A tweet just reminded me that Lent starts tomorrow. Not being of a religious persuasion, I accept this doesn’t mean quite as much to me as it does to others.
What it does mean is the return of the wonderful Not Busy campaign.
This is a simple idea – to prompt us to think about how we spend our time and energy.
There is a religious message there, but I don’t think it’s forced, and importantly, the overall message is relevant to everyone. To me, this is the best kind of religion.
A few years ago now, something awful happened in my life and there wasn’t really anyone around who could or was able to help in the way I needed. But a particular vicar could, and did. I wouldn’t describe myself as religious, or Christian, but I do find a sense of peace in going to a church sometimes, just to sit.
This particular vicar’s church was at the top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, in an area that has since become tremendously special to me. Her congregation was small, and scattered widely. I went to a couple of services, one of which was just me and her, a contemplative silent service in between Christmas and New Year.
Meetings with Reverend Margaret were often held in the local pub, for as well as the church, she knew very well that this was the main centre of the community. She also held a popular annual carol service in the pub, acknowledging that even for her as a hardy Scot, the church was far too cold at night in December. She bought me possibly the finest chips I have ever eaten, and she listened, advised, and listened some more. She accepted that not everyone ‘believed’ in the same way if at all, but welcomed anyone and everyone to her church.
In recognition of the help she gave me personally at that dreadful time in my life, I did a couple of concerts in her church and filled it with music, both my own and that of my pupils. We also put some money into the coffers, and I was delighted when during the interval of my recital, such was the turnout that she sent her husband back down the lane to her house to get some mugs as they had run out of wine glasses in the church.
Margaret changed how I felt about the church, about religion, about spirituality and about peace and healing and forgiveness. At that time in my life, she was the only person who said to me that it was absolutely OK not to feel able to forgive someone. I was amazed that it came from her, but so grateful for everything she did for me.
It’s easy to blame religion for bad things in the world. But often there’s a lot of positive aspects to be taken from it too, whether that’s beautiful old buildings or peaceful people who welcome strangers and lost souls and all sorts of things in between.
Once again I’ll be drawing up my list of Must Do and May Do, taking some time to be still and booking some holidays. I might be brave enough to Not Do some things. Things are rather frantic, pretty much the worst they have ever been in terms of having a lot to fit in and not quite enough time to do it all in, and so I believe that now more than ever, I need this challenge.
I’m. Not. Busy.