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Tough Questions for Lent

Ovingdean News March 2023

It feels like every month brings yet another significant and often difficult moment somewhere in the world or in the life of our nation and church.

As I write this note in mid February I am listening to the radio and the harrowing accounts of war in the Ukraine continue and of course there is the new tragedy unfolding now in Turkey and Syria because of the earthquake. We are all praying hard for those in pain and suffering wherever they are and I also encourage you to donate, if you are able, to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). This will help ensure practical help is there for those in such great need. You can donate through the DEC website at:

Spring is finally with us and we find ourselves in Lent, that sacred time of preparation for Easter which this year will be celebrated on Sunday the 9th of April. Linked to my extended note in the February edition of Ovingdean News, the Lent Course this year is looking at tough questions that we may at times struggle with and are also barriers to many coming to faith. I think all too often we avoid these topics as they are difficult and there aren't any simple answers. I believe we need to think about these questions however if we are to deepen and strengthen our faith, to be able to navigate through difficult times in our lives and finally, to be able to share the Good News effectively with others.

The course will be held at St Dunstan’s Chapel (Blind Veterans) on Wednesdays (6.45pm for 7pm), starting on the 1st of March for 5 weeks. Looking at research and feedback from experienced evangelists I have selected these 5 questions for us to explore:

  • How can you prove there is a God?

  • How can a loving God allow suffering?

  • Does evil really exist?

  • Can I trust and have faith in the Church?

  • Who is saved and who’s in hell?

The course will be relaxed, interactive and refreshments will be provided. I really hope you will be able to join me for this journey.

To finish and back to the theme of significant events in the life of the nation and church, the other piece of significant news on my radio is the decision by the Church of England’s Synod (the ‘church parliament’) to ask the Bishops to issue prayers which would enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or civil partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing. Synod members also voted to “lament and repent” of the failure of the Church to welcome LGBTQI+ people and for the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced - and continue to experience - in churches.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “It has been a long road to get us to this point. For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church. The Church continues to have deep differences on these questions which go to the heart of our human identity. As Archbishops, we are committed to respecting the conscience of those for whom this goes too far and to ensure that they have all the reassurances they need in order to maintain the unity of the Church as this conversation continues. We hope that today’s thoughtful, prayerful debate marks a new beginning for the Church as we seek a way forward, listening to each other and most of all to God. Above all we continue to pray, as Jesus himself prayed, for the unity of his church and that we would love one another.”

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who led the debate and chairs the group which oversaw the development of the proposals, said: “This is a moment of hope for the Church. “I know that what we have proposed as a way forward does not go nearly far enough for many but too far for others. It is my prayer that what has been agreed today will represent a step forward for all of us within the Church – including LGBTQI+ people – as we remain committed to walking together”.

In hearing this news and in reading this text you may, as described above, experience a range of views and emotions, you may for example be joyful, troubled or frustrated and you may have questions. It is important to remember that this will be an optional provision that churches and priests can recognise and undertake if they so wish. The Church makes these kinds of optional provisions where there are strong differences in the understanding of theology, for example with regard to marriage in church for people who have been divorced and the ordination of women.

At St Wulfran’s we have chosen to fully recognise women’s ministry and those who have been divorced are welcomed and are able to be married in St Wulfran’s church. Once we receive the guidance and prayers for the new service I will share these with the Churchwardens and the PCC for us to discuss and agree the approach that we will take at St Wulfran’s. Please do contact me if you have any questions:

With love and best wishes

Fr Richard

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