Back in December a place in Cumbria I know well was hit by Storm Arwen. A lot of snow was dumped on the hills in a very short space of time. The high winds brought down trees and power lines. Some places were without electricity for nearly two weeks. Those without power could report the problem and get updates via an app on their mobile phone. But with the power lines down there was no wifi, no possibility of charging your phone and, to make matters worse, in some areas the electricity supply to the phone masts was also out so you could not even get a phone signal. As I spoke with people in the area that I know I realised how dependant we have become on modern technology and when that is disrupted how much inconvenience we experience. Technology has made life more comfortable, but it comes at a cost we barely realise until it is taken away. What heartened me most were the human stories of the elderly and vulnerable being cared for and provided with food and provisions.
After Storm Arwen had blown itself out, I began reading a book – a diary to be precise – written by a Falkland Islander who lived in Port Stanley through the Argentinian occupation. Once again, so much that was taken for granted was compromised and basic human survival in extreme circumstances kicked in. It is a story of courage, defiance, and resilience, but ultimately it is a story of humanity. Time and again I read of acts of kindness by the Islanders towards the young Argentinian conscripts who were hungry, wet and cold. It is hard to believe that occupation was forty years ago.
You may think that this book was an unusual choice, but it was essential preparatory reading for my sabbatical which will be spent in the Falkland Islands. I leave (d.v.) before the end of the month and will be spending the Lent and Easter seasons in St Cuthbert’s Church, Mount Pleasant. The next few months will be odd. I will be separated from both my family and my church family – everything that is comfortable and familiar will be different. And things will be different in Sleaford too. Things that we have got used to, and taken for granted, will be different this year as services are led by a variety of priests from across the deanery and diocese.
Whether we are in Sleaford or elsewhere we will walk together, with all Christians that journey through Lent to the Cross. It is a painful and unsettling journey, for each year it challenges who we think we are and brings us face to face with the agony of the cross. But in that painful place the love of God breaks through and transforms our fallen humanity so that we can be more Christ like and reach out to those in pain and need.