Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Lenten signposts show the way

When Pauatahanui opted for a spiritual shakeup this Lent, we decided to let our local community in on the adventure.

Pete Watson  |  05 May 2017  |

In Aotearoa, Lent comes at us like a plunge into ice cold water.

After Advent, Christmas and the summer lull, Lent wakes us up and makes us pay attention. It’s when God invites us afresh into the story of grace.

In Wellington this Lent, our Plimmerton Anglican parish nailed signs to a post outside our little church. They were single words, each mined from a Lenten Sunday’s readings, each directing us toward the cross and empty tomb.

We began with ‘Adventure’: naming Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and our 40-day journey into God’s promise fulfilled on Easter Sunday.

Each week we placed a word on the altar, then at worship’s end, drilled it onto the post outside the church, as an outward sign for the community where we live.

While the sign led us forward on our Lenten journey, it stopped others in their tracks. Passers  by would pause, then come for a closer look: to stand and think and wonder.

American author Wayne Cordeiro tells the story of a rabbi who was stopped in such a way: one night on the Siberian tundra.

It was a winter night and the rabbi, feeling discouraged, had wandered aimlessly into the darkness.

Distracted by his thoughts, he strolled unknowingly across the threshold of a Russian military compound. As he reached the perimeter, the icy snow crunched under his boots, breaking the silence.

A startled Russian solider, rifle in hand, shouted out into the night: “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The rabbi stopped and looked up, suddenly fully alert. “How much do they pay you to say that?” he called.

“What does that have to do with you?” the solider growled.

“I will pay you exactly the same,” the rabbi replied, “if you will ask me that question every morning: ‘Who are you?

What are you doing here?’”

As people on an adventure, trusting and hoping in the resurrection, we need to ask ourselves again and again: Who are we? What are we doing in the light of the Good News?

Sometimes by Easter we are tired. The journey of Lent is over. But the next forty days are time to explore and ponder anew the gospel of love: the love that brings us fully alive and holds us in the grip of grace.

In Pauatahanui this Lent, we tied our prayers to three crosses: purple prayers for our Lenten journey, red prayers for forgiveness on Good Friday and white prayers of thanksgiving for resurrection on Easter Sunday.

As a community of Anglicans we made our prayers visible, to remind others of God’s love and to invite them into this story, tracing steps along the way.

“What is the most revolutionary way to change society?” an inquirer once asked Ivan Illich, the Austrian philosopher and Roman Catholic priest, “Is it violent revolution or gradual reform?”

“Neither.” He replied. “If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story.”


Rev Pete Watson is vicar of Pauatahanui Anglican parish in Wellington.