[The editorial for March has been written by Rev Trevor Morley. Thank you Trevor for taking time to help us during our period of interregnum]
Fortunately by the time that you have received the magazine you will have survived yet another, what has been termed, "Blue Monday"! Said to be the most depressing day of the year which this year’s was 27th January. It's a piece of pseudoscience which received a lot of publicity eight years ago when a Welsh psychologist published a formula by which his reason for identifying a particular date for this disturbing event could be calculated. Unsurprisingly it had to do with the winter season when the Christmas glow had faded away, New Year’s resolutions had been broken, cold winter weather had set in and credit card bills would be landing on doormats across the land – whilst the January pay-cheque was still some way away. The short daylight hours, lack of exercise and eating comfort food I suppose were also implicated in the general lowering of mood at a time of year when the thoughts of the returning spring and summer months were a little way off.
It is the breaking of New Year resolutions is a factor we could all easily identify as one which lowers our self-esteem. Once again we are made to realise we don't have the willpower we thought was ours and secretly see ourselves once again as ‘a bit of a failure’. For that reason, as perhaps for many of you, I for many years have made my only resolution to give up making New Year's resolutions – it saves a lot of disappointment. On the occasions when I have made great changes they have been things more or less forced upon me. For example, when I gave up smoking in the early ‘70s it was something I'd intended to do for some years: then came the oil crisis and with it a significant change in the value of money. It was a time when many people had substantial pay increases but the Church lagged behind. I was faced on the then clergy stipend with the fact that I could either eat or smoke – but I could not do both. Again fate intervened: I went down with a cold and didn't smoke for three days. It was then I decided if I had managed for so long a time it would be better not to start again – and I didn't. It was a six-month struggle but I haven't smoked since. Whatever the health benefits-my usual tally was about 20 a day- I must have saved a small fortune over the years.
I have to confess that my failure with New Year's resolutions also extends to aspects of Lenten observance too; though here I'm slightly more successful with the study aspects of such a discipline. Nevertheless I acknowledge it is a good thing that we do have these periods in our Christian calendar when we are called upon to examine our way of life and how it might better conform to what we know, in our heart-of-hearts, God requires of us. How very often do we find ourselves confronted with the rhetorical question of the Prophet Jeremiah, "Can the leopard change its spots?" (Jer 13:23)– Even so we know we ought to make the effort to correct our failings if we become aware of them.
In the ‘80s Bishop Richard Rutt of Leicester was known as the "knitting Bishop", famous among other things for knitting jumpers as a therapy and his book, ’A History of Hand Knitting’. I remember him preaching at a church in London about the unintended consequences of the things we do. We are, he said, caught up in a world whereby some things we say or do unintentionally cause hurt and injury to others. Of such things we may remain unaware, or if known cannot be corrected – the opportunity for this has passed. As a priest, both sacramentally hearing confessions or informally sharing confidences, I have learnt that people are often troubled by the thoughts of hurts or injuries which they have caused people in the past, things which now cannot be corrected through loss of contact or by the death of the person they feel they have wronged. Then again, while these things are occasions for regret, they should not be the cudgels by which we constantly beat ourselves. I often wonder why it is as we grow older; perhaps a time with less frenetic activity and with more time to reflect, it seems that our failures and failings come more readily to mind? Why can't we as easily remember our successes or our achievements? While Édith Piaf's, "Non, Je ne regrette rien” might offer possible solution it is less appealing to the Christian conscience.
Perhaps it is this which ought to allay our troubled thoughts that, in the words of the Prayer Book: “If we confess our sins (failings and wrongdoings) God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yet with God’s forgiveness comes the duty that we should try, as far as we are able, to put right these things in a given “time for amendment of life”, yet it is to be with, “the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit” – helped and guided by God's power.
With the approach of Lent, rather like the New Year, it presents itself as a time of resolution. Resolution, not just to torment ourselves, by ‘giving up things’ – like chocolate or alcohol, unless of course we use the money saved for a good cause – but to do something positive. To do anything which will draw us nearer to Jesus and his message to us. It might be one of the courses of study of the Scripture, a greater commitment to Bible reading and to prayer – even going to church! It might be finding ways in which we can be of help to others or simply just resolving, as the old chorus said, to “count your blessings, name them one by one”; in short, anything which will help us to realise more fully what Jesus did and is doing for us especially in that final week of his earthly life,-his suffering and death - but most particularly by and through the power and glory of his Resurrection.
However we approached New Year, or now as we approach Lent, let’s not be ‘a Jeremiah’s leopard’, for making good resolutions does have its place. We know we may fail in our endeavours – but at least we've tried – and in the end we all must throw ourselves on the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father.