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Priest to wear odd socks on each of the 40 days of Lent

19 February 2021


The Revd David Potterton wears odd socks in a Lenten discipline inspired by Niebuhr

The Revd David Potterton wears odd socks in a Lenten discipline inspired by Niebuhr

“SOCK it to me” is the Lenten challenge thrown out to his flock by the Revd David Potterton, Priest-in-Charge of Lyndhurst, Emery Down, and Minstead, in the diocese of Winchester.

Inspired by Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer — “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” — he will be putting on odd socks on each of the 40 days of Lent and encouraging others to do the same.

“Lent is about a crisis of faith in which we wrestle with these things and seek strength to change the things we can. It’s a reminder that life is pretty odd, and we have to reconcile it,” he said on Tuesday. “I’ve been considerably exercised about this week’s Ash Wednesday service and the absence of ashing across the benefice, as our churches are closed. This is daft and it’s fun, but it isn’t frivolous.”

The response had been positive: people were “rushing up to show me their socks”, he said. People are also invited to post pictures on the benefice’s Facebook page.

“It generates a conversation as well; so it’s actually quite missional,” Mr Potterton said. “I never thought my odd socks would do that. I had to prove to somebody I met that I actually had them on. Now, I tend to roll up the bottom of my trouser legs to show them off, which is even more bizarre. But there you are.” He goes on: “I don’t normally put my feet up on the Church Times.”

AlamyThe Dean of Southwell, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan, sprinkles ashes at a service outside Southwell Minster on Ash Wednesday  

The privations of 2020 have prompted others to suggest that self-deprivation for Lent might not be the most appropriate counsel this year. Theatre Chaplaincy UK (TCUK) is offering “Words for the Wilderness (Soft Words for Hard Times)” every Wednesday during Lent, in a video on its YouTube channel.

It features a series of well-known actors, including Samantha Bond, Giles Terera, and Rakie Ayola, reading a poem chosen to reflect the themes of Lent and also of the pandemic. These will then be the focus of a Thursday Late Night Lent on Facebook, and a Friday-afternoon discussion group on Zoom.

“Traditionally, for Lent, some people like to give something up,” TCUK’s senior chaplain, and Lead Theatre Chaplain for the diocese of London, the Revd Lindsay Meader, said. “However, we are all too painfully aware that, for nearly a year, since our theatres first closed on March 16 [News, 3 April 2020], it has felt like we are in an eternal wilderness, where so many of the things that enriched our lives have been stripped away from us. And there’s simply no point in going around doing something that makes you grumpy for God.”

ShelterBox, which provides durable emergency shelters and equipment to people in crowded refugee camps and evacuation centres, has launched a campaign, Tent for Lent, aimed at “turning 40 days into 100 tents”: a positive way of marking Lent, the charity says.

At Durham Cathedral, a virtual “pancake pilgrimage” was held this week to mark Shrove Tuesday. The challenge involved walking or running 995 steps while tossing a pancake. The number of steps in the challenge, which finishes at noon today, relates to the year — 995 — that building first started on Durham Cathedral.

Videos taken by walkers of themselves doing the challenge are to be uploaded by the cathedral, and a video compilation is due to be released later today on durhamcathedral.co.uk.

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