Human beings are 'storied' people. We all have narratives to tell and to live by: about who we are, where we come from and where we hope to go in life. Christians tell stories about their ‘journeys of faith', alongside the biblical and other stories they inherit.
Lent is a time when, in particular, the exodus story of liberation from slavery, struggling nomadically through the wilderness for forty years, and, at last, entering a longed-for land of freedom and hope, is recalled.
In the light of this, Christians tell and retell the stories of Jesus and of the early church. These are the narratives which should shape Christian living, creating both the personal, spiritual and social conditions for producing liberating communities open to people of all shapes and sizes (the ekklesia).
Lent is a time when Christian people say ‘This is our story': the story of the early Israelites, the story of Jesus, the story of the emergent and continuing church, the story of Palestinian Christians, the story of oppressed communities and peoples everywhere -- those for whom the Gospel should especially be Good News.
Each ‘journey of faith' -- personal and social, spiritual and political -- is different. Both the commonality and the differences, and how the two are narrated together in Christ (so that we are a part, not apart), remains crucial to forging a Christian identity which is rooted in hope and embrace, not fear and exclusion.
As in previous years, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), the official ecumenical body for the churches in England, Scotland, Wales and both jurisdications in Ireland, is encouraging local study groups to meet and share their stories.
CTBI's study material will link, for those who would like to listen, with Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 (08.10-08.50 LW). Special items based on the themes of the course CTBI has produced will be broadcast on Sunday mornings on BBC local radio throughout Lent.
The CTBI course, This is our story: Journeys of faith, has been written by Dr Nick Sagovsky, an Anglican priest, who is Whitelands Professorial Fellow at Roehampton University. Until last year, he was Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, where he focused particularly on asylum seekers and refugees.
Nick says: "I wrote this course because I have learnt so much from the members of a little Bible Study Group I started for people who have sought asylum. They have made - and are making - fantastic journeys of faith.
"I believe our churches are full of people with great stories to tell, and that studying Scripture together can help each one of us see our life as a journey of faith. We can learn so much as we hear about other people's journeys of faith - the good bits and the hard bits - and we can see more clearly how we follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us - right back to Jesus and to the Israelites who endured such hardships in the wilderness...".
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which in 2013 falls on 13 February, and finishes on Holy Saturday (which falls on 30 March), the day before Easter. Lent is a time of repentance (turning around and heading in a new direction) and self-examination ahead of Easter.
* Full details of the CTBI course, This is our story: Journeys of faith, including PDFs, radio links and more, can be found here: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/622
* Ekklesia's Lent 2013 news, resources and commentary can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/Lent2013
* Migration issues on Ekklesia - journeying from fear to hope: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/migration
* Ecumenical Water Network Lent resources: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17993
* Christian Aid lent phone app: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17987
* Living the story of justice - Christians urged to fast from tax-dodging companies during Lent: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17988
(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He also worked for CTBI from 1996 - 2005.