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Lent projects focus on helping others

28 February 2014

by a staff reporter


Station I by Johan Andersson is one of the works depicting the Stations of the Cross which are on display at St Marylebone Parish Church, in London, during Lent. 

Station I by Johan Andersson is one of the works depicting the Stations of the Cross which are on display at St Marylebone Parish Church, in London,...

A FLURRY of initiatives has been launched to urge people to mark Lent in more creative ways than giving up chocolate.

On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, announced a joint initiative urging people to pray for church outreach during Lent.

During Holy Week the two archbishops will pray daily, giving thanks for the work churches do to help the needy. They also ecnouraged others to join them, and to share accounts of what their church is doing on Twitter, using the hashtag #ListenToGod.

Many other Lent projects focus on counting one's blessings and include "doing one nice thing" each day to giving money.

The Do1NiceThing initiative encourages people to carry out an activity each day to enhance their communities, from being a better driver to running an Easter street party.It is organised by the campaign Love Your Streets, and backed by the charities Care, Streetbank, and Hope.

In a similar vein, the 40 Act of Generosity challenge, which is now in its fourth year, asks people to be "big-hearted" during Lent.

Also, the diocese of Guildford, in partnership with Christian Aid, is running a daily programme to encourage people to pray and to donate to help young carers in Surrey and children in Afghanistan.

There are an estimated 12,000 young carers in the diocese, and in Afghanistan more than one in ten children die before the age of five. The diocesan Count your Blessings Lent project asks participants to give 50p for every time they have been helped to look after a loved one, and 10p for every fifth birthday celebrated.

On Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday next week, Christian leaders in West and North Yorkshire will be distributing food to foodbanks and soup kitchens. Pancakes will be dished up and given out on the steps of Wakefield Cathedral on Tuesday.

On Ash Wednesday, commuters at Ealing, in west London, will be offered "ashes to go" by Christians at the tube station.

On the same day, in villages and towns near Worcester, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, will be among those collecting prayer requests. Dr Inge said that the prayer initiative had been running for five years, and that people "really appreciated it".

In the south-west, six dioceses have teamed up with the charity Tearfund to run a carbon fast, encouraging individuals and churches to cut their carbon emissions by up to 40 per cent.

As part of the initiative, Exeter Cathedral is switching off most of its floodlighting during Lent. The Dean, the Very Revd Jonathan Draper, said: "Less light at the west end of the cathedral by shutting off the floodlights will be a visible symbol of our need to cut the carbon, and be part of how we address the challenges of climate change." He said that Christians were called to make the world a better place.

For those who would still like to abstain from particular foods during Lent, the charity Animal Aid is asking people to give up meat during March as part of its Big Veg Pledge.


A MANSFIELD priest will fast throughout Lent in solidarity with those going hungry across Britain because they cannot afford to eat.

The Revd Dr Keith Hebden, associate priest in the parish of St Mark's, Mansfield, will drink only water and one glass of fruit juice a day from Ash Wednesday until Easter.

Dr Hebden said: "I believe the Church should stand in solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable. The Government has a duty of care to act and provide a basic safety net for its own citizens. But with so many relying on foodbanks and people having to choose whether to eat or heat their home, it seems it is failing in that duty."

Dr Hebden, aged 38, said that he hoped others would join him and fast for a day or a week during Lent, as part of the End Hunger Fast campaign.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Dr Hebden said that he has been preparing for his 40-day ordeal by cutting down how much he eats to shrink his stomach. He has also stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine.

"Throughout the fast I will not describe myself as hungry," he said. "Hunger is when you haven't got any food. I am doing it in solidarity with people who actually are hungry."

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