The End Of The Fast Is But A Beginning!
Did you give up anything for Lent? And if so, what difference has it made?
In the past I’ve given up various luxuries – especially in the food and drink department. I’ve committed myself to spiritual renewal through bible-study, prayer and reflection. I’ve supported a number of charitable causes. With much less success, I’ve vowed to increase my physical activity. They say the body is a temple – but mine has failed many a quinquennial!
And those ‘fasts’ have been laudable and valuable to me at the time. However, what longer-lasting effects they may have had is open to serious question.
A Plastic Fast For Lent
This year our congregation at Nailsea Methodist Church embarked on a fast with a difference. We have tried to give up plastic for Lent!
The roots of our campaign lay in the growing unease we all share about the ubiquity and durability of plastic. The images of Blue Planet II before Christmas, of oceans of plastic waste and an albatross feeding plastic to its chick, created something of a shock-wave in the UK. Inspired by the work of the Transition Town group in Evesham we decided to follow their excellent example and adopted their slogan: It’s time to get drastic about plastic!
Over the Lent period, the church has adopted a different focus each week. Every Sunday I have bounded up to the lectern. We have a new litany: ‘It’s time to get drastic’ I would call. And the congregation would echo: ‘About Plastic!’ And then I would set out the new objective for the week e.g. plastic milk bottles, unrecyclable black plastic, fruit and veg unnecessarily covered in plastic etc. Over the six weeks each new challenge has been added to the previous one to attempt to build a sense of conscience about the issue and to reduce our consumption.
It has led to some educational and amusing encounters. Bumping into our Children’s Worker in the supermarket suddenly became a moment of mutual scrutiny: how much plastic was in our respective trollies?! We laughed as we found ourselves both caught out in breaking the plastic fast. But it also added to our determination to improve our record on avoiding as much of the stuff as we possibly could.
The Fast Is Not Just For Lent
I can understand that some Christians may object that this approach is guilty of missing the point about the real meaning of Lent and, indeed, of Easter. Surely Lenten observance needs to be more nearly connected to the journey of the suffering servant? I am entirely in sympathy with that viewpoint. But the issue of plastic relates to wider questions about the future of our planet and the human race – interrelated parts of the created world which Christ has redeemed and of which we are stewards. So I am unapologetic about latching this vital issue of social responsibility to the great Christian themes of Lent and Easter itself.
With previous fasts, Easter has come as a blessed release from the obligations of Lent. However unlike all those previous Lenten fasts, this fast is one which must not only continue but deepen through the coming months. As I write, the Government’s Foresight Future of the Sea Report has just been published, predicting plastic waste in our oceans will treble in the next ten years. Something must be done. And it needs to start with me.
Mark Mallett is a retired Headteacher and life-long Methodist, married to the Rev Deborah Mallett, Minister of Backwell and Nailsea Methodist Churches.