The year is waking up, writes the Very Reverend John Dobson, the Dean of Ripon. This short month is taking us from candlelit processions in the Cathedral to pancake races in the street. There is never a dull moment!
As in many churches across the region, this month at the Cathedral began with celebrating Candlemas. On February 2, a record 900 people joined us from across the region and beyond; one family had driven from Dumfries and others were from the south coast. The 25 minute procession around the aisles was remarkable and enjoyed by people of all ages, appreciating the thousands of candles in their creative arrangements.
The weeks of February since then seem to have flown by, taking in the all-important and popular St Valentine’s Day. The recalling of this early martyr is hardly one of the most important festivals in the Church’s calendar, yet it does capture the public imagination and has the benefit of reminding us that love is important. The question is, how do we appreciate God’s love more fully? Perhaps that is where racing with pancakes can help, along with the season that follows.
I often remind people at weddings that we cannot force anyone to love us in this life. We might have fallen head over heels in love with someone, we might encourage them to act and speak as if they love us. But we cannot control their heart. We have to allow them the space to respond freely. It they don’t, we feel the pain of it. If they do, it is like heaven on earth. Shrove Tuesday invites us to prepare for a season when we take time to consider how we respond to the love of God.
The annual pancake races will take place in Ripon from 11am next Tuesday - Shrove Tuesday. Clergy and staff from the Cathedral, along with local Rotarians, school children and city groups, will set off from outside the Cathedral, with the hope of reaching the end of mediaeval Kirkgate without pancakes falling to the floor. Some hope. It is not as easy as it looks, but it does provide great entertainment for those who come to spectate.
This is a preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent. It is amazing how many people who do not worship regularly actually set themselves a discipline for Lent – eating or drinking alcohol less, exercising more, becoming more involved with charitable ventures. It is truly remarkable and hugely encouraging. It is even better, though, if in all of this we are open to the message of God’s love for us, and moved to respond. Consuming less or moving more might enable us to get fitter or help the environment – no bad thing in itself, but isn’t there more to be gained?
Many people choose to read a devotional book for Lent. This year at the Cathedral we are recommending two. The first is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s, Dethroning Mammon. This has much to say to us about the values that we allow to rule and guide our lives. The second is by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Being Disciples.
The Cathedral clergy are giving talks on these on Wednesday lunchtimes. In his Chapter on love, Rowan William was very clear that in this age – one of uncertainly and growing concern, the Church needs to proclaim that God offers a dependable relationship. He is right. The God whom we celebrated at Candlemas and who invites us to keep a life-enhancing Lent, reminds us over coming weeks that his love for us is unconquerable.