ABOUT one in five of the respondents to a Church House Publishing survey planned to observe Lent in some way, but a third did not yet know what they would do.
The joint favourites for abstention were giving up treats such as chocolate and not buying luxuries; the most popular choice of things to do was to attempt more positive or kindly acts.
The survey of 2024 people found that the women were more likely than the men to observe Lent — 27 per cent compared with 20 per cent — and that young adults aged between 18 and 24 were were the most likely to mark the season in some way.
Just under one in ten (nine per cent) said that they would take up something spiritual, such as praying or reading the Bible; a similar number pledged to stop swearing.
Eight per cent said that they would give up alcohol; almost as many (seven per cent) planned to cut back on social media and gaming, or to volunteer for a charity; six per cent wanted to stop smoking.
The women were nearly twice as likely to engage in positive or kindly acts, and three times more likely to give up chocolate, but men were twice as likely to forgo alcohol. Men are also nearly twice as likely to spend less time on social media and gaming.
Church House Publishing commissioned the survey to mark its launch of a new iPhone app — Reflections for Lent — containing daily reflections on Bible passages by well-known authors.
A co-author of the app, Jane Williams, said: “The readable reflections on the season’s Bible passages are a good alternative or accompaniment to giving up chocolate or coffee.”
The charity Stewardship is challenging Christians to “Do Lent generously” by taking part in 40 acts of generosity over 40 days.
“Traditionally we mark Lent by giving something up, but what if it could be more than that?” said Stewardship’s head of content, Debbie Wright. “What if Lent was a preparation for a lifetime of big-heartedness? What if you could give up chocolate and give the money to your favourite charity?”
In West Yorkshire, church leaders from several Christian traditions were to spend Ash Wednesday in an act of penance, praying with students at Bradford College to ask God’s forgiveness, “for the mess we have created for our children and grandchildren to live with”.
They customarily come together on Ash Wednesday to consider problems of common concern. This Lent’s event highlights the poor position of young people in British society today: in 2007, UNESCO placed the UK bottom of industrialised nations for child well-being; and this year the Children’s Society reported that half a million children aged eight to 15 were seriously unhappy. More than one fifth of 16- to 24-year-olds — 1.04 million — are unemployed.
The Revd Dr Liz Smith, who chairs the Leeds Methodist District and the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council, said: “For Christians with a message of the unique value of every person, young people are not a wasted generation but a wanted generation.”
More details of the Stewardship challenge are available at www.40acts.org.uk.