The Return of the Prodigal Son

Finding a good Lent course is an ongoing issue in church. Do you all read the same book together and discuss it chapter by chapter each week? Do you pick a theme and go with lecture/discussion groups? Do you use a CD or DVD which has it all worked out for you like the York courses? My first year here we did a course on different aspects of prayer and it seemed to work well. Last year we did a course on Liturgy going through the liturgy we use and then creating our own.

Prodigal Son RembrandtThis year we have used Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son with CD by DLT. In fact, none of the group bought the book although I recommended it on the first week. They felt they didn’t need to and they got enough from the CD each week. Each session contained extracts from the book along with background information on Nouwen’s life, along with questions for group discussions. The questions were quite personal especially in the first few weeks when the groups were getting to know one another.  We also had a large poster of Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son and I also got a little prayer card for everyone to use at home too.

I read the book many years ago and remember enjoying it. But I’d given away my copy and only last year got another copy from +Alan Smithson’s library. I really enjoyed reading it again and highlighting passages that resonated with me. As the leader I didn’t take part in the group discussions and as the questions were quite personal the groups felt that they didn’t want to reflect back to the larger group. This meant that I felt quite isolated from the discussions although I could hear snippets. We did discuss little bits and pieces, however, especially towards the end of the course.

Last night was our last night and the feedback was good. People had enjoyed exploring the story in such detail and especially getting to know the painting. More art was asked for future courses. Some had not particularly enjoyed Nouwen’s reflections while others had really enjoyed them. But in the end it was the story of the Prodigal Son which won the day.  And getting to know one another in groups.


Sharing Lent ideas

LentTonight it is Mardi Gras and many pancakes will be consumed, for tomorrow we fast. (My favourite is still lemon and sugar, how about you?) Tomorrow we will be marked with an ash cross and Lent will begin.

For a few years now I have given up reading fiction in Lent and I intend to keep this again. I have a pile of non-fiction books, mainly theology but not exclusively, waiting to be read. It is too easy to forgo these for a good whodunnit, so Lent is a good time to do some real meaty study. (Hehe.)

I have put on so much weight since stopping smoking (3 months yesterday, thank you very much) that I am tempted to use Lent as a time to cut out all the baddies in my diet. But I hate that whole Theology of Weightwatchers. I’m quite sure it is not what Our Lord had in mind when he spoke about fasting. “Ruth, thou shalt cut out all those maltesers because you and I know they do not really have a less-fattening centre!” So I need to think of another way of working my way through that one.

I note that a good number of folk are giving up Facebook, Twitter and/or blogging during Lent. This is I would struggle with. But isn’t that the point, Ruth? No, I mean that I would lose so many resources that help me during Lent. So I am keeping my eyes firmly peeled on all that Google etc has to offer.

And what about taking something on? Well I will be doing some serious reading. And we shall have our Lent Group on Tuesday evenings at Prodigal Son Rembrandt7.30pm using Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son. We shall also be saying Morning Prayer together each day at 9.30am – and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. For I HATE saying the Offices alone. Even if one person turns up my day is made. On Sundays at 7pm we shall say Compline together followed by Hot Chocolate. Hot Choc in Lent? Yes! For it is Sunday!

Then there is Lent online. You can check out the Pisky thing over at Beauty from Chaos each day. You can give up busyness for Lent over here. And I’ve read a dozen more but sadly they have all escaped my busy brain.  Please comment any more if you know of them.

Oh and Fr Simon has free Lent texts as ever. Check him out too.