This is a copy of my article for the MARCH 2014 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

Ash Wednesday is celebrated on 5th March this year and remembers the beginning of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.  Lent, for many, is an opportunity to practice some form of abstinence or a stimulus to enter into a less indulgent lifestyle.  Last year, you may recall, I suggested how we should fast and feast during Lent: fast from bad things and feast on good things.

This year, might you be willing to gain a new set of habits that may not only change your life, but the lives of those around you?  It seems to me the following three suggestions formed a significant part of Jesus’ servant ministry and give us a helpful model to use today as we seek to serve those around us:

BLESS: Might I suggest this could be three people each week: one family member, one neighbour and one person you don’t know!  It could be simple words of encouragement; or an act of kindness through something practical such as running an errand or tidying the garden for those who are house bound; or even paying something towards the grocery bill for someone behind you in the queue!  We bless others in response to all that we have been blessed with ourselves.

EAT: Might you be willing to arrange a dinner party (or a brunch) and offer hospitality to friends and neighbours and spend the time just getting to know each other? There’s nothing more social and engaging than food and conversation. When we eat and talk together we discover how many of us share the same hopes, fears and disappointments. We often gain strength as we learn from the experiences of others.

LISTEN: Sometimes we can be so busy, and distracted, rushing about that we don’t have time to listen to those around us. Why not set time aside to listen to someone whom you know is really struggling?  Something as simple as a listening ear can be a cause of healing and comfort to others and, especially, in a time poor society, offering time to listen to someone can be a very precious gift.

Imagine what difference we could make to our community in the weeks leading up to Easter if every reader of this magazine made an effort to do the three things above?  It could be quite amazing, don’t you think?  Let your imagination run wild and email me with your stories.

NB. You may recall from last month’s column that Churches Together, in partnership with Billericay Town Council, have organised a Civic Service at 3.00pm on Sunday 16th March 2014 at Christ Church, Perry Street, when many organisations will come together in a service of thanksgiving to celebrate all that is good about Billericay, its public servants and residents. However, on Saturday 15th 2014 March, church members from across the town, along with many other groups, will be ‘out and about’ serving and blessing our community in numerous ways: Litter Pickup; Subway Painting; House and Garden repairs; Car Washing; a Family Treasure Trail at Saint Mary’s in the High Street – and much more. Let us know what we can do for you via email or give us a tweet @LoveBillericay #Brillericay (Yes, it’s a deliberate misspelling!).