Season’s greetings from Stoke Newington in the London Borough of Hackney where I have just been having a happy chat with a bunch of my Muslim neighbours, all of whom were en-route to our magnificent local Mosque.
The sun has just set and so each was emerging from the daylight demands of their Ramadan fasts and heading off to share in the Iftar meal, which will mark the end of their fasting for today.
I sensed a certain solidarity with their emergent state, because my personal focus for the next few days will be that of making sure that all is ready for me and my church community to emerge from our observance of our holy season of Lent and Holy Week, into the new dawn of Easter.
Hopefully, these seasons of Ramadan and Lent will have given us all an opportunity, not simply to stave ourselves, but rather to rummage through and re-evaluate all that we lug along the road with us. They will have given us a chance to sift the needs from the wants and the important from the trivial, in the hope that we might emerge with a somewhat lighter, more agile and ultimately more positive way of playing the game of life.
Thinking about it, the last two years have felt a bit like an extended Ramadan and Lent. In addition to our respective seasonal and voluntary restrictions, we’ve had to observe the myriad compulsory restrictions imposed on us, in an effort to stem the Covid.
As with Ramadan and Lent, the Covid restrictions and contingencies have meant that many of us have had to examine and re-evaluate the way we do things. I’m thinking in this context of how many of us have had to look afresh at how we discharge our responsibilities towards the almshouses, foundations and charities of which so many of us are trustees, so that they can continue to make a strong social impact, even in trying times such as these.
I’ll spare you the cliché of crisis equalling opportunity, but the last two years have provided the Almshouse and Parochial Charity of which I am Chair – and indeed the Parish Church of which I am the Rector – with opportunities aplenty for doing this too.
Thankfully, we’ve not had to walk this road alone. We’ve reconnected with the core values that underpin and are indeed the starting point for all that we do. We’ve been blessed by our on-going relationship with out trusted partners at The Trust Partnership, whose vision, agility and all-round professional ‘know how’ have helped us to move onwards and indeed upwards.
Just as my Muslim neighbours are sharing their Iftar meals together for the first time in two years, our church will soon be emerging from our isolation to celebrate the Easter feast together in person for the first time since 2019. And it won’t be a mad dash back to the ‘good old pre-lockdown days’ for either our church community or for the charity and almshouse which we hold in trust. It will, rather, be a refreshing leap forward. It will be about resurrection, not resuscitation. Old wine in new wineskins.
You can tell what I gave up for Lent…