – it’s just that I’ve given up drinking for Lent!” Okay, it’s a good story, but it does show us that the poor Irishman hadn’t really understood the concept. There is no point whatsoever in giving up anything for Lent unless it is sacrificial on our part and will actually make a difference to our lives. 11 In an ideal world, we wouldn’t go back to whatever it was when Lent was over but would keep up with that discipline. However, instead of thinking in what could be described in a negative way, about giving something up; why not instead put a positive spin on it and take up a new challenge instead? Why not read one of the many excellent Lent books that are available; or perhaps walk an extra mile every day; or get up half an hour earlier to have some quiet, quality time alone with God; or why not take time to read the Bible and pray? Lent is a time for us to take stock of our lives and the way we are living, whether or not we have a Christian faith. Anyone can join in. We all need to put aside those things which are harmful to our well-being and do something more positive that will help us to get more out of life. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do this Lent – but do something – make the most of this opportunity to “spring-clean” your life and make these next few weeks count. You’ll find that ultimately your experience of Lent, and Easter when it comes, will be more rewarding for it! Please take time to read the leaflet that arrived with this magazine, as it explains about the new Parish Giving Scheme. As a parish, we need to raise around another £800 every week to survive. I ask that you might consider whether you are able to help in anyway. It would a shame to lose our churches – especially as they are of historical and architectural importance. A one-off donation may be made, but a regular amount -however large or small- would help with our budgeting too. What ever you can give would be much appreciated and would help towards keeping our churches open. Thank you. All the information is on the leaflet. With all good wishes and prayers for a Holy Lent and a Happy Easter when it comes.