THERE is an increasing trend in Lent traditions to do some good during the period, rather than simply giving up a type of food.
THERE is an increasing trend in Lent traditions to do some good during the period, rather than simply giving up a type of food.For Canon Malcolm Griffith, this means more than simply putting is hand in his pocket to give some money to a good cause, he is going to a small town in Africa for two weeks to help build a maize mill.
The visit has come about because the parish Malcolm works in, which covers All Saints Church, in Sawtry, and St Nicholas Church, in Glatton, both near Peterborough, has developed links with a church in Kasungu, Malawi through a school teacher whose parents came from Peterborough but who now works in a boarding school in the country.
Over seven years, the congregations in Sawtry and Glatton have built a church for the community in Kasungu, a fish farm, they are sponsoring children through secondary school and they send money over during the planting season.
The have been raising money for the maize mill and the funds are now sufficient for Malcolm to head off and help build it.
Malcolm is convinced there is a real need for the kind of help he and his congregation are giving.
“Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Twenty per cent of all children under five die. There are one million orphans, and the country has virtually no natural resources.
“It is a country heavily dependent on support from people like us and other aid agencies. What we’ve done is made this personal link with Kasungu, and have made a difference and that is what really matters.”
Malcolm’s visit will see him being very much a part of the community.
“I’m staying with the English school master for my evening meal and sleeping there, but I will be eating with the Africans for the rest of the time,” he said.
The relationship with Kasungu has also led to visitors from Africa coming to England.
Four years ago, the vicar visited Sawtry and was left speechless.
Malcolm said: “The difference is so absolutely phenomenal that he couldn’t get his head around it really. As someone who’s never seen a motorway, to see the A1 (M) with eight lanes of traffic is mind blowing.”
In Kasungu, life couldn’t be more different. The residents live in houses they have made from handmade bricks and which have corrugated iron or straw roofs.
“They have nothing, you look inside these houses which are normally one room, and they will have a blanket and a few utensils, and that’s all they own,” Malcolm said.
“It makes you completely reprioritise your life when you see what people can manage with.”
Back in Cambridgeshire, Malcolm’s wife, Sandra, who is the assistant priest in the parish, will be running the services, as well as special Lent courses, which this year are entitled Pathway to Prayer.
“It’s a chance to look at yourself during Lent and reflect on your relationship with God,” Malcolm said.
It is a very important time for Christians.
Malcolm said: “Clearly Easter is the other major Christian festival after Christmas. The idea of Lent as a period of preparation for that, is to think about what Jesus did for humanity.
“Easter is at the heart of Christianity. Without Easter, the events of the first Good Friday and the first Easter day, Christianity wouldn’t exist.”
Why then, if Easter is so fundamental to Christianity, does it so often seem to be regarded as far less significant in the public consciousness when compared to Christmas?
Malcolm said: “I think births are so much more easy to understand and easy to cope with than death.
“Everybody can relate to the birth of a baby, because they’ve probably got friends or family who’ve had one, but to get your head around Jesus’s death and resurrection is more difficult.”