With my Churchwarden’s hat on, I have to remind the flower ladies that Lent means ‘no flowers in church’. It is a time of waiting, of preparation. And although the flower-lover in me misses the pedestal by the altar, it seems right that the church should be empty, bare, austere and cold. The coldest church in Rutland, according to our Priest-in-Charge!
One winter, with the best of intentions and thinking particularly of our elderly parishioners, our PCC (with the Bishop’s permission) moved the January and February services to the village hall. Once a Baptist chapel, it still has stained glass, a vaulted ceiling and a baptismal bath under the floorboards. While once a week it turns into a Pilates studio, there’s still plenty of atmosphere. But though we tempted people with coffee and croissants, the experiment did not work: the older members of the congregation did not like it and after the first service, stayed away.
They made it clear that, no matter how cold our church is, how uncomfortable the pews, and how basic the facilities, they would rather worship in church – and freeze – than take their coat off in the ‘wrong’ place. So it’s all very well for evangelicals to say it doesn’t matter where we worship, or that our funds should be focused on mission not church maintenance. The connection between villagers and their parish church is deep-rooted, and that’s why churchwardens and PCCs devote so much time and effort to keeping the church ‘fit for purpose’. That little rant has little to do with Lent, but much to do with being a Churchwarden!
Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Lent, and today Churchwardens around the country will be consulting their official Yearbook (again) and getting ready to change the green altar frontal to the right colour for Lent which is purple.
I notice the Yearbook instructs ‘Purple or LA’. I had to google LA and discovered it stands for Lenten Array, which apparently is plain and simple unbleached cloth, usually linen. To be honest, that sounds more appropriate and I wonder how that came to go out of style? Our rich and regal purple seems somehow too jolly for the Lenten period of austerity and denial. See you in church?